If you’re teaching with iPads, this is THE tool to use to make your classes run smoothly and without any hassle. iTunes U is one of Apple’s basic education apps. It allows teachers to create courses and share materials with students. It also allows users to join a vast number of published courses from well-known universities around the world, like Stanford and Harvard. They also have a number of useful and practical courses offered by Apple’s Distinguished Educators (requires iTunes).
Although you need to be part of an approved organization to have your courses “published” and listed on on iTunes U app, you can still create your own courses and invite your students to enroll using a link and/or an enroll code.
Setting it up
iTunes U is part of the Apple package, so you’ll need a valid Apple ID to use it. To set up or manage your iTunes U courses, you can visit iTunes U course manager via a browser (link) or on iTunes U app on your iPad from the “My courses” tab on top.
You can create as many courses as you want, and you have a lot of control features in the settings. For example, you can set enrollment to be automatic, or approved by you. You can see who’s enrolled in your class (and block them if needed). And you can add another iTunes account to run the course with you (an instructor).
To learn more about all of that and a lot more, visit iTunes U support page.
How to use it in a language classroom
Some teachers like to create a new course for each activity or day, but what I found to be the best utilization of iTunes is to create one course for each semester/section, and have students enroll into that course at the beginning.
From the start, I set up the course’s outline to cover all weeks. Then, I add a post each day as we go. For each post, I add relevant apps or documents in the same order I’ll use in class, and have numbered. This way, whenever we start a new activity, all I have to say for example: “go to iTunes U please, #3″ and so on. It usually takes a few classes to get them used to the idea of going to posts and then recent posts to find the latest post on top, but after that, it’s a piece of cake.
iTunes U also made my life a lot easier in a course where I have my students use a lot of apps. Rather than wasting 5 minutes before each activity making sure they all opened the right app, iTunes U allowed me to add links to apps (learn more here). This means, when a student taps on a link from her iPad, the student will be taken to that app on her iPad or asked to download it if she doesn’t have it (magic, I know!).
iTunes U also has a discussions feature which allows you or students to create posts and and respond to each other. This was helpful to submit group work assignments so that everyone has access to it later in the semester.
From a student’s perspective, students will easily have access to all materials shared on your iTunes U course either by week, or in a big folder called “Materials” at the bottom. Also, if your course is completed at a learner’s own pace, they can keep track of their progress. Materials they haven’t viewed yet will have a blue circle beside them, and they’ll receive notifications whenever something is added or updated. They can also download all materials onto their iPad to view the course offline.
I just started using the app this semester (Spring 2015), so I’m still trying to figure it out. But, from what I have seen so far, naming each lesson with the day and date makes it easier for students to know if they’re on the right post or not.
As a student, iTunes U was very useful when viewing instructional videos. As you view a video, you can tap a notes icon on the side to mark that instance of a video and add your notes to it. I used that feature to mark assignment slides on videos or slides that I needed to keep as a reference. All these notes are archived and viewed on a “notes” page.