As part of its mobile teaching and learning initiative, Fort Hays State University has become the first school in Kansas that has a presence on the popular iTunes Internet site.
Apple Computer, creator of iTunes, and FHSU jointly announced the collaborative project this week. Officials for Apple made the announcement in Dallas at an Educause conference that runs from today through Thursday. Educause is a nonprofit association whose mission is to advance higher education by promoting the intelligent use of information technology, and the conference is a highly popular event with college and university officials. FHSU made its announcement in a news conference today on the Hays campus.
"With FHSU on iTunes U, students can use iTunes to get course materials, lectures, seminars and all kinds of valuable information related to their studies," Dr. Edward H. Hammond, FHSU president, explained during the Hays news conference. "Log on to FHSU on iTunes U with your student ID and password, download your selections to your iPod, and study anywhere."
The president explained that FHSU on iTunes U, which enhances the accessibility and quality of an FHSU education, dovetails with five pilot projects the university is conducting this year using Podcasting, which allows students to download new content automatically to a computer or an iPod.
"FHSU posts both general information about the university and specific course content to the FHSU on iTunes U site," President Hammond said. "Anyone can go to the site and download the general audio and video programs onto his or her iPod, while only students can download password-protected content for their courses."
The URL for FHSU on iTunes is www.fhsu.edu/iTunesU/. There is no charge to download FHSU content for either students or the general public, but users must have iTunes installed on their computers.
"This technology offers our students the ability to play back the material multiple times and watch it at their own speed and on their own schedule," the president said. "It gives them flexibility in regard to other responsibilities, such as family and jobs. In short, it allows students to take the classroom experience outside the four walls of the classroom and into their regular lifestyle."
Along with the launch of FHSU on iTunes U, President Hammond talked about the five pilot programs that FHSU is conducting this academic year to assess the value of using Apple iPods in higher education. As it implements its mobile teaching and learning initiative, FHSU follows the systematic approach of first using pilot tests to ensure that it preserves its academic standards.
"The university has loaned iPods to about 175 students for use during the fall and spring semesters," the president said. "The pilot programs, which are coordinated through the Virtual College, include two classes on the Hays campus, a Virtual College class, a project on the Hays campus, and a class at the University of International Business and Economics, a Chinese partner university with FHSU that is located in the capital city of Beijing."
Instructors of the classes at Hays Podcast lectures and other class materials to the FHSU on iTunes U site, and students download them into their iPods. The two classes on the Hays campus are Technology in Society, taught by Cyndi Danner-Kuhn, instructor of Technology Studies, and management information systems, taught by Bob Swindler, instructional technology coordinator for the College of Business and Leadership.
The virtual class is Utilization of Technology in the Classroom taught by Kenny Rigler out of the Technology Studies Department.
Dr. Tim Crowley, professor of music, directs the project on the Hays campus. Crowley and his students use the iPods to produce music under the Department of Music's recording label, Auris Tigris. They produce and distribute recordings by FHSU students and instructors to the community. The plan is to produce one album of music each semester. In addition, the pilot project will produce music under the Auris Tigris label with plans to sell it through an FHSU iTunes Affiliate Program on the iTunes music store.
The fifth pilot program, at UIBE, involves about 70 Chinese students who are enrolled in a Management Principles course taught by Shane Schartz, instructor of management and marketing. FHSU is the first university to teach a virtual class in China via iPod technology. The students do not download course content from the FHSU on iTunes U site because it is not available in China. Instead, Dennis King, FHSU's director of the Virtual College and Learning Technologies, traveled to Beijing early in September to load onto the students' iPods all the lectures and materials that can help them keep on task with the class.
After a class, UIBE students can listen to a 5- or 10-minute summary tying together the highlights of that class session and the principle of that chapter of study. It also allows them to listen to English over and over, which helps them develop their English skills.
Danner-Kuhn demonstrated one of the iPods during the announcement at today's news conference and talked about the value of the technology in higher education. "The Technology in Society class is about how technology has and is changing society," she said. "It seems logical that we would use cutting edge technology in this class. It is forcing me to change and adapt my teaching style. I am making blogs, iPods and Podcasting part of my pedagogy. I think we all need learn to accept the divided attention spans of the students we are teaching."
She explained that a new generation of students has arrived. "They really can multi-task, and the reality is they might not want to hear us lecture for an hour every class period," she said. "In many cases, class needs to be interactive and the iPod pilot is helping me accomplish that interactivity."
She said Podcasting could be used as a tremendous supplement to current methods of content distribution, offering a more customized, more on-demand form of curriculum. "I am excited about this project and I am sure as time goes on, I will discover more and more benefits and ways to use Podcasting and the iPods," Danner-Kuhn concluded. "It has been fun to watch my students arrive in class with headphones hanging from their ears and know they are learning. I am excited for them to create their first Enhanced Podcast for a presentation instead of just another PowerPoint."
The news conference and demonstration will be available at Fort Hays on iTunes U.
iTunes is a trademark of Apple Computer, Inc., registered in the United States and other countries.