Apple is slowly taking over the education world. Today they have released a new app for iPhone, iPad or iPod touch called iTunes U which gives users the ability to download and learn from a range of available courses in the iTunes store. iTunes U has been available in iTunes for quite some time, and the new iOS app gives iTunes U a more distinct feel by separating its content from the iPod (Music & Video apps) library. Free educational content is available from a wide range of providers including popular universities and institutions like Stanford, Duke, Yale, MIT, Oxford, UC Berkeley, MoMA, New York Public Library, and the Library of Congress. The release of the iTunes U app happens on the same day that Apple announced the availability of Textbooks for the students through the iBooks application.
Once you’ve downloaded the iTunes U app, you can start browsing the catalog of courses within the app. Courses have been designed to provide you with supplemental course material which can be navigated from within the iTunes U app as you follow through with each course. You subscribe to any course, and iTunes U places the icon for it on its bookshelf. Courses may also offer supplemental material for sale which you’re able to purchase from the App Store, iTunes Store or iBookstore.
Courses are neatly organized by section and lecture in the iTunes U application. You can learn about the instructor, read an overview, and the outline, and any requirements on the Info tab. To get started start watching the lecture videos in the Posts tab and you can mark them as watched as you complete each section. You can choose to either stream the video or audio content live or download them first, great for offline learning. In the settings for each course you can choose to auto download all materials. Be mindful of disk space usage, especially on the iPhone, since most iPads should have plenty of free storage space available. Teachers can offer problem solving tasks and homework for you to complete as you move along a course. Other supplementary reading, tasks, and solutions to tasks may also be posted by the instructor.
Notes for each course allows you to jot down personal notes per course. What’s amazing is that the app will also pull in any notes you’ve written for the supplemental books from your iBooks account.
The player in iTunes U has a very similar layout to the video and audio player used for podcasts. You can change the playback speed from 1x to 1.5x, 2x, or 1/2x and jump back using the 30 second rewind button. When you stop any video or audio, the app will remember your place and resume accordingly.
Since not all content in iTunes U is setup as a course yet, you’ll also be able to find and add specific educational audio or video podcasts to your iTunes U app library. When you start downloading video or audio content, iOS sends the command to the iTunes app which queues your downloads and once they are complete the content will appear in the iTunes U application.
The amount of free content available is enormous, and a number of prestigious universities and organizations from around the world have already contributed to the iTunes U library. Apple states that more than 500,000 content items are available and sure to grow with the new TextBooks and iTunes U initiatives.
The Catalog section is broke up into 4 tabs: Featured, Top Charts, Browse and Search. Featured includes What’s Hot, Top Tens, and a Category browser. Top charts lists what people are subscribing to most often broken down by each category. Browse is split into sections for Higher Education, Beyond Campus, and K-12.
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