Content is King

As the ice melts and we all begin our return from the brief winter hibernation spent tucked snugly in our festively-decorated, cozy homes, many of us will be returning to campus with new tech gear. Congratulations! You are either well-loved and respected by your family, or had the forethought to purchase your own gift for Christmas. But don’t forget that your students are coming back with new technology as well.

Last Year Apple, Inc. sold well over 15 million iPads in the Holiday quarter. This year, with the launch of the iPad 4 with retina display and the iPad Mini, these numbers are expected to grow, meaning that the total number of individual iOS devices in the market is now close to 500 million. According to some analysts, this number is forecasted to surge to well over 1 billion by 2015, and this number doesn’t event include Android devices (currently numbers are in the hundreds of millions).

With a background in retail, I can tell you that the holidays aren’t quite so cozy and pleasant outside of the realm of higher education. Consumerism, even over-consumption, isn’t only something that happens around the table at Thanksgiving, but is now a way of life and WHAT we are consuming might surprise you.

The average user spends anywhere from 4-6 hours “online” each day. For most of us, that means email and some simple web browsing. Sites like Facebook and Google are the top destinations for most surfers, but online games, video chat services like FaceTime and Skype, P2P file downloads, and streaming video from sites like YouTube or Netflix drive our consumption of data. With all of these potential sources for information, the content is king. Businesses are vying for your internet viewership by ensuring that they can provide you with the best, most engaging content. The more you view, the more income they can generate from advertising.

I remember growing up, that a book salesman happened by our house. I was so excited about the set of encyclopedias our family purchased. I am sure my parents still have those books in the attic somewhere.  If you didn’t own your own set of encyclopedias in that day, you had the library, and that was pretty much it. I can still vividly remember reading through the encyclopedia, absorbing that knowledge. My mother is a Baby Boomer, and has reluctantly taken to the digital age, but her parents never had that opportunity. They learned everything they could in a one-room schoolhouse before starting their lives as young adults in the workforce. The exponential growth is staggering when you compare the learning potential of someone like my mother or grandmother with that of my 4 year old son who will grow up surrounded with instant access to limitless amounts of information.

You might think that this overflow of information would numb us to quality, yet it seems that this data consumerism has actually raised our standards when it comes to the delivery of content.  For years, students came to colleges and universities to hear from and interact with the brightest and smartest people they would likely have the opportunity to meet in their lifetime.  There was a sense of awe when stepping foot onto campus, much like my sense of wonder as I cracked open that encyclopedia crate as a child. Today a student can take the phone from their pocket, and in moments find the top resource on a particular subject and learn directly from them online. Even in the classroom, content is still king.

This consumption of data has changed how we learn. Students have instant and controllable access to information everywhere but the classroom. They consume data while sitting at dinner, draining a latté, riding in the car, waiting on a friend, in the morning while they prepare for the day, in the middle of the night when they can find some peace and quiet. They consume data on their own terms, and they have instant access to content on demand.

Realizing this fundamental change in data consumerism gives us as educators the opportunity to meet our students where they live, and to deliver content in a way that meets their expectation. Making material available for data consumption online outside of the classroom gives students the ability to absorb that information in the medium they know and use best, and gives you the opportunity to flip the classroom, and create a more engaging and practical classroom experience.  As part of the One University digital initiative, The Center for Teaching Excellence has partnered with Information Technology and Web Communications to form an iTunes U team whose purpose is to help facilitate the development of great digital content for use in the classroom.  We can help with curriculum development, Instructional design, production level audio and video capture, training on the software and hardware used for content creation, and how to best utilize this digital curriculum in your class.

Want to know more about technology in the classroom? Register now for the Academic Technology Expo taking place on January 11th 2013 on the campus of the University of Oklahoma.

Want more information on making an impact with digital curriculum for your class?  Contact our team at

Jeremy Hessman


  1. iTunesU might be a good choice for some, but not for all. It supports a very limited range of content, and the searchability / discoverability on the web is poor, as are the syndication options (you cannot embed your iTunesU videos anywhere at all, unlike YouTube videos which love to go anywhere and everywhere, including the ability to watch them play inside D2L). If we really want to promote digital content on this campus, it seems like we should also be talking about making blogging tools available to both faculty and students, as well as wiki and other website creation tools… but right now we have none. Instead of just seeing students as consumers of content, as envisioned in this blog post, I think there is far more educational benefit to seeing students as both consumers AND producers of content, learning how to create digital text (blogs, wikis, websites, etc.) along with digital multimedia of all kinds. My students use Google Sites to publish their class projects, and I don’t know how I would manage to teach my classes without the great resources provided by Google for online learning and content creation of all kinds. It seems to me that iTunesU is not a good candidate for a one-size-fits-all solution, and I really hope that as part of the One University digital initiative we will see the arrival of Google Apps for Education on this campus. More about GAFE here: Google Apps for Education.

    • Ken

      Absolutely Laura!! Although my focus is iTunes U, it is just a single facet for digital curriculum. This is not a one size fits all solution. We will be discussing many others at ATE this year. I hope you will attend and find me. I would love to hear how collaboration through Google is impacting engagement in your class. Unfortunately there is not a good all encompassing solution but we are working to provide as many resources as possible to faculty and students as we can. Remember that private iTunes U content is viewable only through iOS, but the public content is available to all users with a computer, and iTunes U Course manager can link to your youtube resources and collaborative sites and might provide a good way to tie it together. We are also looking to address the need to provide this content within D2L, and hope to have a process in place with the next D2L upgrade to allow faculty to do so. Stay tuned for that, and for a post on student content creation as well. There are some great pilots going on surrounding that very thing! Thanks for reading, and for your comments! I look forward to meeting you at the ATE!!!

      • Hi Ken, I won’t be at the ATE… I guess I can claim to be the ultimate “digital faculty member” since I exist in pretty much only digital form – I’ve been teaching these fully online courses for 10 years (some of my students presented at last year’s Expo, showing off their websites) – and for the past few years I’ve actually been living in North Carolina (like my students who benefit from online courses for family reasons, I do too, since I am able to be here with my husband as we take care of his very elderly dad). So, I’m not in Norman, but will glad to see any materials that show up from the event online later. Plus, I really hope there will be some kind of digital community that develops as part of this digital initiative – the number of people who can attend any face-to-face event is inherently limited, whereas EVERYONE – every student, every faculty member, every staff member – has potentially valuable experience and ideas to bring to bear on the huge task of somehow bringing instruction at OU into the 21st century (slowly but surely!).
        About iTunesU being viewable on any computer, yes – but embedding is way more powerful! Here’s a YouTube video embedded in my class announcements… and thanks to the power of RSS/javascript, that same video is clickable and viewable right there inside Desire2Learn since I syndicate the announcements in there automatically, and inside my class Ning too. Use the “oustudent” account (Michelle can give you the password) to log on to D2L and look at MLLL-3043-995 for Spring 2013 to see it in action if you are curious. Like everybody, I’m super-busy and want to get the biggest bang for my digital buck, as it were – syndication is a great way to do that, and it’s why iTunesU will never be a good option for me. I’m glad to hear that there are other options being promoted as well… and I sure would love to see Google Apps on campus. That would give us website, wiki, blogging, and community software (Google+ is now integrated with GAFE) all at once… 🙂