29 Oct 2010

OU one of the first universities to make free, interactive eBooks available on iTunes U

eBooks available on iTunes U

eBooks available on iTunes U

The Open University is one of the first universities worldwide to make eBooks available on iTunes U, adding 100 free, interactive titles today with a further 200 to come by the end of 2010. OU eBook content comes from the OU’s OpenLearn website which contains over 6,600 hours of free, current course materials and has had 14 million visits to date.

Martin Bean, Vice-Chancellor of The Open University, said: “The Open University’s approach to eBooks is unique. We do not simply rework existing material and old style textbooks into an electronic format, but design carefully thought-through, interactive features that give the best all-round learning experience. For example, if you are looking at a course on genetics, as you read the narrative the embedded audio and video illustrate key points as you go along, and if you are learning about Schubert’s Lieder, with an OU eBook it’s easy, you can hear the music as you follow the score. This really helps to bring subjects to life and simplifies things for students, as you don’t have to be online or carry lots of different materials.

“The way students choose to learn is changing. Industry analysts predict that by 2014 more people will access the internet via a mobile device than a computer*. In June 2008, 1,370 students accessed the OU’s student websites via mobile devices and by September 2010 this had risen to over 13,000 in one month alone. When it comes to mobile learning, OU eBooks will give students everywhere more choice than ever between the formats they prefer.”

Today’s 100 eBooks continue the OU’s success on iTunes U – in June 2010 it became the first University in the world to reach 20 million global downloads on iTunes U, and now has over 27 million downloads to date. By adding eBooks to the existing 330 OU collections on iTunes U, students can choose the formats that work best for them. The content is derived from current OU courses so students can use these materials to explore a topic before signing up to formal learning. OU eBooks will also soon be available on the OpenLearn site, which gives anyone in the world free access to OU course materials.

The Open University is now aiming to produce interactive eBook materials as part of routine future course production. Good tutoring and working with others remains vital and that is a key part of OU learning. All OU courses are designed to be interactive with students switching between books, DVDs, the web, audio CD, peer groups and associate lecturers.

Notes to editors

* From Internet Trends 12 April 2010 – a presentation by Mary Meek of Morgan Stanley.

1. The OU’s popularity on has grown quickly since it first launched its content in June 2008. Based on a 12 week average, there are over 312,000 downloads per week from the OU on iTunes U with 89.3 per cent of visitors from outside the UK. 96% of respondents to an OU iTunes U audience survey said they use the materials for learning, and 58% of respondents to an OU iTunes U audience survey listen to OU materials whilst doing another activity. (Survey conducted from September 2009 – January 2010, data from a sample of 1,000 people). Over 5.5 million downloads in the past year (21 August 2009 to 21 August 2010) relate to tracks in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects – accounting for 28% of the total downloads in that time. For more on this work see

2. Launched in October 2006, OpenLearn won a 2010 Innovation Award from the University Design Consortium at Arizona State University, recognising its promotion of equal education opportunity and development of web-based communities. Up to 6,000 OU course registrations may be attributed to OpenLearn. Visit

3. The Open University on iTunes U is produced by The Open University's Learning and Teaching Solutions (LTS) and Knowledge Media Institute (KMi). KMi is a highly successful interdisciplinary research centre founded at The Open University in 1995. It is widely acknowledged to be at the leading edge of research and development, particularly in semantic web technologies, multimedia and information systems, knowledge modelling and management, new media for learning and sense making. KMi is part of the OU’s Centre for Research in Computing, ranked as one of the top 20 research centres in the UK RAE 2008.

4. The Open University (OU) is the largest academic institution in the UK and a world leader in flexible distance learning. Since it began in 1969, the OU has taught more than 1.5 million students and has more than 250,000 current students, including 20,000 overseas, learning in their own time using course materials, online activities and content, web-based forums and tutorials and through tutor groups and residential schools. Visit

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