UK: Open University hits 20 million iTunes U downloads

The Open University set a world record last week when it became the first university to achieve 20 million downloaded tracks on iTunes U, a dedicated area within the iTunes Store.

With an average of more than 250,000 downloads a week, the OU's popularity has soared since content was first made available on iTunes two years ago.

OU Vice-chancellor Martin Bean said he was delighted the popularity of the university on iTunes U continued to go from strength to strength.

"Our success lies in providing original, custom-built content for iTunes U, linked to current and popular OU courses," Bean said. "Students are able to incorporate tracks into their studies, while informal learners anywhere in the world can tap into these excellent materials for free."

Most people downloading the OU's tracks do so to continue their own education, with 96% of respondents to an OU survey saying they used the materials for learning.

An upsurge in people accessing OU student websites on their mobile devices reinforces the increasing popularity of more flexible content such as iTunes U material. When iTunes U material was launched, 1,370 students accessed the OU's student websites via their mobile devices; in May this had risen to more than 11,000 student visitors that month alone.

More than half those who download OU content from iTunes U engage with it while undertaking other activities.

"The way people want to learn is changing: many now actively seek out content they are interested in and which they can watch, read or listen to when it suits them," Bean said.

"New channels are helping people to fit learning in with their lifestyles, and the OU has always kept pace with the changing world of technology, which is why we are such a resounding success on iTunes U."

More than 4.5 million downloads from The Open University on iTunes U in the past year related to tracks in science, technology, engineering and maths subjects. These accounted for 28% of the total downloads in that time.

The most popular collections on Open University on iTunes U are languages and arts with the most downloaded to date being Beginner's French.