I received an interesting piece of news this week from Apple. No it wasn’t about the iPhone 4 nor the iPad. It wasn’t a software or hardware release even. It had to do with iTunes U and it was about passing a milestone.
Have you heard of iTunes U? It’s a section within iTunes that is devoted to Education and Learning. With over 250,000 free audio, video, films and other materials, it is a tremendous resource for people desiring to extend their education beyond the classroom. Also, this learning is personal, in that it takes place with your eyes and ears only via iTunes on a Mac or PC or via an iPod, iPhone or iPad.
Well, this week, iTunes U reached a major milestone of more than 250 million downloads since its launch in May 2007. Leading the download race is Open University which was the first organization within iTunes U to have over 20 million downloads.
I have grown up with lots of education in my family. My dad, James Sheehan, is a History Professor at Stanford and my step-mom, Margaret Anderson, is a History Professor at UC Berkeley. Obviously, our dinner conversations and trips together are heavily oriented towards providing the history of everything (actually, not really but they easily could have been – we now mainly talk about their grandchildren). I was never good at History which is probably the reason why I went in almost the complete opposite direction, that of tech.
Regardless, with the popularity of podcasting (I listen to tech podcasts daily and participate in a weekly podcast as well called “Cast of Dads“), it is no surprise to me that iTunes U is so integrated now with people’s lives. Using the podcast format, people can download a wide variety of content that is meant to educate, and many are from large educational institutions like Yale, Stanford, UC Berkeley, Open University, Oxford, Cambridge, MIT, Vanderbilt as well as places like the Library of Congress, PBS and the British Council. The best part is that all of the podcast available within iTunes U are free.
Recently, iTunes U was brought up as a topic within a family discussion. My step-mom had sent me a note telling me that one of her students had sent her a picture of how her podcast “History 5: European Civilization from the Renaissance to the Present” was under the “Noteworthy” section of iTunes and how she couldn’t find it on the internet. She didn’t understand that iTunes U was part of the iTunes application, so I helped clarify that with her and send her some additional screenshots.
This is the History 5 series:
Yesterday, I wanted to see how her podcast was fairing, so I fired up my iPhone (I wasn’t even sure if iTunes U had a section within the iPhone) to see where it stood. There is, indeed, a section within the iTunes app on my iPhone that is for iTunes U specifically. As you can see, the interface is similar on the iPhone (and my step-mom’s series is listed under the “What’s Hot” section):
Here are the series details:
And this is a series from my father called “History of the International System“:
Some of the subject matter that you can find within iTunes U is impressive actually, with topics ranging from:
- Fine Arts
- Health and Medicine
- Social Science
- Teaching & Education
The format of the various materials are: MP3 (audio podcasts), QuickTime (video podcasts) and PDF (written).
On a side note, if you want to do some actual reading, both my dad and my step-mom have written a variety of History books including:
- “Where Have All the Soldiers Gone?: The Transformation of Modern Europe” – James Sheehan
- “Museums in the German Art World: From the End of the Old Regime to the Rise of Modernism” – James Sheehan
- “Practicing Democracy” – Margaret Anderson
- “German History, 1770-1866” – James Sheehan
So if you are looking for ways to extend your knowledge beyond what you learned in school, you might want to give iTunes U a look. Educational institutions can publish lectures and other content for free and make it widely available for interested users to download, or, they can keep their content private to their organization only. Many educational institutions have pages on their site devoted to iTunes U (see UC Berkeley or Stanford’s for example). For the end user, it is a personal way to get additional training, brush up on a rusty subject from school many years ago, or simply expand your knowledge about a variety of topics and subjects.
HTD says: iTunes U is a great way to get world-class educational lectures and media at a very comfortable price (free), all within the easy, familiar and PERSONAL iTunes interface.