“Learn anything, anywhere, anytime.”
That’s Apple’s tagline for the iTunes U service, and it’s apt. Although some schools had made lectures and videos freely available through iTunes’ Podcast store, iTunes U was formally unveiled back in 2007 as a way for schools to manage free online distribution of audio and video lectures; in some cases, the courses include PDFs of handouts and assignments given to students in the actual classes. Originally, the content was limited to college or university level classes, but these days K-12 groups can also find things to use.
iTunes U is provided free of charge, both to the universities making classes available as well as to users downloading or streaming the content. iTunes U is widely viewed as a tipping point for free online education; it’s not the first portal for users looking to improve themselves, but it’s certainly become one of the biggest.
That point has never been more true than today, when Apple announced that iTunes U had served over a billion downloads to users, out of thousands of courses available. Its first year saw an OSU General Chemistry course enroll over 100,000 iTunes U students alone. Said OSU’s professor Dr. Matthew Stoltzfus, ?The interest my iTunes U course receives from non-college students is overwhelming. I?ve been working with high school teachers who use my iTunes U material to prepare to teach their own classes, high school students all over the world who are leveraging the course to tutor their fellow classmates, even retirees who download my iTunes U course to stay intellectually active.?
Apple says that over 60% of iTunes U app downloads come from areas outside of the U.S., which gives primarily U.S. schools a chance to show off to an international audience, as well as educate more people for less cost than ever before. The biggest numbers come from courses offered by Stanford and The Open University, each of which has garnered over sixty million downloads.