The Ultimate Guide to Creating an iTunes U Course

Apple knows that its products can play a vital role in the whole educational field. Nowadays, it’s not rare to see the Cupertino-based company’s tablet computers, the iPad, being carried around by students, reading e-books, studying their lessons, and doing their homework using it. Apart from the hardware, Apple is also assisting teachers in the software area, however, before they can start teaching though, they need to be well-versed in creating an iTunes U course.

Making one takes up could take up a lot of work, but after you’ve managed to get one up and running, you’re on your way to having a productive and fun lessons with your students!

iTunes U: What is it?

Before we go over in creating an iTunes U course, let’s check out what it’s all about first.

The platform is basically a distribution system for educational content and learning materials which are made and designed for students and educators themselves. It is also accessible to a global audience, considering that it can be accessed through iTunes in the iTunes U tab.

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Apart from e-books, classroom applications (like for passing homework or for sketching), video and audio recordings, PDFs, and interactive and dynamic apps which are well-suited for children and younger audiences. There are also lectures and speeches done by well-known professors from famous universities, like Harvard. The platform also features content from various public media organizations, like National Geographic, and museums.

Anyway, we can safely say that iTunes U is a treasure trove of educational content: even if your school is not using the platform, it would be great for you could look up some of the materials available, read some ebooks, and listen to some lectures. After all, knowledge is the food of the brain, and it’s always best to keep it full and stocked.

Creating an iTunes U course and profile

Now that you know what the platform is, it’s time to learn how to use it. So, if you are a professor or educator, how do you go about creating an iTunes U course? Sure, creating a course for your students is already a difficult task, and you might initially be thinking that making one in iTunes U will take up gargantuan effort.

To be honest, those fears are rather unfounded, especially if your content is ready to be uploaded. So, whether you’re using it in the classroom or if this is your way of making the world a better place, read on! Here’s a step-by-step process to creating an iTunes U course:

Set up an Apple ID

Your first task is to create and set up an Apple ID. Although iTunes U is open for non-Apple, iPad, and Mac users, you need to create your own Apple account. If you’ve used any of the company’s services before, like iCloud and the App Store, then you can log in using the account you signed in to those two.

However, if you’re using it for professional reasons, then try to sign up for a new one using your school’s email address. Your school is likely to have its own email platform and they should have already given you a professional email address for school use. After that, you will be required to create an iTunes U instructor profile, and you will be required to encode certain pieces of info like your name, educational institution, bio, and title.

Creating a Course

After registering, you’re on your way to creating an iTunes U course! You will be met with the above form, which is the initial step in the course creation process. There are two types of courses, namely:

  • In-session. These are courses that are taught in real-time and are paired with calendar-based posts and assignments. They are the ones being used in classrooms and you will need to provide certain dates and timelines which provide when the course starts and ends.
  • Self-paced. These courses are can start and be completed any time. Unlike in-session courses, you don’t need to assign calendars and specific dates: you only need to provide the structure of the course and let students study at their own pace. However, you need to suggest or provide a specific time frame to help them out.

Bear in mind that by default, the course’s privacy is set to private – you or an affiliated instructor will need to contact to contact an iTunes U administrator to set the settings to public.

Step-by-step process to creating an iTunes U course

Creating a course isn’t as simple as writing a syllabus or creating notes for your students to read. It’s tough work and you might need to collaborate with your fellow educators to create a compelling and productive one for your students.

To make the process a whole lot easier, let’s divide the work into several actionable steps. Here goes:

First, enter the course name and other details

  • Your first task is to enter the course name, short name, and your department. Take note that the course name will be the display name of the material you created in iTunes U.
  • Next, add a photo – be sure that it’s a professionally-made one. Tip: don’t just add any photo: put a logo or enlist the help of a graphics designer to create a compelling course image. Again, this is displayed on the iTunes U catalog, so be sure that it’s good-looking enough to appeal to non-students. It should also be not less than 600 x 600 pixels and be less than 10 MB.
  • Add your course’s description. This serves as a short introduction to your course, given that it will talk about what it contains, along with what you want to expect from your students. We recommend including a short summary of the course and what it’s all about. Take note that this will also be displayed on your course’s own iTunes U page.
  • Set your institution, level, and category. Institution refers to the school or university where the course will be used, while level talks about which school level this is directed towards. The language is self-explanatory, while category pertains to what niche or subject matter it will contain or what will it be about. You will then be asked to determine if the course is in-session or self-paced.
  • Determine if you want to use Discussions or not. You can toggle Discussions on or off, before you do so though, take note that this is an important feature. By turning it on, you can chat privately with your students, particularly when they need help with an assignment or if you want to give them feedback. Additionally, students can also put up class discussions, wherein instructors can participate and monitor as well. However, take note that if you’re going to set your course to public, class discussions will be automatically set to off.
  • Select a license for your course. This pertains to how other instructors may use your course. You can strictly set a copyright for your efforts, or use a creative commons license.

Building, editing and organizing your content

To build your course, you will start by utilizing the course builder’s Overview, Instructor, and Outline pages.

  • Overview – this contains all of the information included on your course settings.
  • Instructor – it contains all the pertinent information related to you. It will display your name, along with the profile you built.
  • Outline – among the three, the Outline tab is the most important one, considering that it contains your course syllabus.

Adding assignments and learning materials

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Through Posts, you can add content and context to your course. Basically, this course can be about a lecture summary, an assignment, or a set of instructions. Entering a post is easy: simply choose a topic from your outline (which contains the syllabus) then start writing a post title and its content.

You can create numerous assignments for each post and in the case of in-session courses, you need to set a due date. With that said, ensure that you clearly state what the assignments are all about, including their content to ensure that your students will understand and clearly know what you want from them. You can also use the Grading feature to assign a value for each assignment. Apart from that, you can also have them submit their work through iTunes U via the Hand-in feature.

You name it: their submitted work may include spreadsheets, presentations,, audio files, or videos. Note that these are then organized in a grade book where you can organize, grade, and track their work. You may also add your own files which are currently stored on your iPad, including photos, videos, and documents.

Enrolling your students

When you already have your list of students in real-life and are ready to enroll them in your course, tap the Enrollment page on the Admin tab to send them the enroll code or short link to them. After which, when your student enters the code on iTunes U or clicks on the link, you will receive the enrollment request and will be able to approve or decline it. If you don’t want to be consistently alerted by enroll requests, you can set approval to automatic, so that anyone who requests access will be approved even without you handling it.

After you approve the request, the students’ name appears on your roster. In the list, you will see the name of your students along with the time when they last viewed your course – yes, you can see the students who are neglecting their studies.

Collecting and grading your students’ work

Apple’s commitment to intuitiveness and ease of use is further epitomized in iTunes U: it has a built-in grading system that lets you track the progress of your students and check their individual performance.

Basically, when students have sent their work, you can immediately start grading them. Do this by simply tapping the Grade tab and enter a number. You will also have the option of sending them individual feedback – privately, of course.

Collaborating with other instructors

You don’t have to create an iTunes U by yourself – you can enlist the help of other instructors to improve your work and even make it easier.

You can send a copy of your course to another instructor, which they can immediately use in their lessons for their students. This is useful in high schools and universities with set curricula, or if there are newly-hired teachers who somehow need to learn their way around the school.

Apart from that, you may also transfer ownership of a course to another instructor without causing any disruptions to the students. This can be done if one instructor is taking over another, due to personal problems or certain circumstances.

You may also add your course to the public catalog, but only if your institution has a public iTunes U website. After you do this, a request will be sent via email to the public administrator, which will then be approved or rejected. Bear in mind that the public catalog is the largest database of free education content wherein anyone can visit and download.

Final thoughts

Once your course is up and online, you’re ready to teach, help, and bring a brighter future to all of your students! Bear in mind that with iTunes U, only the medium changed: creating a course is the same as it was before, though you’re only doing it on an iPad – it will be easier and once you get used to it, you will be able to seamlessly and intuitively work on it. Fair warning: there will be a learning curve while creating the course, but it’s pretty easy to go over the hump anyway.

iTunes U is the perfect convergence of learning and technology. Famous universities like Harvard and Stanford already recognize its potential. It’s definitely time for you to jump the gun and start utilizing it. Remember, the world is evolving right before us, and so is human behavior. As educators, it is your duty to adapt to changes and use the tools available at your disposal.

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