New iTunes U App Hits iTunes With Over 500,000 Free Lectures, Videos & Books

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Following this morning’s education event, Apple has launched a new, dedicated iOS application called “iTunes U.” This educational content portal, previously available only in iTunes, has now arrived in the App Store for all iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touch devices. It has also undergone a major revamp so as to better complement Apple’s newly-announced educational offerings, including iBooks 2 and its iBooks Author Tool, which allows anyone to easily create books and textbooks.

The new application will allow teachers create and manage courses with components like lectures, assignments, books, quizzes and syllabuses, and offer them to iOS users via their mobile devices. Participating universities include Cambridge, Duke, Harvard, Oxford, MIT, Yale, Stanford and others. However, starting today any K-12 school district can now offer full courses through the iTunes U app, too.

Prior to today’s revamp and app launch, iTunes U served up educational content to students, reaching over 700 million downloads. It has always been one of iTunes’ hidden gems, providing access to lectures, course material, presentations and more from top universities. Today, iTunes U is offering over 500,000 free lectures, videos, books and other content from institutions across 26 countries, says Apple.

With the newly added K-12 support, iTunes U will transform iOS devices into educational tools for even younger students, allowing teachers create, manage and share courses, quizzes and handouts through a web-based tool, while also using content and links from the app, the Internet, the iBookstore or the App Store as a part of their curriculum. Teachers can also upload and distribute their own documents, like those made using iWork or the new iBooks, using the iTunes U app.

The content is available for free in the app, also free, but runs on the far-from-free iOS device lineup (running iOS 5+). That means that people who already are well enough off to be able to afford an iPhone or iPad can now better themselves even more through expanded educational materials and access. (Oh sorry, did we forget the economy for a second?) Educational institutions, however, will now be able to leverage Apple’s Volume Purchase Program for books, too. They’ll also continue to have access to volume discounts on Apple hardware.