Rome – the ancient world on iTunes

Posted on September 14, 2012


By Rebecca Pannell,  Communications Intern – Year Ten 

Ancient Rome: almost like being there

La Trobe University’s new course, ‘The Roman World – now offered free on iTunes U – is spectacular. Or, as a Roman would say: ‘Spettacolo!’

It gives you a deep understanding of the early myths about how Rome was formed and the Roman people first got their name.

The original belief is that the very first Romans were the surviving male soldiers of the Trojan War. However, a civilisation without women is doomed, which is where the legend of the Rape of the Sabine Women comes in.

The story goes on, into great depth about one of the most famous Roman myths, Romulus and Remus, the two brothers who founded Rome. It tells you about their devious family and the iconic story of the ‘she wolf’, la Lupa.

The subject, which has attracted 30,000 subscribers world-wide, takes you from the very start of the Roman Empire to the moment of its fall, recounting all that was good and bad in between. It deals with the cultural history of ancient Rome – its literature, mythology, art and architecture, and its political and civil institutions.

Its clear audio is a fantastic feature that makes you feel like you are there, ‘watching’ the lecture as it progresses. It is easy to understand with very little history jargon and requires very little before-hand knowledge of any sort of history – which I can verify as a Year 10 student!

Learning evolution

The opportunity La Trobe offers, not only to their students but to all those curious about the Roman world, is fantastic. This course, along with many others that the University has placed on iTunes U this year, will change the way of learning forever.

It has opened the doors to a new kind of learning evolution, where people of all ages can experience what attending a lecture, or being part of a university, is really like.

If you are a reader, writer, or an auditory learner, then the app offered by ITunes U is an incredible resource. It not only allows you to listen to the lessons but to complete tests, read additional hand outs, and the files are always available so you can refer back to them, and even print them off.

With all this new knowledge so readily available, the only thing stopping you from being the best learner you can be is you!

Six subjects, 2.3 million downloads

This is the second subject published on iTunes U from the School of Historical and European Studies. It follows ‘Ancient Greece: Myth, Art and War’ which has received more than half a million downloads worldwide.

La Trobe is the first Australian university to provide content on iTunes U courses. Other universities contributing include Stanford, Oxford University and Yale University.

In semester one, La Trobe provided six subjects widely promoted by Apple to its vast audience on the iTunes U platform. They achieved more than 100,000 subscribers and 2.3 million downloads of lectures and supporting material.

Professor Christopher Mackie, Head of Historical and European Studies, says there is enormous interest in the study of Ancient Greece around the world, reflected in the number of downloads for first year subjects.

‘The same is true of Classical Rome, which forms the second and major part of the course. This is a new subject at La Trobe, and we feel we have brought an interesting and informative perspective to the study of Roman antiquity.’

• Rebecca Pannell is a Year Ten student at  Marymede Catholic College.  She recently worked as an intern in the University’s Media and Communications Office.

Kids lit goes global

David Beagley: four of his lectures are in the top ten for literature worldwide

Subjects in Children’s Literature and Literacy taught by David Beagley at the Bendigo campus have also been a hit on iTunes U, with nearly 600,000 individual downloads.

Mr Beagley initially recorded podcasts of weekly lectures in four of his subjects for his students. ‘They drive back to their home towns every weekend and it was intended that they could listen to them in their cars.’

That trickle of travelling students, since posting the lectures on iTunes U, has now risen to a flood of 30,000 regular subscribers world-wide.

He describes the use of his free podcasts, and the volume of commentary and blogging from around the globe relating to his course, as ‘staggering’.

International response, says Mr Beagley, has ranged from an award-winning children’s novelist in the USA to a subscriber in the highlands of Papua New Guinea.

He says expanding the potential for this kind of teaching technology involves exploring ways to restructure subjects so that they, and the accompanying course work, can used to best advantage online, both within the University and for world-wide audiences.

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