COLUMBUS -- A push by Ohio State University to enhance traditional classroom material with digital elements will benefit the general public as well.
For example, OSU students -- or anyone for that matter -- soon will be able to watch short videos on climate change on an iPad and then use an app to manipulate 3-D molecules to see why some are greenhouse gases and others are not.
OSU officials think that more than 90 percent of students own a laptop, smart phone, or tablet -- with many having all three. "They already have the tools, so why not use them to fully immerse the students in their studies in ways we've never done before?" said Michael Hofherr, OSU's senior director for learning technology.
Ohio State launched a program called Digital First in May to help professors create courses that students can access on their mobile devices. Since then, OSU's iTunes U subscribers have increased from 1,387 to more than 75,000. The number of downloads has risen from 3,373 to just under 150,000, Mr. Hofherr said.
And that's with only five courses and 24 other features currently on OSU's area of iTunes U, relatively modest offerings compared with schools that have posted scores of course lectures, presentations, campus speeches, and other events, most of them free.
"Because of our size, we're often slow to turn, like an aircraft carrier, but when we do, you want to get out of the way," said Richard Pogge, an astronomy professor. "Big things are coming."
He is one of a dozen faculty members who recently attended a two-day boot camp at Apple Inc.'s administrative offices in Chicago. They all will be expected to develop an iTunes U course or iBook this year.
Mr. Pogge's material has been popular with students as well as with people around the globe.
"I wish all of the professors were required to put their lecture notes and other materials online," said Nadya Hagee, a 19-year-old psychology major.