2 december 2010

Opening Oxford learning to all via the web

University

iTunes
More than seven million podcasts have been downloaded from Oxford University’s iTunes U site since it was launched two years ago

Oxford University educational material and news is accessible and free for more people than ever as Oxford University’s presence on iTunes U, YouTube, and other online gateways grows.

iTunes U is a section of Apple’s iTunes that provides free content from universities. More than seven million podcasts have been downloaded from Oxford University’s iTunes U site since it was launched two years ago.Those without access to iTunes can still enjoy the content here.

Last month, Oxford University became one of the first universities in the world to add the free electronic books service ePubs to its iTunes U store. This initiative allows users to download and read books on mobile devices such as iPads, iPhones and Kindles.

Shakespeare’s entire first folio of 36 plays with original spelling, including The Tempest, A Midsommer Night’s Dream and The Taming of the Shrew, are the first to be published by Oxford as ePubs. Books linked to talks on literature and classics are set to follow.

Oxford University also launched itself onto YouTube last month, setting up an Oxford University channel on YouTube EDU, YouTube’s education-specific site. Viewers can watch short videos on how to apply; hear directly from current students; view talks and lectures by Oxford academics in many subject areas; and more.

Some of Oxford University’s online content can be freely repurposed. The Open Spires project aims to increase the number of podcasts that are released with a Creative Commons licence – meaning the material can be re-used non-commercially with no copyright infringement.

We want everyone to benefit from the excellence of Oxford’s research and academic work

Christopher Eddie

‘We want everyone to benefit from the excellence of Oxford’s research and academic work,’ Oxford University Web Officer Christopher Eddie says. ‘iTunes and other podcast sites are perfect channels to enable anyone with an internet connection to access our material.’

The University opens up its research findings and other developments to the public through other online outlets, too. At the beginning of December 2010, Oxford’s Twitter stream had more than 11,000 followers and its Facebook page has more than 110,000 followers. The online news pages  and the science blog receive hundreds of thousands of hits each year.

Of social media like Twitter and Facebook, Christopher Eddie says: ‘Participation is almost the norm now. A prospective student, especially someone from overseas, would expect to find us on Facebook.

‘Oxford is one of a small group of truly global universities, so it’s important we’re represented well across many channels.’

All the online content is free to view, but those wanting to go further in their Oxford education have opportunities via Oxford’s Continuing Education department. While Oxford is often associated with its intense, on-site, full-time education for students, it is actually, via Continuing Education, one of the largest providers of mature education in the UK. 15,000 people join one or more of Continuing Education’s courses every year – and participants can now do online courses wherever they are in the world. Continuing Education's website has recently been revamped.