Apple promotes podcasts to universities

First is was music, then television and now the halls of education. In its latest move to broaden its iPod and iTunes franchises, Apple Computer has introduced iTunes U, a nationwide expansion of a service that makes course lectures and other educational materials accessible via Apple’s iTunes software, the Associated Press reported.

Apple has been working with six universities on the pilot project for more than a year and expanded the educational program last week, inviting other universities to sign up.

Internet access to college lectures is not new, but listening to them on portable media players is. The University of Missouri offered podcasts of lectures through its school network before it signed up with Apple last summer as a pilot school, the AP reported. But iTunes U offered a software and service package for free, said Keith Politte, the development officer at the university’s School of Journalism.

The market dominance of Apple’s iTunes Music Store and iPods, which helped spawn the podcast movement, also was key. Calling his students “digital natives,” Politte said they want to reach them through the familiar iTunes interface.

Apple’s service offers universities a customized version of the iTunes software, allowing schools to post podcasts, audio books or video content on their iTunes-affiliated Web sites. The iTunes-based material will be accessible on Windows-based or Macintosh computers and transferable to portable devices, including Apple’s iPods.

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