Villanova has recently found itself at the center of a media frenzy having nothing to do with basketball.
The school is slated to join only a few other universities, including Stanford and the University of Michigan’s Dental School, in a deal with Apple’s iTunes. The contract will allow students to download lectures, news and campus happenings using the iTunes interface, a digital music and video application already hugely popular among students.
As early as this summer, students who miss class at Villanova will be able to download the lecture onto their Mac or PC using “iTunes U,” and then directly into their iPod creating something of a mobile classroom.
Eastern junior Jon Heinly said that if he could get lectures in a podcast form, he would use it.
“It beats having friends record lectures for you,” Heinly said. “That might be extra reason to skip class.”
But Mike Sanker, Eastern’s network administrator, sees problems with iTunes U. “I wonder how many of our faculty you’d get to have buy in,” Sanker said. “You’d have some professors who would but also many that wouldn’t.”
Sanker also believes that the real motive is not as much using technology to better educate students, but a large company’s bottom line.
“Apple must have an ulterior motive,” Sanker said. “And that motive is to sell iPods.”
Kevin Maness, professor of media at Eastern, said he doesn’t see the technology as being automatically good or bad, but dependant on the specific class and context.
“If I ever did it, it would be added in consciously,” Maness said. “I would want to shape what exactly it meant.”
Maness expressed concerns that students will use the technology as one more way to multi-task. “You’ll get someone listening to a lecture while they are instant messaging eight of their friends,” Maness said.
Some students are already using their iPods to augment their education.
“The best use I found for an iPod is when you are writing a paper and put on classical music,” Heinly said. “It stimulates the mind.”
In addition to iTunes U, Villanova recently signed a deal with Ruckus, a popular entertainment download service for colleges and universities. Students at Villanova will be able to access 1.5 million music tracks, films and videos, completely free of charge.
Although Ruckus is a legal downloading service, groups such as Motion Picture Association of America and The Recording Industry Association of America are critical of the service, citing decreased revenue in traditional movie and music sales.
Ruckus has also been criticized for charging extra if a student wants to download music or videos into a portable player such as an iPod. If a student wanted to make their media portable, the service would cost around 99 cents a download, much like Apple’s iTunes.
Villanova is making news with their Apple and Ruckus contracts, but word of the new deals seems to be moving slowly through campus. Matt Quigley, a junior working at the campus video store, had no idea about either iTunes U or Ruckus, and wasn’t sure if he will use either once they become available.
“Considering I don’t have an iPod, I won’t use [iTunes U],” Quigley said. “And I get my music from other means like burning onto a disk.”
Quigley also admitted that a chance to download lectures directly onto an iPod would not be enough incentive for him to go out and buy one.
“I would still go to class and listen to the lecture,” Quigley said.