FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Education Within Reach: Kean University
UNION, N.J. - As early as the next academic year, students strolling the Kean campus will be able to pop in their ear buds, hit "play" on their iPods and enjoy not only their favorite songs and videos, but their latest class lectures and presentations. This latest advance is literally within their grasp as Apple welcomes the University as an iTunes U campus, earning Kean the distinction of being the first higher-education institution in the state to be admitted to the program.
Kean students will soon be taking advantage of this free service for colleges and universities, which provides quick and easy access to educational content in a digital, audio and/or video format, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Requiring only iTunes software, which is available for both PC and MacIntosh operating systems, students can upload a wide range of course materials, such as lectures or interviews, made available from Kean faculty members. In addition, they will have access to educational materials made available from all other participating institutions. For instance, Stanford University, one of the six institutions which piloted the program, already has a wealth of educational content online.
One benefit of iTunes technology is the utilization of an RSS (Real Simple Syndication) feed, which functions as an automatic subscription. From the moment students subscribe to a class through iTunes U, their devices will be set up to receive new content. Students can then automatically upload this content when they connect their device.
Kean is also exploring ways in which students may be able to use iTunes U and podcast materials on non-iPod devices, such as cell phones and PDAs. "Wherever that's appropriate, we want to make it available," said Dr. Michael Searson, acting dean of Kean's College of Education. Moreover, students will have the option of listening or viewing lectures on their computers. Searson noted that uploading the material to another device increases the students' mobility and flexibility, meeting their individual learning needs while adapting to their ever-increasing digital lifestyles.
Another inherent advantage of the program is that many people already commonly use iTunes technology to download podcasts, music and other educational materials. "This enables the University to interact with students in an environment in which they are already familiar and comfortable," Searson said. "If they have used iTunes at all to download music with an iPod or any other device, they already have the technical skills to download course materials."
Searson added that many people have already moved beyond using iPods, laptops and cell phones simply for entertainment purposes. "Many of us, myself included, will use iPods and other devices for educational content," he noted. "I don't have much time to read The New York Times , so I listen to it every morning through an audio broadcast."
Kean's participation in the program grew from a partnership between faculty members and the Office of Computer and Information Services (OCIS). "I want to commend directors Joe Marinello, Tony Santora and Patricia Stock, as well as Mohammad Rahman and the entire OCIS staff," Searson said. "This has truly been a team effort, and OCIS's involvement has been quite useful." Through their discussions, they determined that students were interested in blogs and podcasting, and that iTunes U would serve as the ideal delivery system.The team further believes that iTunes U has the capabilities to go beyond the educational component of the University to encompass an even wider range of discourse, such as the president's opening day address or primers which introduce first-year students to campus life. "Furthermore, it will be extremely useful as Kean moves into branch campus initiatives. Satisfying these goals will require a substantial commitment to professional development at the University, which will be accomplished, in part, by the newly formed Kean Center for Innovative Education," Searson said. "We want to make it as painless and enjoyable as possible for the students and faculty."