If you are a nerd, or just an aspiring one, there are few things more fantastic on the Internet than iTunes U. One of the earliest online education initiatives, the feature — a little corner of the broader iTunes content environment — brings together video- and audio-recorded lectures from colleges and universities around the world. Want to learn philosophy from Oxford? Download the 41 lectures from the university’s eight-week-long General Philosophy course. Curious about the history of ancient Greece? Turn Yale’s lectures on that subject into podcasts that you listen to as you’re doing your dishes. iTunes’ education initiative is an occasionally overwhelming and often enlightening smorgasbord of digitized, customized learning.
And! The whole thing is free for users. Which means that you — the nerd, whether current or aspiring — can recreate the university lecture experience for pretty much any subject, for pretty much nothing save your time.
iTunes U has been great at replicating the sit-and-listen part of the college learning experience. It’s been less great, however, at replicating the thing that has traditionally made the university such a great learning environment: class discussion, the lively back-and-forth that can come from the seminar setting. And it’s been less great at that, of course, because it hasn’t tried to be any good: iTunes U has been a clearinghouse for college lectures, and that, so far, has been more than enough.