Apple’s higher education media application, iTunes U, is making education more easily accessible for millions of Internet users. The technology giant recently announced that iTunes U reached 300 million downloads since its creation three years ago. That milestone, and the promulgation of technology across all industries, has convinced people worldwide, including Bill Gates, that technology and the Internet are the educational waves of the future.
Gates, chairman and co-founder of Microsoft, recently announced his opinion that physical college campuses are growing obsolete, thanks in part to the Internet and the rising cost of higher education.
"Five years from now, on the Web for free, you’ll be able to find the best lectures in the world. It will be better than any single university," Gates argued at the Techonomy conference in Lake Tahoe, Calif. "College, except for the parties, needs to be less place-based."
Gates’ predictions are already coming true with Apple’s iTunes U. The program already boasts over 800 member universities, including some of the most prestigious in the world, like Harvard, UC Berkeley, University of Texas, MIT, Cambridge, and Oxford. More than half of these institutions provide their educational resources online publically and free of charge for not only students, but also all interested Internet users to view.
With this application, teachers and professors can upload podcasts, videos, lesson plans, syllabi, PDFs, lectures, and slideshows. Currently, there are roughly 350,000 files on iTunes U and that number is growing exponentially. This accessibility allows people from all over the world to listen, watch, and learn from the best professors and universities across the globe.
While the majority of the content and users are in higher education, secondary schools are finding value in the program as well. The Texas Education Agency announced in August 2010 the launch of the Texas Education iTunes U channel, which allows teachers to upload supplemental coursework, research materials and other media online for parents and students to access from home or work. It also allows teachers to communicate and share teaching information amongst themselves. So far, there are already 146,000 Texas teachers signed up to participate.
To participate with iTunes U, higher education institutions need to be qualifying public and private, two and four year accredited colleges that are degree granting. And while the application provides access to myriads of educational content, users can only view it with certain Apple hardware, like Mac computers, iPhones, iPads, and iPods.
With more universities from across the world joining iTunes U every week and uploading their free educational content, the program truly is opening higher education up to the masses. If this trend continues to grow and spread, Bill Gates’ predications of an entirely Internet-based education system won’t be too far off.
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