Update: Although you can't copy and paste the podcatching URL from the iTunes client, it is apparently possible to expose the podcatching URL from the administration interface. I have no direct information about why this is so. However, it is consistent with Apple's general approach to DRM. It may be that by making it easy for the producer to expose the URL but inconvenient for the consumer to do so without help from the producer, they are trying to strike a balance that gives iTunes U a "soft" DRM capability without resorting to encryption. But that's just a guess.
As you can probably tell from my last few posts, I'm pretty jazzed about the potential of iTunes U. But that doesn't mean that I think the first version is perfect by any means. Here's what I'd like to see from Apple going forward:
- Support for Creative Commons: It's great that iTunes U is DRM-free, but I'd like to see them go further by actively supporting Creative Commons licensing. In fact, it would be great if they could extend this across their entire creative tool suite and work on ways to, say, embed a machine-readable CC license in a video file.
- Standards-based support for desktop upload: The first generation of iTunes U uses a web-based interface to upload files. It would be great to see support for something like the Atom publishing specification so that third-party developers could integrate publication directly from their apps.
- Integration with peer-to-peer utilities like LionShare: Integrating iTunes U with institutional repositories is a no-brainer, but I'd also like to see support for P2P file sharing.
- Copy/paste of podcatching URLs within iTunes: As a number of folks have pointed out, it's impossible to copy and paste a podcast URL from iTunes. This isn't as big a deal to me as it is to some, but as a matter of principle to show that Apple is serious about Openness, it should be fixed.
Above all, I'd like to see iTunes U support standards-based web services for integration into a broader learning environment. I want to be able to push categories from a class instance to student and teachers publishing content so that they can, say, label a podcast for posting to a particular class discussion thread or grade book entry. I want to be able to use the iPod rating capability as a grading rubric. And so on. These capabilities should all be created using programming language-neutral standards, so they don't have to be rewired by hand for every single LMS.