The Journal, University of Illinois at Springfield Weekly Campus Newspaper

New technology enhances online learning

October 28, 2009
By Andrew Mitchell
Copy Editor

It used to be that anyone who wanted to listen to UIS Biology Professor James Bonacum's lecture had to actually show up to his class. But now, his lectures are just one of several educational podcasts available on UIS's own iTunes store.

UIS content has been available through iTunes U since 2006, which meant that students and faculty had to log in to access audio content. But this year, podcasts are now available for everyone on or off campus via the iTunes store, easily found by searching “UIS.”

This puts UIS with some impressive company, said Munindra Khaund, multimedia education coordinator for ITS. “UIS is now listed alongside Berkely, Cambridge, MIT, Stanford, Yale, museums, and [other] public media organizations,” he said.

So far, the most popular downloads come from Professor Michael Cheney's course, “The Beatles: Popular Music and Society.” Other features include a column for UIS “Staff Favorites,” programs from public radio station WUIS, recordings from the ECCE Speaker Series and “Illinois Springfield Originals,” original work created by UIS faculty staff and students.

Khaund says that the growth of UIS podcasts, from a single course in the fall of 2005 to the thirteen now widely available, shows how well its been received by students.

“I continue to receive requests from students who would prefer to have course-related content delivered via podcast,” he said.

The podcasts can also be used as a recruiting tool for UIS now that its content is available for everyone, Khaund added. But he also stressed that iTunes won't be replacing the buildings on campus anytime soon.

“We provide the means of sharing course content with students in a manner that helps our students learn more,” he said. “[But] technology is a tool and podcasting is not going to replace classroom instruction.”

Online portal opens possibilities

Classroom technology became easier this year in another way with the introduction of the my.UIS portal, which boasts a single sign-on feature for many student needs.

“Before my.UIS, students had to login to Blackboard and then again if they wanted to check their DARS report  and again if they wanted to check their grades or their student account,” said UIS Director of Education Technology, Tulio Llosa.

“With my.UIS, students just need to sign in once and can navigate their way easily to the applications they most use.”

Perhaps more exciting, Llosa said, is the customizable features for students my.UIS home pages. Users can design their portals to feature yahoo accounts, RSS feeds or other websites they frequent.

Llosa added the portal is still a work in progress, with new features still to come, such as easier eDoc distribution and announcement listings.

“We are hoping to convert email distribution lists such as 'campus announcements and UIS Student - Official Information DL' to portlets,” Llosa said. “So when an email is sent to them the message goes to the portal instead of the inbox.”

But the customization of portals is what Llosa says could unlock my.UIS's greatest potential. “Maybe we should hold a contest for most innovative student portal design,” he said.

For a guide on making the most of your my.UIS page, go to this link.
http://bit.ly/uE26z 

UIS's iTunes store can be found at http://itunes.uis.edu