U. considers options for recording lectures




Slept through a 9 a.m. lecture? Penn tech gurus want to help you catch up.

Exactly a year after the inception of iTunesU as a resource for the Penn community, administrators are looking for the best way to put classroom content online.

One option is iTunesU, an online digital media database located in the iTunes Store that allows department administrators and Information Technology workers to upload audio and video files to the system.

From there, students can access and download files like Knowledge@Wharton podcasts or Penn's 60-second lecture series to their iPods - something that is "all the rage on iTunesU," Rhodes said.

The problem? There are no audio or video files from classes on the system because the information is public to anyone outside the Penn community.

"We've had a lot of success on it, primarily as a public site," said Gates Rhodes, director of Penn Video Network.

When Penn's iTunesU page launched last October, there were about 12 contributors and around 53,000 downloads per month through December 2007, said Rhodes.

A year later, Penn's page has 20 providers and 450,000 downloads from the over 800 files available.

"As podcasting becomes more of an accepted outreach medium, we'll look to double those numbers," he added.

One significant change made now gives Penn students the ability to post their own original content on the site with the help of an administrative unit on campus.

Because it is a Penn-branded site, "students don't have independent, unvetted ability to load information," said Rhodes.

But the site's direction is unclear.

Administrators don't want to put class information that is already hosted in Penn's various course management systems on the site, because that would force them to limit access to only the Penn community.

Instead, Information Systems and Computing is looking into ways to improve upon and expand these existing course management systems.

For instance, ISC and SAS conducted a pilot project from Spring 2007 to Spring 2008 to incorporate computer images professors are using along with their audio.

While it has been common practice to record audio from classroom lectures for the past three years, the pilot program only allowed five courses, mainly in Biology and Economics, to do so.

"We discontinued the pilot because we couldn't provide the level of reliability that we wanted in order to meet expectations," said John MacDermott, director for Instructional Technology at SAS Computing.

"Classroom recordings are something that we recognize is an important trend in higher education," he added. "If you're going to do it, you have to do it really well because once those recordings are available, the expectations are high."

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