In researching my recent story, iTunes U: Educating the world, Apple provided me with some updated figures for its free education portal on iTunes.
According to Apple, iTunes U has had more than 600 million downloads since it first launched in 2007. What’s even more impressive is that they’ve had more than 300 million in the last year alone — a testament to the growing popularity of the service.
So in the average month, iTunes U now has over 25 million downloads. It is interesting to consider why iTunes U has become such a success, when there are many alternatives like YouTube, Vimeo and others that could have hosted the same videos.
According to the report, more than 1000 Universities in 123 countries have active accounts. A University account in iTunes U is a much more formal arrangement than the concept of the account in YouTube. I’m sure Apple would not close an account the moment it received a complaint. And I am sure that Apple provides a lot more reports and statistics to the University than would be available from YouTube, and they would be able to speak to somebody at Apple if any problem arose. Alternative video hosting providers typically only offer a fully-automated, no human contact account that is great for individuals, but not ideal for large organisations. By targeting a specific niche (higher education course materials), Apple is now in a very dominant position.
The report also says that 30% of iTunes U traffic comes from iOS devices. No doubt that is because the process of watching lectures on iPad/iPhone/iPod devices is particularly streamlined. By subscribing in iTunes, new lectures can be automatically downloaded and placed onto the device overnight, ready for viewing on the bus or train the next day. No internet connection is required on the device while watching the videos.
Finally, Apple does not force advertisements or Apple branding upon the iTunes U videos. Nor does it charge the Universities to participate. It makes money from the service only when a student chooses to purchase an iOS device or Macintosh computer. Since the very beginning, Apple has worked hard to encourage the use of Apple products in education, hoping to nurture a new generation of people that were familiar with Apple. By encouraging university students to use Apple products, Apple is hoping that will result in continued usage when they enter the work force.
See how several Universities are using iTunes U: