iTunes U (iTunes Link), part of the iTunes Store, is an amazing venue for top-notch educational content from the world’s greatest universities, institutions, museums and other public educational foundations. From language lessons to audiobooks to lectures and more, iTunes U is a great place for those who love to learn. With the release of iTunes 9, Apple (s aapl) has put an even bigger spotlight on this great content by featuring it prominently inside the application.
When iTunes U first launched, many of the top universities, such as Stanford, Cambridge and Carnegie Mellon, jumped onboard to provide engaging content. As the original institutions first began producing content for the free service, some implemented their content as podcasts that would download into the “Podcasts” section of iTunes whereas others would implement their content so it would download in the “Music” section. Furthermore, as more engaging content was added to the service, it became problematic to keep this content organized. Some universities would automatically create playlists for their content, and others would just create multiple podcasts.
iTunes 9 attempts to solve this disarray by providing a specific iTunes U section inside the application and a specific iTunes U tab for iPods and iPhones to sync the content. This allows users to specifically choose which content they wish to sync, by a particular topic from an iTunes U content provider, or a specific “episode” within that topic. The iTunes Store redesign itself also prominently features iTunes U content accessible via a button across the top navigation bar. Though this section of iTunes still physically resembles the iTunes Store pre-version 9, Apple is in the process of updating it to match the look and feel of the rest of the redesigned store.
The 3.0 Software Update for the iPhone and iPod touch also brings about a specific section for iTunes U in the mobile iTunes store. Much like traditional podcasts, users can browse this section to view top downloaded content or content organized by category. Due to the flexibility that Apple gives institutions in organizing and presenting their content, navigating all of this directly from an iPod or iPhone can be a bit daunting, though.
As mentioned earlier, iTunes U content is completely free and currently features over 200,000 educational audio and video titles available for download, even including content on how to get started creating your own iPhone applications. It’s a great resource to further your learning whether you’re at home or on the go.