Five UNO Philosophy Courses Hit the "Top 10" on iTunes U
On Tuesday, the University of New Orleans raised its image among young philosophers from around the world. Five of the "Top 10" courses on the internationally accessible iTunes U web application on that day were online courses taught by UNO professors.
Ranking as numbers one, two, four, nine and 10 were the UNO classes Philosophy of Mind, Introduction to Philosophy, Environmental Ethics, Ethics and History of Modern Philosophy. Also making the "Top 10" list of Philosophy courses taught on iTunes U are a course entitled "Justice" taught by Harvard University and two courses taught by Yale University – "Death" and "Philosophy and the Science of Human Nature."
"Anytime you beat out Harvard and Yale, it's pretty cool," said Associate Professor of Philosophy Robert Stufflebeam, chair of the UNO Philosophy Department.
The five UNO philosophy courses seen on iTunes U are the first five courses and among seven launched on iTunes U by the department, said Stufflebeam, who said the department will be launching one full course on iTunes per semester for the next five semesters. The iTunes launch goes hand-in-hand with the launch of an online B.A. degree in Philosophy program, which is already accepting students and becomes a reality this fall.
Students pursuing the online B.A. in Philosophy access course materials at iTunes U and submit any papers, written material or exams to their professors through Moodle, the course management system used by UNO, Stufflebeam said.
"No one thinks is the preferred method of teaching - we all prefer to teach students and deliver presentations face to face in class -- but we all realize that not all students can take the traditional classes at the times that we offer them," said Stufflebeam, who noted that the UNO and LSU are the only two state schools in Louisiana that actually have Philosophy Departments. "It's a self-preservation thing."
What Is iTunes U?
The iTunes U app allows students from around the world "access to complete courses from leading universities and other schools — plus the world's largest digital catalog of free education content — right on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch," according to Apple. "Whether you're majoring in molecular biology at a university, taking Spanish in high school, or just interested in European history, you now have a valuable tool to help you learn anytime, anywhere."
The iTunes U app offers free courses in a wide array of subjects and allows students to take free classes created and taught by instructors from leading universities and other schools, according to Apple. The courses come with assignments and instructor updates. An iBooks tool allows students to take notes, highlight text and consolidate notes for easy review with the iTunes app. Students may also use the web application to take course notes in class or while playing other iTunes U audio or video lectures. Through the web app, students may also access course materials, including audio, video, books, documents and presentations, apps, and new iBooks textbooks for iPad.
Preparing courses for online delivery on iTunes U and Moodle is an intensive process, said Stufflebeam, who said that each 16-week UNO course found online includes a weekly voice-narrated lesson, lecture notes and Power Point presentation, as well as course materials, links to readings, links to movies and links to other supplemental materials, including some that are copyrighted.
Assistant Professor of Ethics Chris Surprenant (who this year introduced to UNO the Alexis de Toqueville Lecture Series), teaches Environmental Ethics offered online through iTunes U. Instructor Mark Phillips teaches History of Modern Philosophy. Stufflebeam teaches the other three UNO online philosophy courses now ranked among iTunes U's "Top 10," he said. He teaches Philosophy of Mind -- the number one philosophy pick on iTunes U, as well as Ethics and Introduction to Philosophy.
More than 60,000 students worldwide are currently subscribed to UNO philosophy courses on iTunes U, even before the launch of the program, said Stufflebeam. Of those, more than 50,000 are subscribed to courses he teaches. Nearly 20,000 people worldwide are subscribed to his Philosophy of Mind course and 30,000 people to his Introduction to Philosophy class, the department chair said.
"Most of the folks are college-age students or the next bracket up," said Stufflebeam. "I can tell from the activity that we've got between 11,000 people a day visiting these courses."
The University's iTunes U account has seen an exponential increase in usage in UNO since the Philosophy Department released self-paced courses several weeks ago, Stufflebeam said. Students from around the world who do not attend UNO but are downloading the UNO classes with no plans to pursue a degree appear to enjoy using iTunes U courses for self-advancement or for supplementing their coursework at other Universities.
Tuition-paying students, of course, are grateful for the anytime, anywhere access opportunities allowed by the online courses.
Fifty-three percent of those downloading or accessing classes from the UNO Philosophy Department's iTunes U offerings do so from their iPhones, said Stufflebeam. More than 30 percent access the materials from their iPads. Only a small percentage -- about 16 percent -- download their coursework from desktop computers, according to data.
Stufflebeam said that students have told him they frequently download and listen to his courses while driving in their cars, taking walks or running on their treadmills.
"They listen to a lecture and they listen to the lecture again," he said.
The Greatest Gift
A recent $4 million gift from the estate of the Carl E. Muckley has made the online philosophy courses -- as well as philosophy scholarships and a host of other department improvements -- possible, said Stufflebeam. The Muckley gift allowed the department to purchase Apple "Mac" computers for its four faculty members, as well as other equipment and tools to help them get online.
Already, Stufflebeam said, he has had 10 students sign up as philosophy majors for the online B.A. in Philosophy degree program starting in the fall.
UNO expects to launch 10 new online major degree programs in the fall as part of Global UNO, an effort to expand learning opportunities to students around the world, officials said.
iTunes U claims to have "the world's largest catalog of free education content," with "more than 600,000 free lectures, videos, books, and other resources on thousands of subjects from Algebra to Zoology."
Collections include content from education and cultural institutions in 30 countries — including Stanford, Yale, MIT, Oxford, UC Berkeley, MoMA, the New York Public Library, the Library of Congress and UNO.