Guide to iTunes U

Updated June. 5, 2012

At last count there were more than 150 colleges and universities featured on iTunes U, the section of Apple’s iTunes music store devoted to higher education. There’s great free downloadable content here — lots of lectures and entire courses, but sorting through all this material can be daunting. Sadly, many of the colleges offer little more than online brochures, with virtual campus tours and the like.

(Newcomers can get up to speed by reading Getting started.)

So here is a guide to the good stuff.

Courses

The very best course collections are from Stanford University, the University of California at Berkeley, Yale University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In addition you can check out:

Other colleges and universities offer smaller iTunes U course collections. The following schools have a posted six or fewer courses.

Lectures

Many schools showcase their most dynamic lecturers at their Alumni weekends.  For example, check out Stanford’s Classes without Quizzes (iTunes) and Brown University Alumni Association’s Back to Class collection.  To find more alumni programs, use the power search below and search for “alumni.”

In addition, these schools have extensive collections of public lectures.

Searching

Here’s a nifty addition to your iTunes U toolkit. It’s the iTunes advanced search. Let’s say you’re looking for lectures on ancient Rome.

Click on this link:

itms://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZSearch.woa/wa/advancedSearch

Select iTunes U in the first box and then type in your search term.

General Browsing

Some of you have asked how I find the good stuff on iTunes U. After all, a lot of colleges offer mainly PR fluff, like virtual campus tours and welcoming speeches by the dean of students.

So, here are my secrets. Every few days I do some of the following.

1. Survey the main iTunes U page. Apple changes the “featured” content on a regular basis, and I click on whatever catches my fancy. I also keep on eye on the “top downloads” list for interesting candidates.

2. Check out the major course collections (Stanford University, UC Berkeley, Yale University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology) to see if there’s anything new.

3. Look at the Universities and Colleges page. Apple flags any newcomers, so it’s easy to click on the link, and see if the school is offering anything interesting.

4. Check out the categories list on the main iTunes U page. When I choose a category, say history, iTunes takes me to a subject page that includes a “new and notable” list. Sometimes this leads to a great find. It’s also good to scan the “top downloads” list for more interesting candidates.

5. For current affairs, look at Fora.TV.  For general browsing, check out UCTV and WGBH.

6.  If I’ve encountered an interesting lecture or interview in my recent listening, I use the iTunes search box to look for more lectures by the same person.

So there you have it. Happy hunting, and let me know if you find something great.

15 Responses to Guide to iTunes U

  1. Diane Romm says:

    Are there any search mechanisms for finding courses on ItunesU?

    • Dara says:

      Good question. I haven’t found an automated search. I just browse around the new universities each time Apple adds some. I also click on the subject areas like history or humanities, and look in the section “new and notable.”

      But if you find an automated search, please let me know.

  2. Pete says:

    Thanks, I found this article useful :-)

    I think it’s worth pointing out, however, that the nose-bleed prices for the Open University courses are because you’re enrolling in the University, and get a real (with widely-recognized accreditation) degree at the end of it – basically those prices are tutition fees.

    • Dara says:

      I mean no knock on Open U (or maybe just a small one). Lots of universities, Stanford and Harvard included, offer online courses for credit and charge high prices. But they also offer a selection of courses for free for those who just wish to audit and don’t want to take exams, write papers and get credit.

  3. Joseph Leahy says:

    I have been watching MIT,Walter Lewin’s Physics lectures, and he is a born teacher. I have only a medium grasp of maths but the lectures are easy to follow. Most entertaining and informative. I recommend them to anyone with a passing interest in how to teach/lecture a challanging subject

  4. SteveGarbs says:

    Any advice on how to find lecture notes, problem sets or other printed materials that go with a course (text book lists)? I am especially interested in the courses from UC Berkley. Thanks.

  5. Emma20 says:

    I thoroughly recommend Dr S Lee’s lectures on Anglo-Saxon from the University of Oxford. You will find them if you go to University of Oxford, then “Languages”, then “Medieval English Lectures”. There are 4 of his lectures in that series called “Old English in Context”. They are aimed at first year undergraduates reading English at Oxford, and you do not need to have any familiarity with Anglo-Saxon in order to enjoy them. I guarantee that by the end you will be shouting “hwat!” at your nearest and dearest, and pondering Neil Armstrong’s words on landing on the moon. Dr Lee is a passionate, informed and highly likeable speaker.

  6. Mario says:

    Hi Everyone,

    In previous versions of Itunes U, it was possible to filter the podcast into sub-categories, like Architecture which was under the Fine Arts category. In those frequent updates of the software, this was changed. Does anyone knows how to sort this like in the old way?

    Thanks

    MM

  7. Ron says:

    I’m interested in what iTunes U has on offer. But I don’t have an iPod, iPad, or iAnything else. However, I do have a desktop PC running Windows7. Am I able to use iTunes U and all it has to offer using my PC alone?

    • Dara says:

      Yes. The iTunes software acts as a download manager and you can listen / view the downloads on your PC.

      • Adam Whitbread says:

        Ok, I downloaded iTunes U to my iPhone and then downloaded a lecture – how do I get it onto my laptop? Its a video of a lecture but its not showing up in my iPhone contacts list when connected to my laptop with a cable? IS it hiding somewhere in the cloud?

  8. Sriram Ved says:

    Superb article! For those interested in the business side of things, INSEAD offers two channels – Knowledgecast and The Big Interview. Although there are no recent updates, I found the existing material to be very informative and thought provoking.

    Also, I’m not very sure about what you mean by automated search but this is how I do it and it works fine (I’m using the latest iTunes on PC as of 11th Jul 2012) :
    1. Enter the search text in the top right search bar (Eg. Financial Markets) and hit enter
    2. In the ‘power search’ area on the left, choose iTunes U

    Cheers,
    Sriram

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