Open University hits record 20 million downloads on iTunes

The Open University has totalled a record breaking 20 million downloads through iTunes U, giving free downloadable education to a large fraction of the total 250 million downloads.

The Open University, a trend-setting distance learning establishment, is the first university worldwide to reach 20 million downloads through the iTunes U service, the repository for downloadable academic content.

With the iPod and iTunes-compatible devices being so popular with students worldwide, universities selected the iTunes content distribution mechanism as a viable way for students to access lectures and academic material, whilst also reaching out to the wider learning communities by offering university-branded free lectures.

iTunes U is incredibly popular, with over 250 million downloads worldwide in the two years it has been running.

The content is available to the public, not just Open University students, which the majority are those outside typical student age, are often in employment but cannot afford to leave work and study full time, opting for a part-time degree.

According to PA, the most popular downloads are the languages and arts, with Beginner's French being the most downloaded content. and talks explaining the nature of economic bubbles and the construction of Imperial Rome make up some of the top ten. Over a quarter of all downloads relate to subjects of science, technology, engineering and maths.

The Open University is a world leader specialising in distance learning, and has over a quarter of a million students over 40 countries studying a range of undergraduate, post-graduate and doctoral qualifications. It's the one university known to all which requires nothing but a love for learning as a prerequisite.

iTunes U has been popular with many universities since its launch in 2008, and the Open University has certainly benefited as a result; though its students will reap the greater reward for easy and free access to on-demand academic multimedia.

Does iTunes U access encourage to you buy an iPod/iPhone to learn on the go? And does this spark an evolutionary step further for online learning? Have your say.