iTunes U is a great platform for educators and I’ve spent some serious man hours within the curious world of iTunes U Course Manager recently. When I first started making iTunes U courses I regularly wound up scrapping the entire thing and starting again. This does not happen quite so much these days. As such, it seems likely that somewhere along that journey I learnt some things that helped me avoid consistently returning courses to the scrapheap. So here is what works for me when creating iTunes U Courses. If you have quicker/easier ways of doing any of these things please let me know.
- Outline is key. Get it right. Don’t do anything else until you do. Use the specification, textbook or a planning sequence to provide the structure for your course.
- Save all of your resources into an additional location first. This was one of my first major errors. There are many reasons for doing this, but the main one is the fact that you can’t get resources back out of iTunes U Course Manager. This means if you want to edit a file because you have inserted a problem that has no conceivable solution (I do this regularly) or a worksheet containing the same question three times (I do this even more regularly), you will need to edit the original file and upload it again. Here is a picture of a file containing all of the resources I use in a course which almost makes me look organised. By doing this, you can prepare yourself for all eventualities, including the somewhat unlikely one in which Apple choose to discontinue iTunes U; you can simply move on to another (inferior) course management system.
- Saving resources as PDFs for student annotation is straightforward (File > Save as (or Export) > choose PDF) and helps move towards a paperless existence, but make sure you save the original file too. If you decide you want to change your resource later, you will not be able to edit the PDF file and will need a copy of the original file to play around with.
- Link subtopics to posts. I’d like to see iTunes U provide a drop-down menu of subtopics (from the outline page) to choose from as the title in each post. The fact that this isn’t possible results – more often than not – in a tedious copy and pasting activity as you move subtopics titles from the outline page into the title of your posts. I’ve just remembered this isn’t meant to be a moaning blog post. It is still worth doing anyway, as it matches up your outline to the content included.
- When saving your resources to the additional location, label them properly: give them a name that will actually make sense when you view the material in iTunes U Course Manager and that makes sense for your students too. When you have uploaded the material – check that it is named correctly. A quick scan through my materials returned me the picture below. Naturally I have no idea either what it is, or where it is stored in my course. Try not to do this. That being said, if you get your iTunes U profile attached to a verified institution there is no limit on the amount of data you can upload to your courses, hugely reducing the incentive to actually bother cleaning up your materials section. Ever.
- When doing an iTunes U training workshop, make sure all attendees have some suitable images to use for their instructor profile and the course profile. I have made myself look a little silly in the past by not doing this. The ensuing search through Google Images to find a semi-relevant image that fulfils the incredibly fussy pixel requirements of iTunes U will easily eat up your training workshop if you don’t get this sorted.
- If you are likely to be the kind of person that will find it difficult to deal with encountering a disorganised materials page, consider assigning numbers to each of the files in your subtopics – it makes it easier to organise the files quickly as you can easily identify which ones should be grouped together. I don’t consider myself to fall into this category, but maybe times have changed…
- If you come to the end of a self paced course and want to return it all to drafts (for some reason), duplicate the course, but change the course type to in-session, then duplicate it again back into a self-paced course and it will contain only draft posts. The fact that it is necessary to write such a ridiculous sentence tells you that iTunes U Course Manager could do with a ‘return to drafts’ button.
- One of the handiest features in iTunes U is the ability to direct students to a particular part (or multiple parts) of an inserted video – you can also do this with iBooks. This is a particularly great feature if you have a long video containing only certain parts that are relevant to your students – which I often find to be the case.
If you have any other hints and tips on how to best use iTunes U Course Manager please get in touch. If you would like to have a go at creating your own iTunes U Courses I have created an iTunes U Course on ‘Creating iTunes U Courses‘, where you can also read this blog post again.