There’s been a lot of buzz (some positive and some negative) about Apple’s iTunes University. I’m pleased to say that I will be traveling with a number of SUNY colleagues to 1 Infinite Loop the week after next, where we will hear more about the program. I promise to blog about what I learn. In the meantime, I’d like to sketch out an idea that Patrick Masson and I have been batting around about how iTunes U could fit into an LMOS.First of all, it’s important to recognize iTunes U simply as a particular case of a publishing system. Content gets authored, classified, and published (along with associated metadata) to particular users, who can rate that content. The fact that the content happens to be audio or video files is incidental for our purposes.
Once we have abstracted down to the basics this way, the integration of iTunes U starts to look an awful lot like the use case of integrating a weblog. It could work something like this:
- Your content authoring tool pulls in categories published by the LMS, including assignment categories published by the grade book. This might take a little creative mapping; for example, each grade book assignment title might correspond to an “album”.
- The student creates a podcast, labels it with the appropriate category information, and uploads it to iTunes U.
- The LMOS broadcasts to the various applications with in the course that a student has published new audio content labeled with a particular grade book assignment tag.
- The window (or portlet) that displays podcasts creates a link to the audio file, gives it an appropriate title, and publishes it, along with podcasts by the student’s classmates, under the appropriate assignment heading.
- The course activity tracker notes the student ID, the time stamp, and the title and URL of the podcast. Using this information it adds an entry for the student’s class activity on that particular date.
- The grade book pulls the post text and URL into the student’s row in the gradebook under the “weblog entries” heading. The instructor can now assign a grade and comment to it. Alternatively, the instuctor can download the podcast into iTunes, assign it a rating, and synchronize with the server. The grade book takes the rating and converts it to a grade.
From the LMOS perspective, having iTunes University comply with open standards regarding these application-to-application communication protocols is actually more important than whether the content itself is encoded using open standards. As long as you can remove iTunes U and substitute…I don’t know…GoogleTunes U without having to reprogram the interfaces, the lock-in challenges are reduced. I don’t mean to trivialize content conversion issues; they’re just not relevant to the LMOS architecture challenge.