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Apple iTunes For Education

Apple's hot-selling iPod is finding a home on college campuses and it's not just for entertainment.

Stanford, Duke, Drexel, University of Michigan and several other universities have been making lecture notes, podcasts and other content available via a custom iTunes store hosted by Apple.

With these pilot programs well under way for several months, Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple this week formalized the unveiling of iTunes U, a program specifically designed to help schools make their content available to students online via the iTunes store.

Apple is providing free hosting services to the universities, according to an Apple spokesman.

An iTunes U store can include lectures, podcasts, course materials, and audio books available on an authenticated basis (i.e. via password) to students, teachers and administrators.

Stanford was the first and one of the few to also make content available to the public through its Stanford on iTunes program.

"The idea was to make more of our material accessible to the wider community," Scott Stocker, director of Web communications at Stanford, told internetnews.com.

Stanford has a separate iTunes store for registered students, faculty and administrators; the public site includes lectures, book readings, music and drama performances that were recorded on.

One of the most popular downloads was a series of lectures by the Dalai Lama who spoke at the campus in November. Stanford also has a podcast service where registered users can be notified when new content appears. Any RSS reader should also work, according to Stocker.

Although some news reports implied users can now get a Stanford education with their iPods without having to pay the university's healthy tuition, Stocker emphasized the public site does not include course materials, and even on the student site the materials are primarily supplementary.

"It's about 20 courses in areas like the arts and music and medicine where they've been using multimedia materials already in the classroom."

Stocker said there are no plans to require students to have iPods or for Stanford to provide them. The university has numerous PC and Macintosh workstations on campus loaded with iTunes that can be used to access content.

Apple has a long history of strong ties to the education community, dating back to its original Apple II computer, and to Stanford in particular.

In the 1980s, Apple CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs left the company and started Next Inc., which had an initial focus as a provider of academic workstations.

Stanford, Drexel and a few other top-rated universities were early users. Next Inc. was eventually purchased by Apple as part of the deal that brought Jobs back to the company.