Studying abroad is an opportunity that most students would jump at the chance to experience. However, while students have the desire to study abroad, they sometimes lack the financial means and motivation to do more research or are too afraid to travel to a foreign country.

Imagine being able to go study abroad from the comfort of your room, where you control when and how you learn learn a new skill. And as an added bonus, it’s all completely free.

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Graphic by: Stephanie Wells Photo credit: Stephanie Wells

iTunes U was launched in the spring of 2007 as a way for colleges and high schools around the world to present their online courses to students, showcase top courses to prospective students and offer an educational service to the community.

The online education tool offers video and audio podcast content, along with necessary reading material to complete the courses available.

What makes iTunes U truly special is not the price tag, but the quality of the content. Within seconds, I can be listening to a guest lecture from Harvard, learn how to code from MIT, take a bilingual political science class from Universidad de las Americas–Puebla in Mexico or learn about economics from Universidade Fernando Pessoa in Portugal.

Downloading lectures works as simply as getting new music from iTunes, a skill which most people are familiar with. One click on iTunes U in the categories menu opens up a world of learning from over 1,200 universities and colleges. Our own Weber State University is not currently one of them.

iTunes U also goes beyond student use since educators across the globe are using this tool as a resource to prepare better lectures for their students and share information with colleagues.

There are a few courses that aren’t available for public use, and this is because the free software has attracted some schools to use iTunes U as the platform for their online classes.

In 2013, Apple Inc. announced that iTunes U had over a billion downloads with 60 percent being from people outside of the U.S.

Professors at MIT have noted that professors in developing countries use iTunes U for professional development and to help set syllabi and exams.

“Very few people have the ability to get a degree from MIT as students,” Professor Walter H.G. Levin of MIT told the Washington Post, “so why not open the world to our best courses?”

It’s easy for students to focus on getting good grades and rush through their degree, but there is also a need for skills—skills that are not necessarily learned in the classroom. Skills in technology are in high demand in multiple organizations, not just in Silicon Valley.

According to the International Data Corporation, the U.S. loses over one trillion in productivity due to workers not being skilled enough to meet the demands of a growing field.

One potential solution to this problem could be iTunes U, which would also be a cost effective solution.

If lectures aren’t your cup of tea, iTunes U also includes tours of top museums, organizations and libraries that can be enjoyed in the same format.

iTunes U is available for free from iOS from the App Store and through iTunes for PC and OS X in 155 countries.

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