On February 28, 2013, Apple posted a press release stating they had recently hit their 1 billionth content download on the iTunes U service. If you aren’t aware, iTunes U is in Apple’s own words, “the world’s largest online catalog of free educational content from top schools and prominent libraries, museums and organizations…” There is, as you might expect apps for iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, and the Mac that provide access to all of this amazing content. Delivery of course materials is completely electronic and often uses many types of media including video, PDF, and virtual classroom services like Piazza.com.
For a service hitting its 1 billionth content download, you don’t hear as much about iTunes U® as one would have thought. One reason may be the vast amounts of knowledge share that can be found elsewhere on the internet through a simple search on your favorite search engine. The problem with that however is with so much data available on the internet we also run into a problem in that our answers are hidden amongst a lot of noise. However, if you are willing to hash through the signal you can find some great education resources from some very smart people.
But why fight that battle when you have over 1,200 university and college institutions creating high quality resources on myriad of topics via thousands of courses. These aren’t all small unheard of schools, but actually include prestigious universities like Cambridge, Duke, MIT, Oxford, Stanford, and Yale. And many of these aren’t just a cheap video camera stuck in the back of the classroom with poor audio and video quality. More and more these classes are being fully produced with HD quality video and audio, PDF files of the slides used in the class, and in some cases an organized class forum on sites like Piazza where you can participate and have your questions answered.
Teachers are hip to the idea and see the benefits of the free educational content delivered a service like iTunes U. As the article title suggests, 1 billion content downloads is a pretty strong indication of the popularity of the service. Educators who participate in iTunes U are seeing enrollment in an individual classes far exceed 100,000 people. As with everything else on the internet, iTunes U has a global reach where over 60% of the iTunes U content downloaded is outside the US. So there is a global audience. Here in the US though, even high school teachers are enrolling in classes on iTunes U to keep pace with continuing education needs for their own classrooms. This in turn is helping to identify some of the best teachers out there as they are vetted by a massive audience.
At the end of the day it makes sense that as we have more digital content in our back pocket like email, messaging, books, and video, other parts of our lives like education will adapt to this as well. I know personally I see that my own kids schools are presenting their content in digital format internally and some schools are even providing Apple iPads to their students. Considering the adoption by so many educational institutions of the service and the global reach it enjoys, it isn’t hard to imagine how Apple reached 1 billion downloads. So if you are craving some knowledge, there are no excuses so go check it out now in the iTunes Store.