Thursday, October 22, 2009

Welcome to the University of iTunes!

In the article we read and discussed last week, “How You Can Benefit by Predicting Change,” authors Anthony and Christensen state that it is crucial for leaders to be able to identify early signs of industry change, so that they can “have the best chance of creating new growth by bringing disruptive innovations into a marketplace.” Apple’s iTunes University, and other open courseware technologies, in my opinion, can be considered a hugely disruptive development in the academic world. I have always been intrigued by the idea of disruptive innovations in education, and how schools and universities can leverage new technologies as instructional tools, as well as marketing vehicles.

So far, hundreds of universities have recorded lectures and seminars to be available to their students and the general public via downloads through iTunes University. This has proved to be immensely successful as a supplementary instructional tool in the traditional learning environment – HEC’S MBA program even provides each student an IPOD Touch so they have access to recorded lectures and even use it for class activities. In addition, iTunes U has been used by many universities as a distance learning tool, delivering course content to students whose schedule or location prohibits them from attending class on-campus. Of course, iTunes U has also made university curriculum and content available to those who may not have access to it otherwise, enabling anyone to “attend a class” at prestigious universities such as Yale and HEC Paris without having to pay thousands of dollars in tuition. As Anthony and Christensen stated, exploring ways to “meet the needs of overshot customers, undershot customers and non-consuming customers” is one of the most important ways organizations can predict change and leverage disruptive developments, such as web-based learning, to their advantage. For many universities, the primary incentive for participation has been marketing and advertising – sharing a sample of their curriculum in order to spark public’s interest in their academic programs and increase enrollment.

This, of course, brings me to another article we read for last week’s class, “Open Courses: Free, but Oh, So Costly” which criticizes universities’ use of open courseware sites merely for marketing purposes (versus offering credit), and discusses the challenge of universities to find a profitable business model for offering open courses. While I am certainly not a higher ed. expert, I believe having some sort of mechanism for distance learning has become crucial in universities today. University of Phoenix was a blue ocean strategist initially when it started offering online degrees, but now it seems that the majority of universities recognize the value of distance learning technologies in reaching a wider audience and adapting to the needs of a changing market. I think there is great potential in using tools such as iTunes University as part of a distance learning strategy and leveraging this “disruptive innovation” of open courseware sites to benefit both learners and universities. What do you think a profitable business model for this would look like?


  1. I think that the main issues as I see them (that for credit the institution has to employ someone to evaluate the work and devaluing the content by using it for open courseware) are tough to get around.

    However, I've thought about this before and wonder if they couldn't use distance learning courses to give "certificates" or certifications of some sort, as many community and vocational schools do that give the courses validation but don't necessarily carry the same weight as a traditional degree. Open courseware students have something tangible to show for their work, as either an add-on, resume builder, or for personal gratification.

  2. We have a few college students online from college of University-of-Phoenix and we love your blog postings, so well add your rss or news feed for them, Thanks and please post us and leave a comment back and well link to you. Thanks Jen, Blog Manager University-of-Phoenix

  3. Well, today you just found out what a profitable business model looks like. iTunes U with iBooks 2 (and the author tool) have great vision going forward. Whether it will take off or not is another thing but should it be embraced? Yes.