The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Great Lives Lectures Available on iTunes

4 min read


The University of Mary Washington expanded their iTunes U to give people worldwide access to its Great Lives lectures, as announced in a press release from Feb. 28.

Assistant Director of the Great Lives lectures and special events programming Charles Shields’ lecture on Kurt Vonnegut was the first lecture available for download on Feb. 24 and three other lectures have been released since. On each Friday another lecture from this year’s series is released, according to a university press release. Users can access the lectures through a direct subscription to receive video downloads from iTunes U.

Shields believes having the Great Lives lectures on iTunes U will make the lectures more available to both people on campus as well as students and historians all over the world.

“We are breaking out of the physical confines of the campus,” said Shields. “It is part of the revolution of the dissemination of knowledge.”

According to the Apple website, iTunes U is a free app that allows students to watch videos of lectures, read books and view presentations. The website states that, “when you create and distribute a course on iTunes U, you’ll join a large and growing community of schools and institutions that are sharing their content with students and lifelong learners all over the world.”

Jeremy Thompson, a junior history and political science double major, recently won a Great Lives contest in which he had to name all of the people featured in the Great Lives lectures this year. Thompson was able to go to dinner with the biographer of his choice as a result of winning the contest and chose Jonathan Eig, author of Opening Day, a biography of Jackie Robinson.

Thompson has seen every lecture since his freshman year because he is the stage-producing manager at Dodd Auditorium. Like Shields, he believes the lectures going on iTunes U is a good move for the school.

“We are moving toward a society where everyone can get information and it is great that UMW is moving toward that trend,” said Thompson.

According to Shields, having the lectures on iTunes U will help the lectures and UMW to spread information in a broader sense through word of mouth, blogs, Facebook and other social media.

“We no longer have to be dependent on newspapers or buying ads in order to get publicity,” said Shields.

Shields came up with the idea of putting the lectures on iTunes U and scripted the instructions for each lecture.

Tim Owens, the instructional technician of special division of teaching and learning technologies, put the lecture instructions at the beginning of each lecture, along with a title frame with the UMW alma mater playing in the background, according to Shields.

Owens administers the lectures on the UMW website and iTunes U, and believes the site makes is easier for a global audience.

According to Owens, when a user searches iTunes U for a topic that the lectures cover, such as Kurt Vonnegut, the Great Lives lecture will come up with the search.

However, iTunes is only one of the websites Owens uses for the Great Lives lectures, because iTunes must be downloaded in order to watch.

“Any place that people are I want the videos to be available to get out the information and the name of the university,” said Owens.

Anna Holman, a junior history and sociology double major, took Professor Williams’ Great Lives class as a freshman. Crawley currently serves as director to the Great Lives program, as well as an adjunct professor.

“I know that I would like to attend more of the lectures, but sometimes I am too busy. Having the lectures on iTunes will make it easier to participate,” said Holman.

Holman also pointed out that the lectures could encourage the Fredericksburg community to be more involved with UMW.

Josephine Appiah, a junior history major, is currently enrolled in the Crawley’s Great Lives class and also believes iTunes providing the lectures will give more access to UMW.

“I think that it is wonderful that the lectures are going on iTunes U because it provides a great study resource for students, gives access to alumni and gives more awareness to the program which allows other schools to possibly adapt a similar program,” said Appiah.

The Great Lives lecture series began in 2004 and has since then featured many biographers and people in history. According to Shields, the lecture series has branched out this year with different ways of approaching biographies, such as a graphic novel written about Marie and Pierre Curie, and a more diverse range of historical characters.

“I wanted to avoid topics just out of the western civilization text book, in other words, too many white men in wigs,” said Shields.

Sherlock Holmes, Madam C.J Walker, P.T. Barnum, and many other influential characters are featured in this year’s Great Lives lecture series.