iTunes to air Yale lectures

A new University program launched this week will make recordings of lectures and presentations available to the general public through Apple Computer’s popular iTunes software.

Yale’s portion of iTunes U — an interactive multimedia initiative meant to make classroom materials more accessible to students at schools across the country — features talks by prominent faculty on subjects ranging from the humanities and religion to law and the environment. The new program comes a year after the University announced the creation of the Open Educational Resources Video Lecture Project, under which several Yale College courses are videotaped each semester and will eventually be uploaded online as streaming video.

The new iTunes U is an important step in Yale’s ongoing effort to make the resources and expertise of University faculty more accessible to people outside its walls, said Stephanie Schwartz, Yale’s associate secretary and director of marketing and trademark licensing.

“Apple has provided us with this terrific platform that allows users to access content that is specifically of interest to them in whatever timeline and on whatever device they choose,” Schwartz said. “It’s a terrific opportunity for us to be able to showcase an array of material from around the University.”

Administrators are working with University departments to identify materials they think the public will find engaging, although class lectures will not be included. Some of the audio and video recordings are pre-existing, and others will be created in conjunction with specific events, such as the publication of a professor’s book, she said.

Apple has also offered to allow podcasts of class lectures on iTunes that would be made available only to students enrolled in those classes, said Chuck Powell, Yale’s senior director for academic media and technology. Administrators are currently assessing the interest in this program among professors, Powell said.

“The advantage in making the materials available through iTunes is that [it] is an enormously popular commercial server run by Apple,” he said. “It doesn’t cost the University any additional money to make the materials available through iTunes.”

Classes recorded under the Educational Resources program, which began last fall, have not yet been made available to the public. Administrators are currently discussing a launch date for those materials, Schwartz said.

Powell said ITS is in the process of deciding how to make class lectures available online but that there are “a bunch of practical and technical reasons” not to do so through iTunes.

Oswald Schmitz, an associate dean at the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, said he recorded a 10-minute talk entitled “Global Warming and Species Distribution” for iTunes U. His contribution is part of the school’s effort to increase public awareness of the real-world relevance of faculty research, he said.

“The intention is to explain things in terms … that the public can understand, so it’s not scientifically technical jargon,” he said.

None of Schmitz’s classes are being recorded for wider distribution on the Web this semester, but he said he is open to the idea in the future.

Economics professor Benjamin Polak — whose “Game Theory” class is being filmed for the Educational Resources program this semester — said he hopes the lectures are posted on the Internet soon. The online videos will help Yalies keep up with the lectures and, more importantly, will enable students from outside Yale expose themselves to new areas of study, Polak said.

“Maybe there are some high school students in some part of the country where there is no easy access for taking college classes, and perhaps it will inspire them to apply to Yale or do more work in economics,” he said. “Maybe there are some students in places in the former Soviet Union or Africa where it’s hard to get hold of materials and this will be a way for them to get some more information.”

University officials whose lectures and speeches are currently featured on iTunes U include Law School Dean Harold Koh, Sterling Professor of Humanities Harold Bloom and Gus Speth, dean of the environment school.

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