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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Lynn Turns to iTunes U

Many colleges and universities offer online content through iTunes U, but use other providers for their learning management system (LMS) because the Apple software doesn’t provide features such as analytics, attendance tracking, and gradebooks. Lynn University, Boca Raton, FL, is going the other direction, phasing out Blackboard Learn in favor of iTunes U.

Lynn is already a committed Apple campus, piloting a program that replaced textbooks with iPad minis in January 2013. That program was expanded last fall to include all freshmen, transfer students, and upperclassmen enrolled in core classes. The university plans to issue minis to more than 2,000 students next fall.

The move to iTunes U makes sense for Lynn because its pilot program showed that students using the iPad earned better grades than those who didn’t use the device. In addition, the study found that three-quarters of the students preferred using the iBook created for the course over a traditional textbook.

“Since we are moving forward with content and making sure that a device is available for every kid, we wanted to make sure they had a mobile environment,” said Chris Boniforti, chief information officer at Lynn.

Lynn will probably use iTunes to host content and assignments and will have to develop its own system to track those analytical features not offered through iTunes, according to the report in Inside Higher Ed. But the move does provide Lynn students with a mobile-first LMS that doesn’t require them to switch between systems to use.

A survey of Lynn students enrolled in core courses in fall 2013 found that 94% felt the tablet contributed to their learning experience and 90% still used the device in classes that didn’t require it. Sixty-one percent of the students added that getting an iPad mini helped them decide to attend Lynn.

All Lynn courses will use iTunes U to host content and assignments by this fall, but only about a third will feature free iBooks created by Lynn faculty members. The rest will use traditional textbooks. Moving a course to the iTunes U system only requires knowing where to upload content and which boxes to use for text for those faculty members unwilling to create their own iBooks.

“The next thing for me is to make sure that this is better than the way we’ve been doing it,” said Michael P. Petroski, who manages faculty development for the tablet initiative. “That sort of keeps me up at night: to make sure it’s not a cool gimmick.”

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