Tools for Creating Original Content for iTunes U




University of Pittsburgh community members can use iTunes U to offer audio, video, or PDF files as part of course content or other academic purpose.  iTunes U can be used to publish content related to lectures, course materials, presentations, and more.

You can create your own audio and video content for iTunes U by following the guidelines provided in this help sheet.  These guidelines provide a basic overview of how to create content.  They describe the tools you will need to create your content and the file formats that provide the best quality for your audio and video.  They also explain how to add metadata to your content, which provides helpful information to your audience and makes your content easier to find on iTunes U.

Note:  A number of software and hardware products that can be used to create audio and video content are referenced in the guidelines below.  Please note that CSSD does not endorse or provide technical support for any of the examples listed.  Links to vendor Web sites are provided for reference purposes only.

You may also contact the University’s Center for Instructional Development & Distance Education (CIDDE) to request assistance with content creation from CIDDE’s Instructional Technology service unit.  CIDDE provides professional graphic, photographic, video, engineering, and audio/visual support to the University community.

Select the Tools to Create Your Content


There are many software programs available that allow you to create audio and video content.  Most export your files in an iTunes compatible format and some also allow you to add metadata.  The following are a few suggestions of programs that are easy to obtain and, in some cases, free of cost.  For in-depth instructions on specific products, refer to the software documentation.  Each program listed below varies in cost, capabilities, and ease of use, but all will allow you to create files that can be posted on iTunes U

CIDDE recommends and uses Audacity to record audio and create mp3 files.  You can download Audacity for  free.


Choosing the right equipment depends on your desired video and sound quality, your budget, and whether you need to record in a location that is away from your computer.

  • Audio:  For recording to your computer’s hard drive, a simple USB microphone will suffice for most audio applications.  However, sound cards on many desktop computers are capable of making acceptable recordings using a good analog microphone.  Remote recording of audio requires a portable digital recorder.  Portable digital recorders are available for purchase from a variety of manufacturers.  CIDDE loans Tascam and Marantz digital audio recorders, high quality XLR microphones with a USB adapter, and has an audio recording booth available for use by faculty.

Tip:  The built-in microphones on many laptops are generally not sufficient for producing high-quality audio files.  Experiment with a sample recording to be sure the resulting track is free of noise and produces a clear listening experience.

  • Video:  Some laptop computers include built-in Webcams that you can use to record video.  You may also record video using a digital camcorder.  These are available for purchase from a variety of manufacturers.  CIDDE loans digital camcorders and has a video recording booth available at no charge for your course recordings.

Choose a File Format

To prepare audio or video content for use in iTunes U, you will need to make certain it is in an appropriate file format.  Apple recommends the following formats:

  • Audio Content: AAC (Advanced Audio Coding). AAC is an open format.  It provides encoding that compresses your file much more efficiently than older formats, yet delivers high sound quality.  The file size is usually less than 1 MB for each minute of content.  This format provides higher resolution audio, yielding sample rates of up to 96 kHz.    

Tip:  Only a few portable audio players can use this type of audio file.  If you want to reach a larger audience, then you may want to choose the MP3 format for your audio files.  An MP3 file will have audio quality that is comparable to an AAC, but the file size may be slightly larger.  

  • Video Content: H.264.  H.264 provides great video quality from the smallest amount of data, which means your video will be crisp and clear, yet in a smaller file than previous generations of video formats.  H.264 delivers up to four times the resolution of MPEG-4 at the same data rate.

TipiPods and iTunes support many other file formats, such as MP3, MP3 VBR, AIFF, Apple Lossless, WAV, AA, MPEG-4, and PDF (iTunes only).  However, Apple recommends AAC (for audio) and H.264 (for video) because they provide the best quality, allow faster download times, and use less hard disk space.

Create Your Content

Now that you have some background on file formats, software applications, and hardware that best suit your needs, you are ready to record and edit your audio or video content.

1.       Plan It

Planning is an important step to creating useful content.  You may not need a fully written script for your lectures, course material, or presentations, but it is always a good idea to plan what you will cover before creating an audio, video, or PDF file.

If you plan to post audio or video files, a quality audio recording is very important.  Selecting a quiet recording location will help ensure that the audio file (or audio track on your video file) has minimal background noise and can be heard clearly.  CIDDE has video and audio recording facilities for faculty.

2.       Record It

Review the hardware information above and record your content.  Save your file.

3.       Convert It

If necessary, convert your files to a format supported by iTunes. (See Choose a File Format)

4.       Add Metadata (Optional) 

Metadata is descriptive information about the content of your file that is included within the file.  You will enter metadata before uploading your file to iTunes U.  Examples of metadata include key words, descriptions of your audio or video file, the name of the file’s author, and copyright information.  iTunes and many other applications can display and use this metadata for cataloging and searching.  Metadata is also used as part of the iTunes U interface (for example, clicking the Artist category in iTunes U would display the name of the lecturer or instructor that you entered into the metadata).

Metadata also supports and reinforces the content contained within your file and helps to meet the needs of different learning preferences.  For example, you might include the text of your lecture in the metadata of your audio file so that students can read the content in addition to listening to it.

Different audio and video software programs allow you to enter metadata in different ways.  Below is a list of common metadata fields and examples of what you might enter into each field.

  • Name:  Name of the lecture, article, or podcast.
  • Artist:  Name of the instructor or source of the content.
  • Album:  Name of the lecture series or name of the course.
  • Grouping:  Describes your content by theme (for example, lectures on Renaissance music as opposed to Baroque music)
  • Comments:  Provides a space to add notes, a brief description of your content that will be helpful to the student, a Web site address, or an e-mail address.
  • Lyrics (for audio content only):  Include the text of your lecture, the text of a poem, a transcript to support hearing disabled learners, or a summary of the material.

Once your content has been published, the metadata can be viewed by selecting the file in iTunes, clicking the File menu, and selecting Get InfoThis displays the metadata you entered, as shown in the images below.

5.       Submit It for Publication

Once you have created your file, send it to your department’s designated Content Administrator for posting to iTunes U.  You and your students will be able to access it via the iTunes U community on once it has been uploaded.

Get Help

The Technology Help Desk at 412-624-HELP [4357] is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to answer your technology-related questions.  Questions can also be submitted via the Web at