iTunes U & What It Means For You

Here’s a log­i­cal fol­low up to our last post — 10 Free Uni­ver­si­ty Cours­es on iTunes.

It turns out that yes­ter­day Apple nice­ly inte­grat­ed iTunes U into iTunes. Now, you’ll prob­a­bly ask what is iTunes U, and why should I care about this inte­gra­tion? So here is the sim­ple answer:

iTunes U is essen­tial­ly a non-com­mer­cial ver­sion of iTunes that sev­er­al uni­ver­si­ties start­ed to use over the past year. And, in fact, some of the best uni­ver­si­ty pod­cast col­lec­tions (name­ly, Berke­ley’s and Stan­ford’s) were launched on this plat­form. The prob­lem was that you could­n’t access these pod­casts from the iTunes store that every­one’s accus­tomed to using. So, if you opened iTunes and searched for Stan­ford pod­casts, you got bubkis.

The dis­tinc­tion between iTunes and iTunes U was large­ly arti­fi­cial, and so it made per­fect sense to mesh togeth­er the two plat­forms. (Read the press release here.) What does­n’t par­tic­u­lar­ly make sense is the way in which the two plat­forms now fit togeth­er — or actu­al­ly kind of don’t. If you do a search for “MIT,” for exam­ple, you’ll see that some MIT pod­casts come up in a search results buck­et called “Pod­casts” (these are from MIT’s busi­ness school) and oth­ers come up in a buck­et called “iTunes U.” So, put sim­ply, the MIT pod­casts aren’t grouped togeth­er in one col­lec­tion. (Try it out and you will see what I mean.)

But why com­plain, the new inte­gra­tion is no doubt a good step in the right direc­tion.

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10 Free University Courses on iTunes

We haven’t talked about the uni­verse of uni­ver­si­ty pod­casts in some time. So let’s get back to it.Below, we have high­light­ed ten full-fledged cours­es from top flight uni­ver­si­ties. All of these cours­es can be down­loaded to your iPod for free. That’s a price that you can’t beat. (You can see our com­plete col­lec­tion of free online cours­es here.)

1. Euro­pean His­to­ry from the Renais­sance to the Present (UC Berke­ley)

“This course is an intro­duc­tion to Euro­pean his­to­ry from around 1500 to the present. The cen­tral ques­tions that it address­es are how and why Europe–a small, rel­a­tive­ly poor, and polit­i­cal­ly frag­ment­ed place–became the motor of glob­al­iza­tion and a world civ­i­liza­tion in its own right.”

–Thomas Laque­ur, Pro­fes­sor of His­to­ry

2. Geog­ra­phy of World Cul­tures (Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty)

Even in a glob­al­ized world, peo­ple con­tin­ue to be joined togeth­er and divid­ed asun­der by the lan­guages they speak, the reli­gions they fol­low, and the eth­nic iden­ti­ties to which they belong. This map-inten­sive course exam­ines every world region, seek­ing to under­stand how places vary from each oth­er with regard to the cul­tur­al attrib­ut­es of their inhab­i­tants. (Note: This course is being rolled out in week­ly install­ments.)

–Mar­tin Lewis, Lec­tur­er in His­to­ry, Inter­im Direc­tor, Pro­gram in Inter­na­tion­al Rela­tions

3. Old Eng­lish in Con­text (Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty)

A four lec­ture mini-course on how Eng­lish became Eng­lish dur­ing the medieval peri­od.

–Dr Stu­art Lee, OUCS

4. Physics for Future Pres­i­dents (UC Berke­ley)

This course gives you the physics you need to know to be a pres­i­dent, Supreme Court jus­tice, diplo­mat, busi­ness­man, lawyer, foot­ball coach, or oth­er world leader.

Richard Muller, Pro­fes­sor of Physics.

NOTE: Tthe same course hap­pens also to appear on Google Video. Sim­ply go to Google Video and per­form a search with the fol­low­ing key­words: physics 10 berke­ley.

5. Quan­tum Mechan­ics (UC Davis)

If Physics for Future Pres­i­dents is too basic for you, you can get into some more heavy duty sci­ence right here.

John Tern­ing, Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor of Physics

6. The His­tor­i­cal Jesus (Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty)

Who was the his­tor­i­cal Jesus of Nazareth? What did he actu­al­ly say? In short, what are the dif­fer­ences — and sim­i­lar­i­ties — between the Jesus who lived and died in his­to­ry and the Christ who lives on in believ­ers’ faith?

–Thomas Shee­han, Pro­fes­sor of Reli­gious Stud­ies and Pro­fes­sor Emer­i­tus of Phi­los­o­phy

7. Under­stand­ing Com­put­ers and the Inter­net (Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty)

This course demys­ti­fies com­put­ers and the Inter­net (along with their jar­gon) so that stu­dents under­stand not only what they can do with each, but also how each works and why.

–David Malan, Instruc­tor

8. Entre­pre­neur­ship and Busi­ness Plan­ning (Carnegie Mel­lon)

This class par­al­lels a course being offered at Carnegie Mel­lon. It cov­ers the ins-and-outs of start­ing a new ven­ture, look­ing at how to devel­op ideas for new com­pa­nies, write busi­ness plans, cre­ate teams. It also looks at typ­i­cal b‑school top­ics: mar­ket­ing, com­pet­i­tive strat­e­gy, sales, pric­ing, fund­ing and finance.

–Mark Juliano, Adjunct Pro­fes­sor

9. The Lit­er­a­ture of Cri­sis (Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty)

In look­ing at great works by Pla­to, Sopho­cles, Shake­speare, Vergil, and Voltaire, this course explores crises that change the course of indi­vid­u­als and larg­er cul­tures.

–Marsh McCall, Pro­fes­sor of Clas­sics

–Mar­tin Evans, Pro­fes­sor in Eng­lish

10. Exis­ten­tial­ism in Lit­er­a­ture & Film (UC Berke­ley)

The course looks at efforts “to rein­ter­pret the Judeo/Christian God, and to deter­mine in what sense God is still a liv­ing God.” Along the way it looks at “Dostoyevsky’s and Kierkegaard’s attempts to pre­serve a non-the­o­log­i­cal ver­sion of the God of Chris­tian­i­ty, as well as Nietzsche’s attempt to save us from belief in any ver­sion of God offered by our tra­di­tion.” Films also get dis­cussed here.

–Hubert Drey­fus, Pro­fes­sor of Phi­los­o­phy

If you know of oth­er good cours­es avail­able via pod­cast, please email us and let us know.

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Who Didn’t See This One Coming?

Amer­i­ca’s 42nd pres­i­dent spoke this week­end at Har­vard’s Class Day, a tra­di­tion­al event held for grad­u­at­ing seniors. While Class Day often fea­tures pop icons and come­di­ans — take this speech by Ali G from a few yeas ago — Clin­ton’s speech was a bit more seri­ous and ide­al­is­tic, and it reminds us that there may be again a day when we can look to the White House for sub­stance and inspi­ra­tion. This too shall pass. You can watch Part 1 of his pre­sen­ta­tion below. Here are links to Parts 2 and 3.

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Talks from the 92nd Street Y

If you’re not a New York­er, the 92nd Street Y prob­a­bly means lit­tle to you. But, if you’re a Man­hat­tan dweller, you know that it is a cul­tur­al pil­lar of the city, a place where you can always find good talks being giv­en by lead­ing news mak­ers, artists, authors and thinkers.

Hav­ing recent­ly left NYC for shiny, hap­py Cal­i­for­nia, it was a plea­sure to dis­cov­er that the “Y” now runs a blog and, bet­ter yet, a pod­cast (iTunesFeed) fea­tur­ing high­lights of note­wor­thy talks. Here’s a sam­ple of the audio clips that you’ll encounter: A seg­ment from David Hal­ber­stam’s 11th and last appear­ance at the Y (mp3) before his recent fatal car acci­dent; Kurt Von­negut, who also died recent­ly, read­ing (mp3) from his book Break­fast of Cham­pi­ons; and Robert Alt­man (yes, he died too not too long ago) talk­ing (mp3) about what turned out to be his last film, A Prairie Home Com­pan­ion.

Now, I real­ize that this sounds more grim than it is. No, the pod­cast col­lec­tion fea­tures more than talks by the recent­ly deceased. The last I heard Syd­ney Pol­lack is still alive, and here he is talk­ing (mp3) about his doc­u­men­tary, Sketch­es of Frank Gehry. And to end on a some­what pos­i­tive note, here you have Bri­an Wil­son, of Beach Boys fame, dis­cussing the film Beau­ti­ful Dream­er: Bri­an Wil­son and the Sto­ry of Smile. Smile is one of the more famous “unfin­ished” albums in rock his­to­ry.

For more pod­casts along these lines, please see our col­lec­tion of Arts & Cul­ture Pod­casts.

French Lessons from the BBC and the Peace Corps

When­ev­er traf­fic flows to to our col­lec­tion of Free Lan­guage Lessons, one good out­come is that we almost always learn of new pod­casts to add to the list. (Just as an fyi, we now have 64 indi­vid­ual pod­casts that offer instruc­tion on 22 dif­fer­ent lan­guages.)

Last week did­n’t dis­ap­point. We learned of a few good new ones. Most notably, one of our read­ers flagged for us a series of video-based French lessons assem­bled by the BBC. Pre­sent­ed by Stéphane Cor­ni­card, Ma France con­sists of 24 inter­ac­tive video units that teach you the lan­guage and a lit­tle about the coun­try. You can launch this video to get a brief intro­duc­tion. The series, which assumes a lit­tle pri­or knowl­edge of French, was shot in Lyons, the Alps and in Provence. You can access the videos on iTunes, by feed, and by web.

Anoth­er new addi­tion to col­lec­tion, How to Learn Lan­guages for Free: Span­ish, Eng­lish, Chi­nese & 37 Oth­er Lan­guages, comes from the Peace Corps. They offer some pod­casts that will teach you some French, Man­darin Chi­nese, Ara­bic, and Russ­ian. It all sounds pret­ty straight­for­ward. But then you find out that they’re teach­ing the French spo­ken in Mali (West Africa) and the Russ­ian used in Kaza­khstan — that is, the kind of places where Peace Corps vol­un­teers actu­al­ly go. It’s a bit of a dif­fer­ent twist on the usu­al lan­guage les­son pod­cast. Also, be sure to check out the instruc­tion­al PDF files that accom­pa­ny each pod­cast.

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Weekly Wrap — May 19

Anoth­er week, anoth­er wrap up:

Fonts of Fame


What font do you write in? Do you have strong feel­ings about it? It turns out many writ­ers do. Slate has a fas­ci­nat­ing slide-show essay mark­ing Hel­veti­ca’s fifti­eth anniver­sary, cel­e­brat­ing the font “some have called the offi­cial type­face of the 20th cen­tu­ry.” In an accom­pa­ny­ing arti­cle the mag­a­zine sur­veyed a few famous writ­ers and none of them claimed the big H as their let­ter­ing of choice (couri­er won by a landslide–apparently these peo­ple have fond mem­o­ries of their type­writ­ers). If you’re in New York, you might check out the MoMA exhib­it cel­e­brat­ing Hel­veti­ca’s gold­en moment.

Ready for a new look your­self? There are hun­dreds of sites ready to help you get your font on for love or for money–check out Sim­ply the Best Free Fonts as just one exam­ple. To be safe, always make sure you scan down­loaded files for virus­es before start­ing that new nov­el.

What Pirates Can Teach Us about Democracy

I’ve always felt that pirates under­stood the good things in life. Fresh air. Rum. Inter­est­ing hats. It turns out we had more in com­mon polit­i­cal­ly than I would have giv­en them cred­it for. Accord­ing to Col­in Woodard, author of The Repub­lic of Pirates, the “Gold­en Age” of Caribbean pira­cy was­n’t too shab­by. Sea­men and cap­tains received almost equal shares of booty (that is, a ratio of 2 — 1 instead of 14 — 1) and cap­tains could be deposed at almost any time. NPR Books did a great inter­view with Woodard two weeks ago (siteiTunesfeed).

All of this means that you should go see the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie when it opens today, no mat­ter how ter­ri­ble it is. If Jack Spar­row does­n’t inspire civic virtue, at least he encour­ages eye­lin­er sales. Besides, how many amuse­ment park rides can you think of that have demon­strat­ed such dra­mat­ic depth?

The oth­er rea­son to go see the movie is that Talk Like A Pirate Day is lit­er­al­ly months away. How long can you hold that “AAAARRRRRHH”?

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.