iTunes University

The wisdom of business professors, once only available to MBAs and business students, can now be accessed by anybody with an Internet connection.
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Hundreds of universities, and a growing number of business schools, are making recordings of lectures, seminars and conferences available to the general public via Web sites such as iTunes and YouTube.

Leading business schools including University of Cambridge Judge Business School, Fuqua School of Business, and Yale School of Management make course content available for download through iTunes U, part of the of the iTunes online store.
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That means those whose budget won’t stretch to a two-year MBA can simulate the experience at home — or at work, in the gym or anywhere else they choose. And even better for money-conscious learners, the iTunes U content can all be downloaded free of charge.

French business school HEC Paris is due to launch its iTunes U content in the next few months, but it has been running an ambitious podcast program since 2006.

Begun as an experiment in partnership with Apple, all new MBAs at HEC are provided with an iPod Touch. Around half of the MBA lectures are filmed using an automatic camera system and the footage is made available for students to download and view on their iPhones.

Vanessa Klein, HEC’s project manager for iTunes U said that the iPod-enabled curriculum has proved a hit with students. As well watching lectures, she said the students’ own presentations are recorded and made available for download so they can review their performance.

She says one teacher noticed that each year his MBA students would ask the same questions after his end-of-course summary, so he made a podcast of recurring questions and answers. After encouraging students to come up with new questions, he is now recording responses to those in an effort to compile a video archive of questions and answers.

Klein says that by making lectures available via iTunes U, HEC wants to be at the forefront of providing content for the rest of the world, but she acknowledges that the technology is also a great way to promote the business school.

“It’s a good marketing tool, not as publicity but to really show people what we are providing,” Klein said.

“You can watch a lecture, learn a lot and think ‘I wish I could be there.’ The idea is to show what you could learn if you were at this place.”

The University of Oxford says there have been more than one million downloads from its iTunes U site, while Stanford University says its course on creating iPhone applications was downloaded more than one million times in just seven weeks.

This week’s most popular business download on iTunes U is a University of Oxford lecture called “Entrepreneurship and the Ideal Business Plan.” I will download that today.

It may not get as many downloads as Michael Jackson’s posthumous single, but it should prove more useful when it comes to getting a business off the ground.