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Open University Tops iTunes Download Chart

Distance learning specialist, the Open University, is claiming to have made the most out of App Store popularity

The Open University (OU) claims to be the first university worldwide to reach 20 million downloads on iTunes U – Apple’s distribution platform for educational materials.

With the slogan “Learn anything, anytime, anywhere,” iTunes U allows students to download digital content, including lectures, labs and audiobooks, onto any Mac, PC, iPod, or iPhone. The site averages more than a quarter of a million downloads per week.

Martin Bean, The Open University vice chancellor, said the OU’s success lies in providing original, custom-built content, linked to current and popular courses.

Flexible study proves attractive

“Students are able to incorporate tracks into their studies, while informal learners anywhere in the world can tap into these excellent materials for free,” he said.

The OU first made course content available on iTunes U in June 2008. During that first year, 1,370 students accessed the OU’s student websites via their mobile devices.

By May 2010, the university said this had risen massively to over 11,000 unique student visitors in that month alone.

Bean added that the growth in popularity of OU app content was proof that the way people want to learn is changing.

“New channels are helping people to fit learning in with their lifestyles, and the OU has always kept pace with the changing world of technology, which is why we are such a resounding success on iTunes U,” he said.

The majority (96 percent) of respondents to a recent OU audience survey said they use the online materials to supplement their learning and over half of those had accessed them through iTunes U.

Over 4.5 million OU downloads made during the last year alone were related to science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects – accounting for 28 percent of the total downloads during that time.

Popular subject areas include the arts and languages. But the university said its most popular download to date has been Beginner’s French.