Free College Education, on iTunes?

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If you already have iTunes, then you have access to a free catalog of hundreds of thousands of video and audio courses from the nation's top colleges and universities.

If you’ve ever listened to an MP3, you’re probably already familiar with iTunes. The software/store created by Apple has transformed the way we buy digital music (and to a lesser extent, TV shows, books, and movies).

But the iTunes Store has one category you might not be aware of: iTunes U. Packed with more than 350,000 audio and video lectures from more than 800 institutions, you can learn almost anything you want. And the best part? It’s completely free.

I learned to program for the iPhone with Stanford University’s Developing Apps for iOS series. It’s the exact same course students at Stanford pay thousands of dollars to take, all of the learning materials and course slides are publicly available online, but I never paid a dime to “sit in.” Since then, I’ve written five iPhone apps and secured a moderate monthly sales check that supplements my income.

Not a programmer? No problem. iTunes U has courses on everything from anthropology to zoology, from jazz to ancient Greece, from photography to the culinary arts. If it’s taught as a class at an American university, I’d put money on being able to find it, or something like it, in the iTunes U catalog.

Even my alma mater, Emory University, has its own section. The third most popular thing on iTunes U is its series of lectures called The Pursuit of Happiness. And while I may not be able to duplicate my entire B.A. in Film Studies on my iPod, there’s a series called Emory Looks at Hollywood that would’ve cost a fortune as part of my tuition. The most popular segment discusses Harry Potter as a Christ figure – interesting stuff.

But even though you can’t earn a degree from iTunes U (you’ll have to pay a school directly for that), you can improve your skill set. A photographer might benefit from a course like Sensing Place: Photography as Inquiry from MIT, while a chef could view The Art Institutes’ A Taste of Italy.

Or maybe you just want to kick back and watch something spacey like the University of California’s Astronomy or the Cassiopeia Project’s Bang to Man. Even the Kahn Academy is on iTunes U so you can take their bite-sized lessons with you everywhere.

The best part is, if you already have iTunes installed on your computer, you already have access to iTunes U. Simply open up iTunes, head to the iTunes Store, and click the iTunes U link at the top of the page. If you don’t have iTunes, don’t worry, it’s also free and can be downloaded from apple.com/itunes.

Once you’ve downloaded a lecture, it can be synced to your iPhone, iPad, or iPod just like any other song or video in your iTunes collection.

Happy learning!

Stacy Johnson

It's not the usual blah, blah, blah

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