iTunes U, the world's largest online catalog of free educational content, has topped one billion downloads, Apple announced today in a press release.

That seems to make sense: More than 1,200 universities and colleges, including Duke, Yale, Cambridge, MIT and Oxford host over 2,500 public and private courses, which cover everything from the arts to health and sciences, making it one of the largest—and most prestigious—homes for learning on the web. 

"It’s inspiring to see what educators and students of all types are doing with iTunes U,” says Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services. “With the incredible content offered on iTunes U, students can learn like never before―there are now iTunes U courses with more than 250,000 students enrolled in them, which is a phenomenal shift in the way we teach and learn.”

iTunes U launched in 2007. Most downloads (over 60%) occur outside the U.S., giving professors a rare opportunity to reach a new audience and gain notoriety outside their academic circles. 

[via Cult of Mac]