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.
The very best course collections are from Stanford University, the University of California at Berkeley, Yale University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT offers dozens of free online courses, mostly in science and technology. In addition, the MIT iTunes U site offers downloadable lectures on topics ranging from the craft of science fiction to robotics in space exploration. You can also download MIT courses directly from the MIT open courseware website.
- Stanford University: Stanford offers several dozen free online courses, mostly from its continuing studies division, but including a few undergraduate classes as well. In addition, the site offers dozens of downloadable lectures on a range of topics. Two of my favorites: An Evening with Thomas Jefferson and America’s Jesus.
- UC Berkeley: Berkeley offers dozens of its courses on iTunes U and even more at its website. You can also find hundreds of lectures and recordings of special events, panel discussions and symposia.
- Yale University: Yale has an excellent collection of courses on its Open Yale Courses website. Most are also available for download at iTunes U. For the syllabi and transcripts you’ll still have to go to the website.
- UC San Diego is not on iTunes, but it has some of the best courses on the web. (Note: UCSD removes most courses at the end of each quarter, so it’s a good idea to check back from time to time.)
- For suggestions of specific courses and lectures, check out my other guide: Best free courses & lectures.
In addition you can check out:
- University of California, Davis: Davis has 19 courses (as of Feb. 2010), mostly computer science, biology and psychology.
- New Jersey Institute of Technology: NJIT offers 28 courses, mostly on science and technology, with a few literature courses.
- Arizona State: Arizona State has posted 11 courses, including Ethnic Relations in the US and Geography Of Europe.
- Case Western Reserve University: Case Western offers videos and audio files of 13 engineering courses.
- Columbia University: Columbia has a number of interesting courses, including History of Iran to the Safavid Period, History of the Modern Middle East, and its excellent Frontiers of Science series (see Astrophysics for the rest of us).
- Harvard Extension: Harvard Extension has posted 6 complete computer science courses along with course previews in a number of subject areas. If you want more than the first two lectures of the previewed courses, you have to enroll and pay Harvard’s high fees.
- Harvard University: Harvard has posted the excellent political science course Justice with Michael Sandel. In addition there is an excellent course on The Hebrew Scriptures in Judaism and Christianity, an introduction to computer science and a course on probability. (Other Harvard courses are at its Open Learning website.)
- Missouri State: Missouri State offers 25 courses, including history, literature, science and music.
- Open University: The UK’s Open University offers a full catalog of distance learning courses with nosebleed prices (£400 to £1120 per class), but it offers free samples on iTunes U, usually short audio and or video snippets 3 to 10 minutes long. Some are quite good. Check out Reading Political Philosophy: From Machiavelli to Mill.
- Oxford University: Oxford has a number of short courses, including Old English, General Philosophy, and Quantum Mechanics.
- Southern Illinois University Carbondale: SIUC has a handful of classes including political science and art history.
- University of Arizona: U of Arizona has a selection of Open Courses focusing on mainly on linguistics and biology.
- University of Iowa: U of Iowa, home of the famed Iowa Writers’ Workshop has a great series on writing, The Writing University Podcast.
- University of Maryland, Baltimore County: UMBC has a collection including psychology, sociology and history courses.
- University of Notre Dame: Notre Dame has 4 philosophy courses, including the excellent Ancient Wisdom Modern Love.
- University of Warwick: The University of Warwick offers full courses like Literature in the Modern World, along with shorter lecture series like the 4-lecture Sociology of Intellectual Life.
Other colleges and universities offer smaller iTunes U course collections. The following schools have a posted six or fewer courses.
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.
- Duke University
- Cambridge University
- City University of New York
- Cornell University
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Oxford University
- University of California, Berkeley
- University College London
- Yale University
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:
Select iTunes U in the first box and then type in your search term.
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.
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.
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.