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 offering. It features courses in hundreds of subjects, for nearly every age, from educational institutions around the world. Where else can you audit free course from Harvard, MIT, Oxford, and La Sorbonne?
As I write this article, there are featured sections for courses about Health & Medicine, Engineering, Art & Architecture, Business, Literature, and more. Pretty much anything you’d find in a college course catalog shows up on iTunes U, and there are courses in more than a dozen languages. There are also sections with courses for primary school and secondary school, with resources that teachers can use in the classroom.
When you go to the iTunes U section of the iTunes Store, you’ll see that it looks a lot like the rest of the store. There are rotating graphics at the top for featured content, promotional bricks in the middle of the page for different themes, and Top Collections and Top Courses charts showing the most popular downloads. But what’s less obvious at first glance is the fact that most of this content is free. (Initially, everything in the iTunes U section of the iTunes Store was free; now, Apple uses it to offer paid content as well (ebooks and apps) but also displays related podcasts when you click one of their highlighted graphics.)
iTunes U is a digital supermarket for free courses, plus some paid content such as ebooks and apps.
Much as with podcasts, you can either view or listen to iTunes U content directly, download it, or subscribe to specific courses. For a course that has completed, you can download all the content, or view individual items whenever you want; for courses that are active, you can subscribe so you get the latest material as soon as it’s made available.
Subscribe to a course in iTunes U to download all its content, or get new lessons as they become available.
You can browse the featured topics, browse by category, search the featured collections (in the right-hand sidebar, when you scroll down a bit), or perform a keyword search from the Search Store box in iTunes’s upper-right corner. Search results will show all types of content that match your search—movies, music, books, and so on—but just click the iTunes U link in the right sidebar of the iTunes Store window after you’ve performed your search to see only that type of content.
Each person will find different types of content that interests them on iTunes U, but it’s safe to say that anyone who wants to learn will find something to suit them. My iTunes U library contains lectures about Shakespeare’s plays; a series of Smithsonian Folkways recordings about American folk music; Michael Sandel’s thought-provoking lecture series Justice; a series of lectures, in French, about Marcel Proust’s novel À la recherche du temps perdu; and a number of courses about philosophy.
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