iTunes U is a dedicated section of Apple's iTunes Music Store that features educational audio and video files from universities, museums and public media organizations for free download to PCs and mobile devices. iTunes U allows a visitor to search, download and play educational content in the same way that they can manipulate songs, podcasts, television shows and movies. Participating institutions include Stanford, UC Berkeley, University of Melbourne, Texas A&M, MIT, Yale, Trinity College Dublin and many more. The Beyond Campus section of iTunes U also delivers programming from American Public Media, PBS, the Museum of Modern Art and the Smithsonian.
To use the service, a user is required to download and install iTunes on an Internet-connected PC and then visit the iTunes Store. The user may also visit the relevant subdomain of a participating university, like http://itunes.stanford.edu. From there, her or she can go directly to the institution's homepage on iTunes U. The visitor can then select entire courses or choose individual video or audio recordings, ebooks or PDFs. The material can then either be watched directly on the PC or synchronized onto a portable media player for mobile learning. Educators can use the service to upload coursework and lectures for easy distribution on a platform that students are generally already competent navigating.
In the year since its introduction, iTunes U has logged over 4 million downloads, though Apple will not release precise statistics to anyone other than participating universities and organizations. The introduction of a wireless version of the iTunes Store for iPhones and iPod Touches means that students can now download coursework on-demand directly from connected mobile devices. This ability to access coursework wirelessly will further redefine paradigms for virtual classrooms and distributed online learning.
Critics point out that only large, well-funded institutions like Stanford, Berkeley or MIT can afford to digitize courseware for distribution on a large scale. The courses available also have spotty coverage across the various curricula, depending upon how active instructors have been in making content available. The quality of the courses available are also largely dependent on the preparation and training of individual teachers, especially in creating video for small iPod screens or capturing live discussions for syndication.
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