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

No comments: