Stanford on iTunes U hits 40 million downloads

Stanford's lectures, courses, concerts and other iTunes U offerings have made it one of the site's most popular universities for downloadable content.

Steve Fyffe and Linda A. Cicero

Stanford on iTunes U features a wide range of content from lectures and courses to concerts.

People use the iTunes Store in a variety of ways. Some people are looking for synth-pop. Others want to download a horror film. And then there are people who just want to hear a Stanford electrical engineering professor explain how to transform a signal to its frequency domain representation.

That last option may not sound like the most obvious crowd-pleaser, but in 2005 Stanford was the first university to launch a public site on iTunes U and is now celebrating its 40 millionth download.

For those unfamiliar with iTunes U, the site allows universities to post content such as lectures, courses and concerts, which can then be viewed for free by the general public. As a whole, iTunes U has served over 600 million downloads, with Stanford being one of the universities topping the list of most-downloaded content.

"It gives us the ability to highlight our faculty, and the breadth and diversity of our course catalog with people who might not otherwise be able to experience it," said Brent Izutsu, the senior program manager for Stanford on iTunes U, or SoiT.

Apple originally tested iTunes U in collaboration with Stanford and several other pilot schools. At Stanford, the program was intended to play a role in alumni outreach, but the site became unexpectedly popular among the general public.

"We started noticing that we were getting interest from people across the world," said Izutsu. SoiT quickly began averaging thousands of downloads a month, and then tens of thousands. Now, four years after Apple's formal launch of iTunes U in 2007, SoiT serves over a million downloads every month.

Stanford's most popular offerings have been lectures from the School of Engineering's CS193p course. The iPhone application programming course has consistently been listed among iTunes U's top 10 downloads since it first appeared on SoiT.

But SoiT also offers over 4,000 other tracks on the site, ranging from Medical School courses to one-off lectures from Stanford's summer Outdoor Science Talks, to tracks from the Stanford Soundtrack – an annual anthology of student music.

Going forward, SoiT  is focused on adding complete courses, enhanced with assignments and projects.

"There is an enormous appetite for educational content," said Izutsu. "One that we're just beginning to address."

Max McClure is an intern with the Stanford News Service.

Brent Izutsu, Stanford on iTunes and YouTube: (650) 736-0784,

Dan Stober, Stanford News Service: (650) 721-6965,