When I graduated with my English degree in 2007 I quickly became disappointed at having to leave behind my student life that consisted of waking up leisurely, ambling to class, participating in stimulating discussions, reading fascinating texts, and then working on the side for fifteen hours a week or five hours a week depending on the mood. Not long after walking off the podium with a degree in hand, however, I stumbled across Itunes U (http://itunesu.pbworks.com/w/page/9762377/FrontPage—or most easily accessed by opening up Itunes and navigating to Itunes U which is located in the Store). Soon my regular tasks such as grocery shopping and bus riding were accompanied by lectures from distinguished UC Berkeley and Stanford professors such as Hubert Dreyfus and Paul Ehrlich respectively, who shared their wisdoms regarding existential commitments in the Industrial Age and why the Western world’s vulnerability to environmental degradation is increased by virtue of their technological advances while I strolled through cereal aisles or prepared my lunches (however, I must admit that I performed these routine tasks in a less timely manner when trying to absorb challenging concepts and themes that cost me additional concentration).
With the academic frontiers changing, many business schools are following suit by opening up their doors to the public. The Kutztown University of Pennsylvania’s Small Business Development Center, for example, has all of their course content available here: http://www.kutztownsbdc.org/course_listing.asp. Other sites with worthwhile content of interest to small business owners and entrepreneurs, or anyone wanting to be informed on the latest insights shared by knowing minds, are compiled below:
The opening up of America’s and Europe’s elite campuses and lecture halls to the public is a wonderful gesture and a democratic act in the global sense since it will afford many “students” from developing countries the opportunity to take part in the exchange of knowledge with the world’s top universities such as Harvard, MIT, and Oxford, who have all made their courses available on Itunes U. There are several other online resources available outside of Itunes U such as Academic Earth which is a San Francisco based website that features video content of more than a handful of reputable US Universities.
Many aspects of the online lecture hall can be understood as positive developments, particularly as they relate to inviting into the discussion those who could never foot the rising tuition at American and European universities or those who do not have the luxury of superfluous leisure time to take classes. Universities are attempting to avoid the mistake the music industry made when it amassed all of its corporate clout to entomb Napster all of ten years ago only to eventually go belly up because they did not stop even long enough to consider the rate of technological advancement (http://www.kurzweilai.net/the-law-of-accelerating-returns) and adapt accordingly. However, there are yet several considerations to examine regarding this transformation in higher learning. For all the benefit of plugging the greatest teachers directly into your ear at the push of play, something irreplaceable is lost that can only come from sitting at the feet of a great teacher. Arriving either late, early, or on time to class, taking part in a learning community there, not having the capability of pausing the operation; these are all intangibles that an academic experience on an Ipod cannot replace, however convenient, efficient, and democratic it may be. Far from banning lectures from my Ipod, I would only like to encourage “lifetime students” to attend class once in a while; most universities offer lectures, and even courses, to the public which allow for that timeless experience of learning something new.