Liberal Studies This Week

Sharing your experience as an online student

If you would like to become a contributor to this blog, contact Andy at aegiz1 at 

Text Books!

I suppose Congress deserves most of the terrible things we say about them but they do, on occasion, do something useful. Case in point: H.R. 4137 Higher Education Opportunity Act which was signed into law by President Bush in August 2008. This is the most recent reauthorization of the Higher Education Act of 1965 which, among other things, is the law that funds federal financial aid programs.

This time around (this is the 8th reauthorization) Congress has included text books in their review. There are two interesting sections.

Section 112 requires schools to provide timely information about required books so that students might be better consumers and so that they might acquire their books as quickly as possible. For example, it requires schools to list the ISBN and retail price of the required and recommended books in their online schedules - so students will know how much they should expect to spend on books before they enroll.

Section 803 provides funding to establish pilot programs "to make it possible for bookstores to give students the option of saving money by renting course materials." This doesn't mean that book rentals are around the corner for every school but it's interesting (to me at least) that this idea was deemed important enough to include in reauthorization. The next reauthorization is due at the end of 2013 so if these pilot programs go well, maybe this idea will be expanded next time.

Enough of the boring stuff and on to the useful part of this post. It is still not completely clear how UIS will implement the requirements in Section 112 but there is an early indicator on our website right now. Earlier this semester, I wrote a post about a new tool available on the registration website called the UIS Semester Planner. If you go to the registration website now and look under the Course Schedules link, you'll see that this tool has been renamed the UIS Semester Planner and Textbook Information! If you want to know what books are required for your spring classes, you can find the details now. (You are seeing what the bookstore has on file so if you don't see information it is because they don't have the information.)

Friday Fun - The Giz Wiz

Do you like gadgets? Doodads? Doohickeys? Do you find yourself browsing at Best Buy? Do you go to the mall just to play with the display items at Brookstone?

If you said yes, you probably know the Giz Wiz already but if not there is still hope for you.

The Giz Wiz is Dick DeBartolo. Who is he? Well, if you've read a Mad Magazine at any point since 1966, you've probably read his writing.

If you ever watched the Match Game, you've heard the questions he wrote. You can see Match Memories here. (This is an unedited behind the scenes of the recording of that program.)

But if you like gadgets, you can think of Dick DeBartolo as the Giz Wiz. Today marks the 960th episode of the Daily Giz Wiz podcast on the TWiT Network with host Leo Laporte. if you have 15 minutes to waste each day, you can keep on top of the gadget market. Beware though, regular listeners end up buying gadgets.

Something to listen to on the treadmill

Well, my goal of 2 weekly blog posts was dashed on the rocks of spring registration. Hopefully I’m back on track this week although I have to admit that my brain is still shut down from too many hours staring at a DARS report.

On to more important matters – have you ever heard of iTunesU? If you are a regular iTunes user, you may have noticed that when you search for content, iTunes searches across all categories: songs, movies, television program, podcasts, apps, and iTunesU. For example, if you search for parliament, you get great funk albums, political podcasts from Great Britain, season one of Babylon 5 (I’m not sure why), and an entire page of educational content from iTunesU.

iTunesU is a way for member schools to provide content through the iTunes Store. Like most podcasts, the content is free. This is a great outreach tool for schools since more than 200 million iTunes user world-wide can access their educational content as easily as they can download a copy of ‘Thriller’. You may be able to supplement what you are learning in your classes. Struggling in a philosophy course? Maybe Philosophy for Beginners from University of Oxford might help. It is also a great course tool since iTunesU campuses can also limit access to content so some content may be available to the world and other content may password limited to students enroll in a particular class.

UIS first became an iTunesU school in January 2007. I’m not completely sure, but my understanding is that at that point, we had an iTunes server but we weren’t linked into the iTunes Store – you had to come to the UIS website to access our content. This past summer, UIS was accepted for listing in the iTunes store so now if you type my last name into iTunes, you’ll find the podcasts that I did last year (I feel like a minor celebrity.)

You can search for UIS in iTunes or you can go directly to the UIS iTunesU page here You’ll find a variety of content from Speakers Series recordings, to campus community podcasts, to the podcasts used in online courses like the new LIS 460 The Beatles: Popular Music and Society. Dr. Cheney, who created this course and the podcasts, says that they have gotten a lot of attention since UIS was accepted into the iTunes Store – 56,000 download or previews in the last three months.