The flaws of iTunes U.

I’m 17 years old (18 in October) and so I’m at the stage of my life where I need to apply for a university. British Universities are slightly different to American ones, in the sense that from 16-18 I have to go to a “college” first, which gives me extra qualifications called A Levels which will be used to determine whether or not a university wants to accept me. USA’s idea of “Sixth Form College” is High School (I think) so I’d just like to clear that up first of all.

iTunes U is a section on iTunes specifically for education. Described by Apple as “Mobile Learning,” the idea is you can go there and get information about universities and an ideal university would also be uploading lectures to iTunes available for download at anytime – This makes university life a whole lot easier for everybody! However, it seems iTunes U is predominantly a USA resource, which is irritating.

Searching through iTunes U, I found this excellent podcast on Mac OS X and Cocoa Touch (from bgizzle’s university, actually) and this is the kind of thing I would expect universities across the world to be publishing. However, I’m logged into the UK iTunes Store. Not the American one. So why am I getting results for Stanford and Yale?

The reason is simple – There aren’t enough UK participants. I have to apply to 4 universities by the end of September, as I want to go on and study Medicine at the unis. The 4 I’ve chosen (at the moment) are Cardiff, Leicester, BSMS and Oxford. If you plug those into the iTunes search bar, the only results that will be churned up are for Oxford, which has a very extensive library of podcasts ranging from admissions to lectures for a lot of different subjects – And it’s a very impressive university too – It’s what Yale and Harvard are in the USA.

But this is disappointing. I need more resources: everybody is on the internet now, and if the universities can’t even be bothered to post a podcast named “Tips for the interview process” or “Is _____ the right choice for me?” then what hope do we have of truly knowing what the education establishment is like?

Similarly, if you want to study Medicine at university, you have to take these aptitude tests called the UKCAT (United Kingdom Clinical Aptitude Test) and the BMAT (this one’s only for Oxford or Cambridge) and if you search either of them on iTunes U, you don’t get any preparation advice, any practice PDFs, any study techniques of any kind – It’s abysmal! They’re bloody hard tests and we’re left in the dark.

I am very frustrated because I’ve actually got 6 choices (Bristol and Manchester too) but I somehow have to choose only 4 and I can’t do it with the information I have at the moment. I’m not sure if this is the universities’ fault, or if it’s Apple’s, but iTunes 9′s new look store now has a tab at the top for “iTunes U” so it’s making a damn big deal about it, and I suggest that all UK universities reading now, ought to jump on the technology bandwagon before it’s too late.

EDIT: I’d also love to add that I HAVE done research for universities in the past. In fact, for the past year I’ve been looking at University websites, prospectuses, going to Open Days and joined a lot of forums for advice – But what I’m saying is iTunes U is available but nobody is using it, and it should be used to help “on-the-go” people like myself, where you can just download an advice podcast, stick it on your iPhone and listen to it on the bus.

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