Not many are aware of the immense value of marketing in education -- that is, opening up the world of the classroom to the eyes of the public. Yet it's often difficult to let visitors and prospective students catch a glimpse of what life is like in the labs or in seminars without causing major disruption or offsetting the curriculum.
Enter iTunes.Broadcasting your class on iTunes allows others to learn (gasp!) for free (another gasp!), but it gives those interested in your school the ability to peer inside the classroom and see if their interest is warranted.
That's exactly what MIT and other schools are doing. An article in Sunday's Washington Post asked, is "iTunes U for You?" The article reports that "MIT is one of 28 colleges that have posted courses, campus speeches and other events on a section of iTunes known as iTunes U. Since the site was launched last spring with 16 institutions, material from it has been downloaded more than 4 million times."
Unlike movies, TV shows, and music, which can be downloaded at cost; these educational downloads are free. Education for the masses – how socialist! how Apple! Those conducting classes often choose to tailor their curricula to their iAudiences, taking note of how words are written on a white board and demonstrating experiments for even the smallest of video screens.
Furthermore, iTunes U is geared toward more than just the prospectives student. In classes of more than 300, it can be a great way for students to listen from the comfort of their rooms -- or libraries, or cafes.
The downside, many students say, is that you can't ask questions; e.g. it isn't a webinar.
Surely those in the online education business are asking pesky questions, like what are universities getting out of this?
No fee is collected for the content, users don't get credit for the courses they watch, and professors are not compensated for courses broadcasted on iTunes U.
Instead of generating tuition dollars, it can be seen as a giant sinkhole of potential revenue.
"Administrators and professors alike view the idea of giving away courses that traditional students pay thousands of dollars a year for both as a free promotional tool and as a public service." The nerve.
However, seen from another angle, the institutions that choose to participate in iTunes U understand and appreciate the value of worldwide exposure. Classes are being downloaded by those geographically separated, such as professors in other countries, states, and universities.
Students can listen to lectures that they missed because they were (ahem!) studying for exams. Lifelong learners, retirees, or simply those with free time on their hands have access to further education.
Ultimately, the hours of classes, lectures, and speeches will in turn generate thousands of dollars in tuition fees, alumnae donations, and invaluable partnerships -- all made possible by the click of a button.