Chalk up another victory for the halo effect of Apple’s (s aapl) iOS devices: the company’s iTunes U service doubled its overall downloads during the last year alone, experiencing more than 300 million downloads for a total of over 600 million since the service’s introduction in 2007, according to The Loop.
iTunes U collects content from more than 1,000 universities, providing access to class video, lectures and notes, so that students and non-students alike can follow along with courses and learn about various subjects for free from the comfort of their homes or on their Apple mobile devices. The Loop notes that some universities have an outsized share of those downloads, including Oxford, Yale, MIT and Stanford, to name a few.
The recent increase of download volume probably owes a lot to the increased adoption of iOS devices like the iPad and iPhone 4. Mobile devices account for 30 percent of iTunes U traffic, and that’s just counting direct browsing through the mobile iTunes Store. I’d be willing to bet that the number of people who download iTunes U content from their desktop and then sync it over to mobile devices for later viewing or listening is even greater. The iPad is making great strides in education, and seems like an almost ideal delivery vehicle for the kind of content coming from iTunes U, which includes slide decks and lecture notes as well as audio and video.
Another advantage of iTunes U is that it divorces learning from the physical classroom, and breaks down the barriers of geography to high-quality educational content. Apple has brought iTunes U to 123 countries, and 60 percent of its users come from outside the U.S. In an increasingly global economy, access to education is incredibly important, and iTunes U offers one of the easiest ways for students everywhere to get that access quickly and cheaply.
Geoffrey recently wrote about some of the great content available on iTunes U, and how it’s one of iTunes’ most under-appreciated gems. Looks like users are starting to wake up to the wealth of resources available there, and I doubt that will slow down as more iOS devices grant access to more global users.