A guide to iTunes U for kids and families

Q What is iTunes U and is there anything for my middle-schooler?

A iTunes U is a collection of more than 500,000 free lectures, books and educational videos that allow students to learn from anywhere at anytime. Offerings range from simple podcasts to multi-faceted courses accessible through downloads using a free iTunes account.

Originally, content on iTunes U was designed for adult or college students. Today, however, more than 1,200 colleges and universities and 1,200 K-12 schools and districts host public and private courses. This year iTunes U downloads topped one billion, making it the largest catalog of free educational content online.

A quick look at the most popular downloads on iTunes U will reveal courses from Harvard, Yale, Stanford and MIT. Look a little closer and you can find something for every student in your family.

Content is organized in several ways. Three main categories include: Universities& Colleges, Beyond Campus and K-12. Even if your own school doesn’t provide any K-12 resources, you can browse other schools across the country or discover content provided from state Departments of Education.

Many museums and organizations offer their own educational videos and lectures. The Beyond Campus section features content from the Library of Congress, for starters.

Avoid discounting college-level content that may be of interest to middle and high school students. The Harvard Thinks Big series, for instance, offers an opportunity to watch 10-12 minutes lectures from Harvard professors.

The National Geographic Explorers Symposium offers stories from explorers and scientists in the field. University of Florida has created a Lit2Go collection with content including American History: Speeches and Essays.

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