Apple USA is now running a free hosting service for universities and colleges allowing them to make educational content available for download 24/7.
The new iTunes U service has been trialled for a while but is now live and being used by, among others, Stanford University and the place where it all all looks to have started - the University of Michigan School of Dentistry.
According to Apple,
Thus, in September of 2005, University of Michigan introduced iTunes U to the entire dental school making it simple for students to access classroom lectures. Now, students use recording equipment in the lecture halls and capture the content. In minutes, the material is available for download to an iPod, Mac, PC, or any other desired device or computer. While Associate Professor of Dentistry Lynn Johnson says it is up to students to get the faculty member's permission to record a lecture, she adds that "no faculty member has ever said 'no' to a student."
Stanford currently has available over 400 tracks and these can be downloaded by anyone, not just students or academic staff - which doesn't seem to be the case with UMSD or most other institutions. Stanford's tracks are catalogued over six main areas - Faculty Lectures (39); Global Issues - Stanford Initiatives (76); Heard on Campus (112); Books & Authors (24); Sports (50); and Music (114). Click on Stanford on iTunes to access these tracks directly in iTunes.
As with other iTunes tracks, the academic files will play on Mac and Windows computers as well as being transferable to iPods.
Disappointingly searches from within iTunes itself and from Google don't seem to bring up URLs for any iTunes U services, not even Stanford's or UMSD's.
If you have any such links, let us know and we'll add them to this piece as updates.
We've contacted Apple UK asking when similar hosting will be available to universities and colleges over here and will also do an update if and when we hear back.
Of course, even if this does become the norm in all colleges and universities here and around the world, it still doesn't solve the age-old student dilemma - "How am I going to find time for ANY serious stuff when I'm so busy getting pissed, stoned or laid; playing pool, table-football or poker; watching telly, DVDs or downloaded videos; going to gigs, the movies or just out to have a good time; or sleeping?".
Apple iTunes U service
Stanford on iTunes
Forbes news story - 'Stanford On ITunes' Is For Everybody
Thomson Peterson's - More Schools Pursuing Private iTunes Store Podcast? -