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iTunesU program to enable more access to education

The three women in the picture are (from left to right) Dr. Shannon White, Jozan Powell, and Dr. Helen Gerretson. | photo by Jose Lopez, Jr.

USF’s level of technological integration was elevated to that of other universities, such as Stanford and University of California-Berkeley, when the iTunesU launch party was held in the TECO Room Monday afternoon.

Staff and faculty from Academic Computing, the Florida Center for Instructional Technology (FCIT), the College of Education (COE) and other departments that collaborated in the effort said they were both excited and relieved to launch the project, which uses the technology of podcasts and iTunes to offer access to educational content.

“This has been a long time coming,” said James Welsh of the College of Education’s Laptop Initiative. “The process took a lot longer than we thought, but we have terrific content – 1,200 files up right now. I am really excited to share all of the feedback and interest in generating content.”

The iTunesU initiative allows users to have access to educational content such as courses and tutorials, and it collapses geographical and institutional boundaries by sharing information and resources.

College of Education professor Deoksoon Kim, who won a grant offered by the COE to stimulate content, collected video interviews to aggregate problems, issues and background information on students that are in the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program.

“This way, ESOL teachers and parents can have an insight to the obstacles ESOL students face and find solutions to these problems by sharing what we learned,” said Kim.

Dr. Phil Smith, who teaches online special education classes to graduate students, utilizes iTunesU to add a face to distance learning. “I podcast five minute introductions to the course and the different sections of the class. I have gotten feedback that my intros add a personal touch and help students feel connected to the class,” said Smith. “And they can watch them from anywhere.”

Allison Papke – who is featured on the FCIT website for her work using iPods to facilitate tests for learning-challenged middle school students at Long Middle School in Hillsborough County last semester – was an honored guest, along with Provost Renu Khator, communications director for Educational Outreach Kathleen Moore and secondary education professor Michael Berson, who pushed the button to officially launch iTunesU.

The applause punctuated an air of excitement for the future of USF’s technology initiatives and the goals of iTunesU. Provost Khator stated that the USF’s COE now ranked in the top 50 of all education colleges in America, but she said, “success is just a ticket to a more complicated problem.”

USF has gained prominence as a fast-growing research institution, and the administration has said it is using that momentum to bring the University’s technology integration up to the same level. The position of a Chief Technology Officer was announced to join the administration ranks, keeping USF’s technological focus moving forward and addressing special needs of the transition.

Khator concluded her talk on iTunesU with words to fuel the innovation on and said, “Excellence is obtained when we care more than others see as wise, when we take risks others may not see as safe, and when we dream past just the practical.”

Public access to iTunesU for USF can be found at Currently, the College of Education, USF Health, USF Tampa Library Services and USF Athletics have launched podcasts in USF iTunesU. Organizers said that a password protected section will be initiated soon to begin delivering coursework to students.