Designing Online Courses with iTunes U

Q: I’m lucky enough to teach at a school that uses iPads on a 1:1 ratio. I’m thinking of designing my own online course for the dance history class that I teach, but it seems pretty daunting. Got any advice?

A: It’s great to hear that you’re thinking of building your own online dance course. Though not ideal for all dance classes, this does seem to be a viable alternative for a live dance history or appreciation class.

Making your own online course isn’t as hard as it seems. Since your students have iPads, I recommend creating your course on iTunes U. Though students can only access the course through an iPad, you have the ability to edit it on a computer, and the interface is straightforward. First, you upload your course in an outline form; then, simply add the content. iTunes U can help you create a syllabus, handouts and even quizzes.

You can add a variety of formats, too, including video, books, documents, web links and even apps that you want the students to download. One of the best aspects of iTunes U is that you can look at the information in these different formats and take notes within each one. If you choose to take notes while watching a video, iTunes U will even mark your note with the timestamp of the moment you took it—that way, you know exactly what part of the video you’re referring to in your notes. The app then brings the notes into one place, so you can see them all together.

There are many classes available for free in iTunes U, but none for dance, currently. If you teach at a school with a public iTunes U site, the course you create can be part of the app’s online catalog of free educational content. You could do the field a great service by making a course available to others. 

Barry Blumenfeld teaches at the Friends School in New York City. He is an adjunct professor at New York University and on faculty of the Dance Education Laboratory of the 92nd Street Y.

Photo courtesy of Barry Blumenfeld

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