The office of technology services is reinforcing iPad program and expanding resources for all faculty and students.
By Sergio Medina
Faculty and students at this college using iPads in the classroom will be able to access supplementary course material for free through the Alamo Colleges’ channel on the app iTunes U beginning this fall.
Per its Apple website, iTunes U is an Apple application, separate from the iTunes app, with the purpose to provide a platform to academic environments where people can upload and share educational material.
In an interview April 19, Usha Venkat, director of information technology, said the iTunes U channel initiative was considered after the implementation of the iPad Air program at this college.
“We were thinking of different ways to leverage (iPad) use and one of the ways is to have our own iTunes U channel,” she said.
The iPad program began in 2014 and has since then given students access to iPads, which act as a classroom resource, in several courses such as CRIJ 1301, Introduction to Criminal Justice; GOVT 2305, Federal Government; and GOVT 2306, Texas Government; and ASTR 1303, Stars and Galaxies.
Overall, Venkat said programs using iPads at this college include nursing, allied health, mortuary science, business, astronomy, speech and education.
Venkat explained the way it works:
Once on the iTunes U homepage, the student selects the Alamo Colleges’ channel by clicking on a dropdown menu. Within the channel, students can subscribe to available course content.
That subscription involves no fee. The app altogether is free.
“We thought we can bring more media-rich content for those users,” Venkat said. “This is just another methodology where the teacher can share lectures, can share media, files like audio or video or share notes with students.”
The channel has not been published yet.
“Right now we’re building the site and setting it all up,” she said. “We will be piloting it with a few (summer) classes and then really start fostering use in fall. That is our goal.
“We also will need to work with faculty to train faculty members to start using this new platform,” Venkat said.
That task, as well as overall management of the iTunes U channel, falls under the office of technology services, she said.
Ultimately, it’s the faculty who create the content for students.
Instructional technology supervisor Yvonne Galindo said in an interview April 24 the OTS is in talks with instructors to teach them how to use iTunes U.
“We are right now recruiting different professors from different disciplines who are interested in developing a (iTunes U) course,” she said. “It could be their existing course; it could be a section of their course.”
As an example, Galindo said education Coordinator Anne Weesner developed an e-portfolio course for her EDUC classes to instruct students how to create an electronic portfolio.
Venkat said the platform will provide “a lot of added value” to classrooms using iPads.
The app, furthermore, is not limited to iPads as it is also accessible through iPhones.
The app also is not limited to faculty or students inside the iPad program. Anyone with the app can access the material.
Galindo said, as an example, that if instructors in courses such as COMM 2311, Media Writing, wished to talk about fair use in class, they could access the app via iPad or iPhone and search for information pertaining to that topic to supplement lessons.
Every student in the Alamo Colleges has free access to the information on iTunes U, Galindo said.
The focus, however, will be primarily in the academic programs using iPads, Venkat said.
“It’s a tool that we believe will specifically be used in face-to-face classes that are using iPads,” Venkat said.
Venkat said the OTS decided not to name the channel after this college, but instead brand it under the name of the district as it will act as an all-encompassing platform.
That will allow faculty across the district to upload course content on the app for all students to access, regardless of college location.
“We are hoping that other colleges will start participating once we go live with it,” Galindo said. “So that’s going to be our next phase of the project — working with other faculty members from other (Alamo) colleges who would like to create a course and put it on the iTunes (U) channel.”
Galindo said planners hope that phase will begin in the fall.
Students will also have access to much of the content other institutions put out as well.
The app serves as a large-scale platform to share open educational resources, which is educational material free to students.
Just as this district would upload and interchange course material on iTunes U soon, many more academic institutions across the country already do the same, Venkat said.
The result is an expansive database where students and faculty across the country can interchange and access material.
“It’s one of the biggest databases out there,” Venkat said.
Venkat said educators also benefit from this exchange of information among institutions.
“It’s another way not only to build the skillset for our students, but to expand our own knowledge as faculty,” she said.
As an example, she has subscribed to a course creation guide and computer skills and literacy courses.
“I also have access to all these wonderful resources,” Venkat said.
While Venkat was unable to provide an exact date of when the channel will be published, she said it will be during the first week of June, in time for Summer 1 courses.
“That will help us test and make sure the environment is sound and students can access the site,” Venkat said.
Course pages will provide students with an outline of material covered, the learning outcomes, as well as what is being covered, Venkat said.
“It looks very much like Canvas,” she said.
However, Venkat said iTunes U is not a replacement for Canvas.
Galindo said any instructor interested in iTunes U can contact her at 210-486-0044 or at firstname.lastname@example.org