These are my notes from the Thursday, October 30th EDUCAUSE 2008 session, “Evolution of iTunesU and Its Role in the Duke Experience,” presented by Stephen Toback, Sr Manager, Interactive Technology Services, Office Of Information Technology, Duke University.

This presentation was my favorite of the conference and the session that will probably have the greatest impact on my work this year. Interestingly, the session presented last year by Duke’s Mark McCahill also earned that distinction. Lesson learned? Even as a UNC alum who has trouble typing the word “Duke,” I have to say that we all need to look at what they are doing as an organization. There are some fantastic practices in place there and they are so good at attracting incredible talent. It must be a fun place to work. If only their basketball team would just lose in terribly humiliating fashion more often.

I loved their approach to service provision and the way they package their services in customer-centered ways in their Multimedia Services division of OIT. Stephen talked about DukeStream, DukeCapture, and their implementation of Lectopia (acquired by Echo 360). I also got a kick out of their Blackwell Interactive web development group. The idea of having a skunk works for academic application development has always appealed to me. This discussion helped me remember the importance of branding your services and delivering them in a coherent and appealing way. At WSU and within the MnSCU system, we tend to roll out new services very unceremoniously.

As far as iTunes U is concerned, you couldn’t find a much more successful implementation. Duke is delivering 1500 audio and 1000 video files via iTunes U, including some of the more popular podcasts in the world. All of their nonacademic content is managed by the Office of Communication. Access to academic content is controlled using Grouper. About a third of their users subscribe and the rest download individual tracks. This is an interesting stat and I wonder if it is because users don’t understand syndication or whether the content is relatively static and there is no real need to subscribe.

Stephen indicated that they are looking at Adobe Acrobat 9 Pro Extended and the delivery of PDF content that includes multimedia via iTunes. This is an exciting development and opens up some very interesting possibilities in terms of academic content.