Apple tries to patent tech behind iTunes U

The company's application describes the technology behind iTunes U, the fast-growing educational tool which is called "Virtual University" in the patent filing.

Don Reisinger
Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.

The technology behind Apple's iTunes U, a repository of educational information for students and teachers, has been outed by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

According to Patently Apple, which first to discover the patent application on Thursday, Apple filed for a patent on the technology that powers iTunes U. Interestingly, the technology in the patent application is called Virtual University, but Apple ostensibly decided it wasn't the right name for its service.

So, what does Apple's application describe? The application describes a method by which instruction information is displayed within a graphical user interface. The technology also includes how students can use iTunes U for in-session or self-paced courses, and how users can sift through available courses and document information.

Apple's iTunes U has been growing in leaps and bounds. Apple in February announced that it now has more than 2,500 public and thousands of private courses from over 1,200 universities and colleges, and 1,200 K-12 schools and districts. It also hit 1 billion downloads.

Apple's iTunes U application was filed on October 14, 2011. However, the service was actually announced on May 30, 2007.