Report back on: Is iTunesU a successful model of OER? – presentation from OER11

Is iTunesU a successful model of OER (Open Educational Resources) distribution? Presentation by Terese Bird at OER11


I attended many talks at OER11 but this one stood out as being particularly interesting as Lisa and I have discussed the pro’s and con’s of iTunesU in the past and have never really come to a firm conclusion. At  the University of Leicester, where Terese is based, they are putting a lot of their lectures on to iTunes and are finding it very successful. This led Terese to consider whether iTunesU was a near perfect vehicle for hosting audio-visual OERs which institutions create. She noted that the material they are putting on iTunesU is born-digital multimedia and doesn’t need any Apple products to create or use it. Terese commented that she had heard people calling iTunesU an OER channel but she says that people are divided, as it is simply software and can be used in many different ways – it just happens to be very useful for hosting OER material. The presentation then touched on case studies – for example, Duke University started giving every new student an iPod when they started and then they started using iTunesU and students could then use the software and hardware together which was successful. She also mentioned that there are some crucial differences between how material is hosted in the US and the UK – in the US they store their material on Apple’s servers whereas here we store our material on our own serves ad allow Apple software access. She also noted that iTunesU has been popular with visually impaired students due to the ease of use and audio.


She next discussed the reusability of the material once it was put in iTunesU – it works fine in there but if you try to get any material out to put it elsewhere the output format is unique to iTunes and can be difficult to manage. It could be outputted into an MP3 editor but most people tend to just use a link and link the user back to iTunes as many people are already familiar with it. Oxford University has gone one step further and not only released it’s material on iTunesU but also placed it within a folder called Creative Commons to make it absolutely clear that it’s intended to be reused by others. Terese talked about what elements are required for a successful OER channel – we need to think about whether the material is attractive; usable; useful; used and sustainable in order to make sure it would be a successful OER.

 There are pros and cons to any system and iTunesU is no exception:

  • Attractive to contributors (profile; apple gloss; international reach – is allowed in China etc)
  • Usable (good user experience; search function; apple mobile; however doesn’t work on Android or Linux and discoverability not as good as it could be as not everything indexed in Google)
  • Useful (quality and consistency are good BUT copyright and feedback mechanisms need to be improved – can add star rating and comments but that’s it – and no community)
  • Used (download numbers are good, teachers like it, personal use is good; BUT not very repurposable)
  • Sustainable (over 800 Unis use it; Apple; Benefits to contributors and institution).


Apple also gives good downloads and metrics, and Unis often share so can see how well OU etc are being used. This is useful as it’s a way of getting feedback about the usefulness and relevancy of what we create. It also means that we can encourage better quality research students to an institution if academics publish research interests etc on iTunesU as it’s something most people will be familiar with. I think this is something that UoB may be getting involved in and it does seem like it is a very interesting way of using iTunesU – to spread open educational resources.


Link to Terese’s presentation –

 Post by : Catherine Roberston

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