By Jim Karpen on Sat, 03/02/2013
I love free stuff, and there's a ton of it on Apple's iTunes U — full courses, videos, audios, and e-books. Apple announced Thursday that iTunes U content downloads have now topped 1 billion. According to the press release, iTunes U has the "world’s largest online catalog of free educational content." My passion (other than my iPad) is paleoanthropology, and I've downloaded videos of famed paleoanthropologists Richard Leakey and Donald Johanson. The trove of materials is almost too good to be true. I've also subscribed to video podcasts on early hominids produced by the University of California.
iTunes U offers educational materials in 22 categories, from Art & Architecture to Teaching & Learning. You can download or subscribe to content via iTunes on your desktop computer or via the iTunes U app on your device. The quality of production varies, of course. I have a lecture covering an Introduction to Prehistory that's simply a scratchy recording of a classroom lecture. On the other end of the range are highly polished course materials, such as the Open University course on Charles Darwin that includes a syllabus, video, audio, and two e-books. The video and audio recordings play from within the iTunes U app, while the e-books open in iBooks. The iTunes U app has a book shelf that displays your Library, just as with iBooks.
“It’s inspiring to see what educators and students of all types are doing with iTunes U,” said Apple VP Eddy Cue in the press release. “With the incredible content offered on iTunes U, students can learn like never before―there are now iTunes U courses with more than 250,000 students enrolled in them, which is a phenomenal shift in the way we teach and learn.”
According to the press release, more than 1,200 universities and colleges, and over 1,200 K-12 schools and districts host iTunes U courses, some courses public and others private. Some universities, such as Duke, Yale, Cambridge, MIT, and Oxford, have enrolled more than 100,000 students in individual iTunes U courses. Stanford University and The Open University have each surpassed 60 million content downloads.
Ohio State University’s Matthew Stoltzfus enrolled more than 100,000 iTunes U students in his General Chemistry course the first year it was offered.
“The interest my iTunes U course receives from non-college students is overwhelming,” said Professor Stoltzfus in the press release. “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.”
More than 60 percent of iTunes U app downloads originate from outside the United States.
University of California, Irvine Professor Dan Stokols, said his iTunes U course has allowed him to have international reach and recognition in his field.
“Because of iTunes U, I have been able to introduce students and colleagues in China to research on the links between chronic multi-tasking, information overload and stress; discuss research publications and degree programs with students in Europe; and exchange information about the influence of neighborhood design on community levels of physical activity and obesity with students in Australia,” said Professor Stokols, whose Environmental Psychology course enrolls over 170,000 students on iTunes U. “The opportunity to impact so many students who are gaining interest in environmental psychology by taking my free course on iTunes U has been highly rewarding and gratifying for me as an educator and learner.”