In an unprecedented move, Stanford University is collaborating with Apple Computer to allow public access a wide range of lectures, speeches, debates and other university content through iTunes.

No need to pay the $31,200 tuition. No need to
live on campus. No need even to be a student. The nearly 500 tracks
that constitute “Stanford on iTunes” are available to anyone willing to
spend the few minutes it takes to download them from the Internet.

While a number of other universities are now
using iTunes to distribute class-specific content to their students,
including Duke University, Drexel University’s School of Education and
the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, Stanford is the first
to make a substantial amount of recorded university events available to
the public at large.

“One of Stanford’s primary missions is to
educate the public,” says Scott Stocker, director of Web
communications. Allowing the public to access the content “just felt
like the right thing to do,” says Cindy Pearson, director of alumni

Duncan Beardsley of Stanford’s class of 1959
says he has already downloaded about 30 tracks from Stanford on iTunes
since the public launch last October. A lecture called “Trials and
Truth” from a series entitled “Classes Without Quizzes” originally
piqued Beardsley’s interest. He’s also downloaded lectures about global
warming, why baseballs have stitches and correlations between how
baboons and humans live.

Stanford has big plans for adding new content
going forward. One example is recordings of sports events, says
Pearson. November’s Stanford versus Berkeley football game, known on
campus as “The Big Game,” is already videotaped and mailed to alumni
clubs overseas. The plan is to use iTunes new video capabilities so
folks will be able to watch the game without waiting for the package to
come in the mail, says Pearson.

Walking tours of the campus might also be in
Stanford on iTunes’ future, she says. The public could “tour”
Stanford’s campus or art collection from home. Or, a visitor to campus
could bring an iPod or MP3 player, or borrow one from the school, and
set out on a guided audio tour.

It’s catching on. Over 130,000 tracks were
downloaded from the site in the first two weeks, says Stocker. Through
the end of the fall semester in December, on average, more than 15,000
tracks were downloaded per week.

More here.