∞ iTunes U: Educating the world

Apple’s iTunes software is used by millions of consumers to purchase music, videos and apps for their devices, but the software is also used by higher education institutions to educate people from around the world.

iTunes U is a collection of learning materials donated by over 1,000 universities — and it’s all free. Schools from around the world participate in iTunes U giving users access to research and lectures from some of the top professors in education today.

In fact, digital distribution of content is becoming so important that schools are setting up departments to oversee its challenges and growth.

For Lucas Swineford, Yale University’s Director of Digital Media & Dissemination, iTunes U has proven to be a successful channel in getting the school’s information out to the public. For Swineford, having the media available locally was only part of the longer term goal.

“Yale students are one part of our audience, but they’re not the primary audience,” Swineford told The Loop. “We view iTunes U as more sharing with the world.”

Located in New Haven, Connecticut, Yale University is one of the most respected higher learning institutions in the world. Swineford said he looked at how he could share many of the great things that happen at Yale, without having to physically live in New Haven. iTunes U is one of the ways he accomplishes that goal.

While people in the U.S. certainly take advantage of Yale’s iTunes U program, Swineford also knows the information is reaching beyond U.S. borders.

“The feedback that really warms our heart is when we recieve emails from students and teachers from around the world thanking us for providing this content,” said Swineford.

Qiquan Wang, who is in charge of the iTunes U program at HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College, said this type of online access to digital files is expected from students these days.

Wang said the school started the program in 2007 when Apple first launched iTunes U and the response has been very positive from the very first report that was done evaluating the program.

Students have said that textbooks are difficult to read and understand, but having lectures and research available digitally makes learning, and understanding the topics, much easier.

Wang also said that faculty have been very supportive of the iTunes U program, often spending their own time creating media to share, because it helps the students.

Regardless of the reasons higher education institutions become involved in iTunes U, the results from students, faculty and people around the world has been very positive.

“We believe in the importance of education,” said Yale’s Swineford. “If you believe a more informed world is a better world, then why wouldn’t you do this.”