A big step backwards, from what I can tell.
Sharing video recordings of class lectures on the Web is easy: record video, upload to Web. Why is there a need to do it through iTunes? AFAIK, iTunesU is just a way for Apple to try to get campus lock-in. I know this sounds kind of rant-ish, but I'm being 100% serious and honest.
My school started using iTunesU, which didn't seem to have any advantages over just putting video online, except that I couldn't use it, since I can't run iTunes on my computer (Linux).
I'd honestly like to know what benefits iTunesU has for anyone besides Apple and Microsoft, in the sense that if it became truly widespread, it would prevent any widespread movement to adopt Linux on campus.
That's not what I said.
and it is more difficult to use on Linux
That's a sloppy way to put it. AFAIK, there is no Linux port of iTunes. It may be possible to use with virtualization, but that's beside the point.
The technology has been around, like you said, for a long time to post videos online - but what good is it if those videos are hosted on a thousand different websites? iTunes U aggregates them all into a platform that can easily be searched, as well as enforcing a minimum level of quality in order to provide a higher quality learning experience
I wasn't aware that iTunesU aggregated videos other than those from the particular university at which you are a student. That's how it was billed at my school. Still, if it does do so, it's a strage way to go about it. The same thing could be accomplished in a much more accessible way with a YouTube clone for educational videos.
Is Apple truly that magnanimous? Probably not. But it's an ad-hominem fallacy to dismiss the quality of iTunesU on the basis of it's creator.
Right, which I didn't do. In fact, quite the other way around. I have great respect and admiration for Apple and Steve Jobs. That respect went down a bit when I realized that (and here's my real point):
There is no business case for Apple to have iTunesU except to block Linux from getting a foothold on university campuses.
Now, maybe that statement is too strong. I would be delighted if someone could prove it to be wrong.
Now, just to be clear, I don't think there's anything morally or legally wrong with acting to block your competition. But still, I'd rather see Apple selling great products that people love, which is what they normally do, rather than giving away products with the sole (apparent) intention of blocking the spread of other great things (Linux).
That said, I'm a big fan of iTunesU. I like the ability to download courses on my iOS devices and listening to the lectures on trains or at the gym. Also, they must save a lot on bandwidth by letting people download the videos (I go through the lectures a couple of times at least).
However, the end-user experience for downloading videos from iTunesU and playing it on an iOS is excellent. It is almost a one-click experience. This is just my opinion as a user.
I'm curious, on a vanilla iOS device, what application would you use to download a video on a website and have it cache onto your device?
I agree that if you don't have an iOS device, this doesn't work.
(Sorry if I'm rubbing it in too hard, you've been very gracious in this discussion.)
There are some great courses available (most for free), in fact I have just finished the Stanford iPhone programming course by Paul Hegarty which I highly recommend.