By Joe Hutsko, Barbara Boyd

Although the iTunes U app doesn’t come preinstalled on your iPhone, this free app is highly recommended. You should take advantage of all the interesting and informative media available in the iTunes U catalog.

Divided into 16 categories (think faculties), iTunes U features audio and video lectures from seminars and courses at universities around the world. iTunes U isn’t limited to universities, however.

You find lectures and presentations from professional meetings and conferences, such as TED and the Prostate Health Conference, as well as K through 12 and professional certification material. Aside from the vast selection of topics and the quality of the presentations, the best part is that the lectures are free!

As with the App, iTunes, and iBooks Stores, iTunes U lets you look at its offerings overall, by genre, by most popular, and, of course, by searching.

You see “courses” and “collections.” Courses have a syllabus, study materials (which may be e-books or worksheets), and the lectures themselves as either audio or video files to be followed in chronological order as you build upon gained knowledge from one lesson to the next. Collections are stand-alone lectures related to a similar topic; you don’t need to listen to or watch all of them to gain full knowledge.

Here’s how to find something that you want to learn more about:

  1. Open the iTunes U app.

    The iTunes U catalog opens. The opening screen is probably familiar by now. Banner ads scroll across the top, Standout Courses and other categorical sections follow, and all are tappable buttons that lead to more information about that course. The other buttons are

    • Categories (upper left): Categories opens a list of the 16 “faculties” you can choose from. Tapping one of those faculties then opens a selection of courses on that topic displayed like the opening screen — banners, buttons, and the like. Choose All Categories from the Categories list to return to the full catalog selection.

    • Library (upper right): Library takes you to your collection of downloaded courses.

      The Browse buttons at the bottom are:

    • Featured: Banners across the top promote sponsored courses and then, scrolling down, you find sections such as Standout Courses and New and Notable. This same type of selection appears when you select a specific Genre.

    • Charts: Divided into Courses and Collections, this view lists the most popular — the most downloaded — courses and collections.

    • Browse: Choose the level you want — Higher Ed, K–12, or Other — and then scroll through the alphabetical list of institutions offering courses at that level.

    • Search: Tap to open the search field. Type your criteria and then tap the Search button. You can then view the results by collections, courses, or all, which includes collections and courses as well as a list of episodes (lectures) and materials that meet your search criteria.

  2. Tap a course or collection that interests you, and the Info screen opens.

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    • Tap Details to see descriptions, the course outline (if it’s a course), and a list of lectures and materials. Tap More to see the complete information.

    • Tap Reviews to see what others have to say about the course or collection.

    • Tap Related to see other courses and collections on a similar topic that might interest you.

    • Tap the Share button to share a link to the course via AirDrop, Mail, Messages, Twitter, or Facebook, or copy the link to another app.

  3. When you find a course or collection you want to watch or listen to, you have the following options:

    • Tap Subscribe to subscribe to the entire course. Links to the materials are added to your Library and updates are added as they become available.

    • Tap the Download button next to a single episode or material. The icon next to the download button indicates the type of file it is: A filmstrip icon means video; a speaker icon means audio; and a piece of paper icon means written materials, usually a PDF.

  4. Tap the Back button in the upper left to return to the iTunes U screen where you were before.

If you scroll to the bottom of the screen, you see your Apple ID, a Redeem button for adding iTunes Store card credit, your credit balance, and an Enroll button. Some courses have limited enrollment and you must request an enrollment code from the instructor to subscribe and attend. You can find more information about the instructor in the course description.