Wednesday, February 22, 2017

iTunes U – An Apple Platform to access thousands of free online courses


iTunes U has been part of the iTunes Store for nearly ten years, and it remains one of the unsung heroes of Apple’s content.

According to Wikipedia (2017):
·         The iTunes Store, a software-based, online digital media store, operated by Apple Inc., opened on April 28, 2003, and has been the largest music vendor in the United States since April 2008. It is also the largest music vendor in the world since February 2010;
·         iTunes Store offers over 35 - 40 million songs, 2.2 million apps, 25,000 TV shows, and 65,000 films as of January, 2017;
·         The iTunes Store revenue in 2011s first quarter totaled nearly $1.4 billion; By May 28, 2014, the store had sold 35 billion songs worldwide;
·         As of June 2013, the iTunes Store possessed 575 million active user accounts. The iTune Store also served over 315 million mobile devices, including Apple Watches, iPods, iPhones, Apple TV, and iPads;
·         iTunes Store for iOS:  The iTunes Store allows users to purchase and download items directly to portable Apple devices, such as the iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, and iPod Touch;
·         Apple offers three applications, each of which provides access to certain types of content:
o   The App Store application sells apps for iOS, and also provides updates for these apps;
o   The iTunes Store app sells music and videos; and
o   The iBooks app sells ebooks;
·         Other, free content available from the iTunes Store can be accessed from two other iOS apps:
o   The Podcast apps allow users to download, subscribe and sync podcasts; and
o   The iTunes U app provides access to educational material.


iTunes U is a dynamic, easy-to-use educational library. It is designed by Apple to distribute digital materials to students in an efficient and effective way. It features hundreds of subjects, which cater to nearly every age. ITunes U creates content from educational institutions around the world. It enables interested students to access free courses from Harvard, MIT, Oxford, La Sorbonne and other leading institutions.

Rasmus (2014) referred to iTunes U as a fantastic educational resource but probably one of the most underrated Apple platforms available. It is also pointed out that those not using iTunes U are not getting the most out of their Apple experience.

According to McElhearn (2016), iTunes U offers courses on pretty much anything you’d find in a college course catalog, and courses are offered in more than a dozen languages. There are also sections that offer courses for primary and secondary school students, along with resources that teachers can use in the classroom. It would be safe to say that anyone who wants to learn will find something to suit them on iTunes U.
iTunes U content comes in several types: audio and video lectures, PDFs or ePub files.

The iTunes U app gives students access to complete courses from leading universities and other schools. It also offers the world’s largest digital catalogue of free education content — right on the student's iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch (iPad in Education (2017).  Millions of people across the globe visit iTunes U every day using a Mac, PC, iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch. Leveraging the familiar interface of the iTunes Store, iTunes U offers over 500,000 audio, video, PDF, and ePub resources as well as full courses that cover every imaginable topic. This extraordinary content comes from hundreds of colleges and universities, K–12 school districts, and respected museums, libraries, and public broadcasting stations.

Students are not currently able to receive a degree from iTunes U. However, many universities use iTunes U to distribute content for courses that offer degrees. Giving the student the ability to audit thousands of courses for free is invaluable. iTunes U provides content on just about every subject imaginable, and those interested in learning should take advantage of iTunes U to broaden their horizons.


Rasmus (2014) and McElhearn (2016), among others, have explained how to access iTunes U to download courses.  To access iTunes U, the user is to open up the iTunes app on your Mac or PC and click on "iTunes Store" on the left-hand side. Select the iTunes U button on the top right side of your iTunes Store toolbar (it's the tab to the right of Podcasts) and you're in. Here you’ll find a wealth of lectures that you can browse by university affiliation, subject, most downloaded, or noteworthy courses.

For listening on the go, content can be downloaded from the iTunes U app, using your  Mac, PC,  iPhone or iPad. A user may download a course onto your mobile device by download the iTunes U app from the App Store. Just open iTunes U app, click on "Catalog" located on the upper right-hand corner, find a series you're interested in, and click "Subscribe". The content is then delivered directly to you, whether the course is a series of lectures, videos, PDFs, or an entire book.

After downloading the course content, you are given the choice to learn the subject matter at your own pace. You may also decide whether to use your computer, iPad or iPhone. The student has the option to set the pace speed on your mobile device. You may slow down a lecture to half speed (perfect for diligent note-takers) or speed up the lecture to double-time (perfect for those trying to fit an in-depth French Revolution lecture into a 20-minute commute) - just press the 1x button on the lower right-hand side of your screen to scroll through the options.


iTunes U offers students free courses created and taught by instructors from leading universities and other institutions; the student can view all assignments and updates from the instructor in one place, and check off assignments as they complete them; take notes and highlight text in iBooks and see them consolidated for easy reviewing in the iTunes U app; access course materials,( including audio, video, books, documents & presentations, and apps)and  access new iBooks textbooks for iPad.

One of the biggest advantages to using iTunes U is its availability on the iPhone and iPad – anyone can access iTunes U content on any iOS device using the iTunes U app.

Though iTunes U lacks the interactive features of Khan Academy, it makes up for it with portability, sheer depth of information available, and the fact that no real prior knowledge is needed. Khan Academy is more reliable as a supplement to in-class learning than iTunes U is. Need to re-learn molecular orbit theory before your organic chemistry exam? Try Khan Academy. Want to learn about something more random, like the best way to report UK news to the German or French news media from a Reuters/Oxford-grade journalist? A quick search in the iTunes U catalogue will take care of that for you.

Unfortunately, no course credit is available from the iTunes U affiliate universities. However, the fact that the content is free is rather remarkable.

Another issue with iTunes U is the content is not easily shared. While sharing a TED Talk with your Facebook friends is easy; sharing an iTunes U lecture with the same friends is difficult.


One can only complain so much about a platform that gives away Ivy League courses for free. Despite minor issues, iTunes U is undoubtedly a great and underused resource in the Apple world. Furthermore, iTunes U had some upgrades and more upgrades are expected in the future.

For more details please click here or check out the references (see below) consulted for this posting.


·         iPad in Education (2017). Create & innovate with iTunes U. Available online at:   Retrieved February 19, 2017.
·         McElhearn, Kirk (2016). iTunes U: Free education to make you smarter. Available online at:   Retrieved February 19, 2017.
·         Rasmus, Grace (2014). What is iTunes U? Everything you need to know about iTunes U, and how to get the most out of it. Available online at:   Retrieved February 19, 2017.
·         Wikipedia (2017). iTunes Store. Available online at   Retrieved February 19, 2017.

Posted by Dr. Nat Tuivavalagi

Monday, February 13, 2017

Free Courses at edX–A Global, Education Community of 10 Million students

Background: edX is an online learning destination and a massive open online course (MOOC) provider. With more than 90 global partners, edX hosts online university-level courses in a wide range of courses from some of the world’s best universities and institutions to learners everywhere. EdX is unique in that it is a nonprofit organization and runs on open-source software.

Mission & Leadership: The edX mission is to increase access to high-quality education for everyone, everywhere; enhance teaching and learning on campus and online; and advance teaching and learning through research. Wendy Cebula, former COO of Vistaprint, is the edX President and Chief Operating Officer while Anant Agarwal is the CEO. Anant (with Gerry Sussman, Chris Terman, and PiotrMitros) taught the first edX course on circuits and electronics, which drew 155,000 students from 162 countries. Anant’s  Scientific American work on organic computing was selected as  one of 10 World-Changing Ideas in 2011, and Anant was named in Forbes' list of top 15 education innovators in 2012.

Milestones: May 2012 - edX was founded by scientists from Harvard and MIT; 2013– edX partnered with Stanford; June 2013– edX reached 1 million students; September 2014 - edX announced a high school initiative; October 2014 - edX announced Professional Education courses; March 2015 – edX partnered with Microsoft; April 2015 - edX partnered with Arizona State University to launch the Global Freshman Academy; March 2016 - edX has more than 7 million students taking more than 700 courses online; February 2017 – edX has more than 10 million Users.

How It Works: edX enables anyone wanting to learn, to take free online courses from Harvard, MIT, UC Berkeley, Microsoft, Tsinghua University, The Smithsonian, The University of Texas, Australia National University, Boston University, and others. Getting started is easy - everyone is welcome, courses are open 24/7, and no application is necessary. Students learn from the world's top professors and leading industry experts through captivating lectures and presentations; build knowledge and expertise with interactive labs, experiments, and assessments; and connect with learners from around the globe in easy-to-use discussion forums. Students take courses on their own schedule — anytime, anywhere. It is  best to get started with DemoX - the edX Demo Course.

DemoX: The fun and interactive course is designed to help students explore the edX learning experience. This program is helpful in getting you started before beginning a selected course in edX. DemoX is actually a brief course in itself, showing new students how to take a course on edX, and how to navigate the edX platform and complete their chosen course. Students will also be assisted in choosing a course that best fits their interests, needs, and dreams. Also, DemoX shows students how to connect with others taking the same course; how to answer problems on the edX platform; and how grades work in edX courses.

Subject Areas: The more than 700 courses offered by edX come under the following 30 categories:
Education & Teacher Training
Art & Culture
Biology & Life Sciences
Energy & Earth Sciences
Business & Management
Environmental Studies
Computer Science
Food & Nutrition
Philosophy & Ethics
Data Analysis & Statistics
Health & Safety
Economics & Finance
Social Sciences

Functionality - Nature of edX Courses:  The edX courses consist of weekly learning sequences. Each learning sequence is composed of short videos interspersed with interactive learning exercises, where students can immediately practice the concepts from the videos. The courses often include tutorial videos (that are similar to small on-campus discussion groups), an online textbook, and an online discussion forum where students can post and review questions and comments amongst each other and Teaching Assistants. Where applicable, online laboratories are incorporated into the course. For example, in edX's first MOOC — a circuits and electronics course — Ali Mohamed ( who was the best student) built virtual circuits in an online lab. EdX offers certificates of successful completion and some courses are credit-eligible.

Are edX courses really free? There is no cost for students taking edX courses when they enroll in the audit track mode, which does not offer certificates (but students may print their progress chart, during each course taken, as proof of participation). However, if students want to earn a verified certificate for a course, there is a fee that will vary depending on the course. The fees for the verified track usually range between $50 USD and $300 USD.

Archived Courses: Many of edX’s past courses are available as archives. These courses can only be audited. Some features, such as the discussion forums, may not be available.

Financial Assistance: As a not-for-profit program, edX uses students’ contributions to  provide quality education to everyone around the world. It improves learning through research. While edX has established a minimum fee, many learners contribute more than the minimum to help support the edX mission. The funds go towards class creation and improving edX. Financial assistance is available for those in need.

What is a verified course certificate? For a $25 fee students can verify their identity by submitting a typed sample and uploading their image on a webcam. On subsequent logins, the system makes sure that students identity matches with the previous log in. At the end of the course students get a certificate with the word “verified” on it.

Programs: Those with serious interest in a subject area can take a series of courses and gain a special certificate.  These three  certificates are available:
·         MicroMasters Certificate: A series of Master’s-level courses to advance students’ careers, created by top universities and recognized by companies. MicroMasters Programs are credit-eligible, provide in-demand knowledge and may be applied to accelerate a Master's Degree.
·         Professional Certificate: Designed by industry leaders and top universities to enhance professional skills, Professional Certificates and develop the proficiency and expertise that employers are looking for.
·         XSeries Certificate: Created by world-renowned experts and top universities, XSeries are designed to provide a deep understanding of key subjects through a series of courses.

Getting high school graduates ready for College/ University:
·         edX offer free online test prep and introductory courses to prepare students for college/ university
·         helps bridge the college readiness gap – the difference between what students learn in high school and the knowledge they need to succeed in colleges or universities
·         The program offers specially designed courses from top high schools, secondary schools and universities to help students prepare for test such as : Advanced Placement (AP®) Exams and CLEP® Exams, as well as introductory courses to help students get ahead.  

Getting Started:To explore edX and to try out DemoX, the free edX Demo Course, please click here.

Posted by: Dr. Nat Tuivavalagi

Monday, January 30, 2017

ALISON: A 9-million member, global community of free and certified learning


Yes, ALISON is free! And this is how they do it and why.

They are inspired by the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which reads: “Everyone has the right to education.” ALISON was founded by global leader and innovator Mike Feerick in 2007 in Galway, Ireland.

They financially support the publishing/offering of their courses in two ways: they host advertising and offer parchments for purchase to those who have successfully completed a course. 

The ALISON parchments (which are available framed or unframed or, as PDFs for some courses,) are similarly priced in relation to the average income of countries. The cost ranges from €4 to €115 plus shipping.

There is of course no obligation to purchase a parchment. The students are entitled to cite the fact that they have completed a course, regardless of whether they have the hard-copy certificate or diploma.

Innovation & Technology

ALISON is a globally social enterprise, dedicated to providing free certified education and workplace training skills to any individual, anywhere, anytime, on any subject over the web.

With 9 million learners in 250 countries, ALISON is changing how the world learns. Recognized as the first MOOC (Massive Open Online Courseware), ALISON has increased global reach and reputation. Some 1 million people all over the world have graduated with free certificates and diplomas using this program.  More than 10,000  students have shared their stories of empowerment and success, adding their testimony to the positive change ALISON has brought to their lives.

In 2009, a UK government report stated that "ALISON opens up the world of knowledge offering new, flexible, and exciting ways to learn”.  In 2010, ALISON was recognized by UNESCO through UNESCO’s Innovation in ICT in Education Award. Also in 2013, ALISON received the World Summit for Education Award for "outstanding quality and exceptional impact on education through innovation."

ALISON engages new technology and innovative business models. Lead by a group of highly talented and socially aware technologists and professionals from around the world, ALISON leads the way to enable people to educate and upskill themselves for free. This helps  to build a better, more sustainable global community.  As pointed out by Nelson Mandela, "education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world".

Course Providers/ Publishers

ALISON’s course material comes from Subject Matter which is provided by: Amazon Web Services, British Council, Cambridge University, Google, Harvard, Lund University, Microsoft, MIT, Sun Microsystems, UN World Health Organization, University of Kansas, University of North Carolina, University of Texas at Austin, University of Western Sydney, US AID, and others.  Course content is redesigned digitally for an immersive, interactive and enriched learning experience.

What To Do If Interested?

1.       Decide what subject area you want to study.
2.       Find the right course for you (from ALISON’s 750 courses).
3.       Get enrolled. Sign in or register your free account on ALISON, and then click on the “start course” button. ALISON courses are free and self-paced.
4.       Take the assessments (which you may retake if needed).
5.       Get your certificate.  Once you have completed your course, you can download your learner record as proof of your accomplishment. Should you like something more official, you can purchase a certificate.

Available Courses

To explore ALISON’s 750 Certificate/Diploma level courses (which have been grouped into 100+ subject areas) and other details, please click here

Posted by Dr. Nat Tuivavalagi

Saturday, January 21, 2017

UNIVERSITY OF THE PEOPLE: The Tuition-Free University

With headquarters in Pasadena, California, the University of the People (UoPeople) was launched in 2009 by Israeli entrepreneur and UoPeople President Shai Reshef. He was nominated in 2012 as one of Wired Magazine’s “50 People Changing the World.”

UoPeople is the first non-profit, tuition-free, accredited online university. It gained accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council in the US in 2014.The University has been able to offer tuition-free education because of its use of volunteers (including more than 4,000 professionals). Also Open Educational Resources, Open Source Technology, peer-to-peer learning, and support by/ partnership with foundations and corporations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, and others are apart of this University. 

UoPeople is dedicated to allowing students access to higher education globally. This program  is designed to help qualified high school graduates overcome financial, geographic, social, and personal constraints keeping them from entering college.  By 2016 the UoPeople had accepted 5,000 students from 180 countries, and the University even had students studying from home in Aleppo, Syria during recent heavy shelling.

Tuition at UoPeople is FREE, but there is an application fee of $60, and a processing fees for each examination taken ($100/exam: undergraduate programs, and $200/exam: MBA program).  Thus, an Associate degree, with 20 courses to be studied over two years, costs a total of $2,060; a Bachelor’s degree with 40 courses over four years costs $4,060, and the MBA with 12 courses costs $2,460.  Students who cannot afford these fees may apply for assistance.  UoPeople works with top corporations and organizations to provide grants and scholarships to students needing financial support.  Students still have to study hard for their degree and UoPeople help out by providing academic advising, and outreach to students with low grade-point average.

The general requirements for the undergraduate degree programs are: (a) Be 18 years of age or older; (b) Be able to demonstrate high school completion; (c) Have English proficiency; and Must complete the UoPeople’s two Foundation Courses designed to equip students to thrive in their academic degree studies.

Business Administration
Computer Science
Health Sciences
·         Master’s Degree (MBA)
·         Bachelor’s Degree
·         Associate’s Degree
·         Bachelor’s Degree
·         Associate’s Degree
·         Bachelor’s Degree
·         Associate’s Degree

For more details on UoPeople, please click here.

Posted by Dr. Nat Tuivavalagi 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

LYNDA.COM: An affordable, low-cost strategy for accessing high quality online courses

Lynda Susan Weinman (born January 24, 1955)  a U.S. business owner, computer instructor, and author, and husband Bruce Heavin founded the online software training website, was acquired by the online business network LinkedIn in April 2015 for $1.5 billion. provides a low-cost strategy for accessing online, high-quality courses that are normally too expensive for average individuals interested in learning new skills. Skills such as: Business, Technology, or Creative Skills. This is an  excellent option for an individual already in the workforce who is interested in learning new skills to qualify for a more alluring or better-paying position. offers 5,451 courses in the following areas:

Subject category
Number of courses available
·         Software Development
more than 400 courses
·         Design
more than 600 courses
·         Business
more than 900 courses
·         Web Development
more than 100 courses
·         Photography
more than 1,700 courses

The user will be asked for  Credit/Debit Card details as the user registers.  You may then explore for free over a 10-day period. After which, you have to pay a monthly fee (from around AUD $34.99 – equivalent to about USD $25.75) which entitles you to:
·         Unlimited learning from all 5,451 courses
·         Watch on your computer, phone, tablet, or TV
·         Cancel at anytime
·         Project files and code practice
·         Assess your progress with quizzes, and
·         View offline.

I interviewed someone who joined for a few months.  He mentioned that the skills he aquired were well worth the money spent, and that cancelling his membership was a very simple and straightforward process.

To explore and see whether they have something that might interest you, please click here.

Posted by Dr. Nat Tuivavalagi 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

COURSERA: A platform for transforming lives through free/ low-cost, online education

Coursera was founded in 2012. This program provides a world where anyone, anywhere can transform their life by accessing the best learning experience. The program is  provided by the world’s top universities and education providers.  With 148 university partners across 29 countries, Coursera has built a platform where they offer 1,957 courses. The courses have been viewed/studied by 22 million learners. Resulting in 600,000 course certificates being earned.  You may explore course materials for free using the audit option but if you want to earn a course certificate, you have to switch to the paid option. 

The courses, each priced at $29-$99 (approx), allow you to learn a new skill and earn a course certificate in 4-6 weeks .  Courses include: recorded video lectures, auto-graded and peer reviewed assignments, and community discussion forums.  To master a specific career skill, you may join a specialization where you complete a number of courses, tackle hands-on projects, and earn a specialization certificate.  This involves 4-6 months of online study and costs $250-$500. For those interested, online degree programs are offered  for 1-3 years of study. They are available in business, computer science, and data science.

 The categories of courses offered are as follows:
·         Arts and humanities
o   history
o   Music & Art
o   Philosophy
·         Business
o   Leadership & Management
o   Finance
o   Marketing
o   Entrepreneurship
o   Business Essentials
o   Business Strategy
·         Computer science
o   Software Development
o   Mobile & Web Development
o   Algorithms
o   Computer Security & Networks
o   Design & Product
·         Data science
o   Data Analysis
o   Machine Learning
o   Probability & Statistics
·         Language & learning
o   Learning English
o   Other Languages

·         Life sciences
o   Animals & Veterinary Sciences
o   Bio informatics
o   Biology
o   Medicine & Healthcare
o   Nutrition
o   Clinical Science
·         Math & logic
o   65 sub-categories
·         Personal development
o   100 sub-categories
·         Physical science & engineering
o   Electrical Engineering
o   Mechanical Engineering
o   Chemistry
o   Environmental Science & Sustainability
o   Physics & Astronomy
o   Research Methods
·         Social sciences
o   Economics
o   Education
o   Governance & Society
o   Law
o   Psychology

To explore the Coursera website and identify a course to start the ball rolling for you, please click here.

Posted by Dr. Nat Tuivavalagi 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Free-Ed.Net: A free-education and learning website

Free-Ed.Net, is a launching pad for your future, according to Dave Heiserman (the website founder and administrator). This site is dedicated to  free-education  and free-learning.  The website’s homepage provides a very long list of educational/learning topics that are currently available.  The subject areas covered by  various topics are, (arranged alphabetically) as follows:

·         Accounting & Bookkeeping (5 sections)
·         Administration (see Office Skills & Administration)
·         Advertising (see Marketing, Advertising & Sales)
·         Agriculture (see Food, Agriculture, & Environmental Science)
·         Ancient Studies (see Classical & Ancient Studies)
·         Bookkeeping (see Accounting & Bookkeeping)
·         Building & Construction (2 sections & 12 subsections)
·         Business (4 sections)
·         Classical & Ancient Studies (4 sections) 
·         Computer Science & Information Technology (8 sections)
·         Construction (see Building & Construction)
·         Design (see Visual Arts & Design)
·         Economics (4 sections)
·         Editing (see Writing, Editing, & Publishing)
·         Engineering & Technology (9 sections) 
·         Environmental Science (see Food, Agriculture, & Environmental Science)
·         Food, Agriculture, & Environmental Science (7 sections)
·         Health (see Nursing & Allied Health)
·         Hospitality & Human Services (7 sections & 16 subsections)
·         Industry (see Manufacturing & Industry)
·         Information Technology (see Computer Science & Information Technology)
·         Literature (8 sections)
·         Manufacturing & Industry (4 sections) 
·         Marketing, Advertising & Sales (3 sections & 2 subsections)
·         Mathematics (12 sections)
·         Media Studies (4 sections & 5 subsections) 
·         Nursing & Allied Health (8 sections & 25 subsections)
·         Office Skills & Administration (3 sections & 3 subsections)
·         Performing Arts (3 sections & 10 subsections)
·         Philosophy (4 sections)
·         Publishing (see Writing, Editing, & Publishing)
·         Sales (see Marketing, Advertising & Sales)
·         Science (6 sections & 28 subsections)
·         Services (see Hospitality & Human Services)
·         Social Studies (11 sections & 59 subsections)
·         Technology (see Engineering & Technology)
·         Transportation Technologies (5 sections & 15 subsections)
·         Visual Arts & Design (4 sections & 16 subsections)
·         Writing, Editing, & Publishing (5 sections)

To explore the various sections, subsections, and topics and to see whether there is something there that interests you, please click here.

Posted by Dr. Nat Tuivavalagi