You’re on the go and you need to brush up on biology for a an exam in 2 hours – what can you do? A growing option for many people that have an iPad, iPhone, or iPod is to catch a lecture or quick refresher course at iTunes U. It may sound unbelievable, but iTunes U now has over 250,000 free lectures, films, videos, and alternate resources on nearly any subject you can imagine ready to get you prepped for school – or to browse for your own knowledge. Nothing says you have to be in school to want to learn.
What iTunes U does is provide a place for universities, professionals, and pretty much any institution with credentials in good standing to offer courses and lectures over the Apple network of devices for free. For those who do offer such materials the benefit is obvious – they increase their recognition. For the people that use them, they increase their knowledge for free.
Apple has stepped up to the plate and maintained iTunes U free of charge. It is all a part of the Steve Jobs mantra that education is for everyone. It also doesn’t hurt Apple’s image to do this. It has even become a selling point for Apple devices in some cases as the ability to access a specific lecture on a topic like limits, WWII treaties, or even the anatomy of a frog can be found quick and easy.
The entities offering courses are not the variety of the Rocco Clubbo School for Higher Learning – or whatever your favorite cartoon college is. Apple has brought in schools like Yale, Stanford, UC Berkley, MIT, and Oxford to add some real credibility to what they are hosting. To go a step further, the Beyond Campus portion of iTunes U offers information from places like the New York Public Library System, MoMA, NPR, and a number of PBS offerings and public radio stations to have a broad offering covering every interest.
For the most part the reviews of iTunes U have been very positive. The one thing that has been said about a few courses are that they are too basic, but what is basic to one person may be just what another person needs. The only real complaint has been that the search feature could be a little better, but given the sheer volume of offerings it seems to perform quite well, and it helps to be as specific as possible when searching. Overall, iTunes U may not be the best free educational tool around, but it sure is working on getting there.