Yesterday, Apple made it possible for anyone to create an iTunes U course simply by activating their Apple ID in the iTunes U Course Manager. Previously, an instructor had to have their Apple ID activated by a school or college and be associated with that school’s iTunes U account in order to create courses. For a seemingly small change, this carries huge potential for increasing the availability and usage of the iTunes U platform, which I’m sure was Apple’s intention.
What Apple has done is to move the control over registration from the institutional level into the hands of the individual. I suspect one of the major frustrations Apple heard about iTunes U was that a school had to have an institutional iTunes U account in order for faculty to sign up and create courses. Now that anybody with an Apple ID can register, this removes that barrier. I would think that, at any time, an instructor could also have their institution associate their Apple ID with their school, but this is no longer a bottleneck (or gatekeeper) in the process. And it certainly was a bottleneck for me.
A couple weeks ago, I decided I wanted to use iTunes U as another way to package my course materials for the fall semester, so I searched through my email archives to find the login details sent last semester by our Info Services staff. These credentials opened iTunes and took me to the private OWU page, but didn’t seem to give any obvious way to create or manage a course. After digging through the help site for a while, I realized that I needed access to the iTunes U Course Manager, which was a web-based site, not one within the iTunes store. I contacted our Info Services director, and he followed up with Apple about how to add faculty users to our account. We’re still waiting to hear back from them.
Meanwhile, yesterday’s change means I no longer need to wait to hear back from them to start creating a course in iTunes U. Their reply matters only if I want to become what Apple calls an *affiliated instructor*. This allows my institution to add my courses to the school’s iTunes U page and grants me unlimited storage rather than the “limited” 20 GB of an unaffiliated user. Unless you’re planning to include video lectures (I’m not), I can’t imagine bumping up against such a generous limit.
Not only does this change lower or remove the institutional barrier to entry for instructors, it grants creative access to literally everyone with an Apple ID. I suspect this will expand the range of uses of iTunes U dramatically. For instance, a homeschooling consortium could create and share courses among its members easily. Small businesses could create courses that train new employees. Salesmen could package their brochures and background materials on products for their clients. These are all examples of creators that were previously excluded from creating materials due to their lack of affiliation with an institution who can now, with a few clicks, publish on this platform. All with a tiny change in account registration policy.