itunes u

Apple doesn’t really talk much about iTunes U, its educational content service powered by iTunes on iOS devices. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a success.

Apple announced today that iTunes U has reached 1 billion content downloads, a sign that schools around the world are embracing Apple’s edtech model. Educators can use iTunes U to collect course materials and make them easily available to students.

Apple released a new version of the iTunes U iOS app in early 2012, along with its new iBooks digital textbook initiative. The company’s approach to edtech still isn’t foolproof — it depends on students having expensive iPads, which makes it impractical for schools and students without money to burn. Still, for those with access to Apple’s ecosystem, it’s an easy way to easily offer course materials to students. (It’s definitely simpler than photocopying large packets of material, forcing students to buy plenty of expensive books, and making students keep track of a wide variety of physical course material.)

Apple says 60 percent of iTunes U app downloads (which I’m reading as just the app), originate from outside the U.S. — it’ll be interesting to see if that gap continues to grow for international educators.

Back in August 2010, when iTunes U was still something accessed through iTunes on Macs and PCs, Apple announced it reached 300 million content downloads. It looks like the move towards iOS devices has made iTunes U even more popular with educators.

Apple is competing with traditional education content services like BlackBoard, as well as digital textbook companies like Inkling, but it remains the only company that offers both a home for course materials and a way to build digital textbooks.