YouTube began testing a new feature that lets users download videos posted to the site from partner institutions — including colleges — rather than just watching the videos in a streaming format. That means people can grab lectures from Duke and Stanford Universities and several institutions in the University of California system to watch any time, with or without an Internet connection.
YouTube partners have the option of charging users for such downloads, but all the universities have offered to make their lecture videos free instead, using Creative Commons licenses that restrict usage to non-commercial purposes and prohibit derivative work.
Some universities already allow users to download lectures through campus Web sites or through Apple’s iTunesU using Creative Commons licenses. But Obadiah Greenberg, a strategic-partner manager at YouTube, said in an interview this week that the site’s new feature would allow an even larger audience to take advantage of such content.
Scott Stocker, director of Web communications for Stanford, said the university had made audio and video content available for download through Apple’s iTunesU since 2007. But Mr. Stocker said that iTunesU and YouTube attract different audiences: Users of iTunesU generally search out content to download to their devices, while YouTube users stumble upon content through videos embedded on blogs or links shared among friends.
Mr. Stocker said Stanford had no plans to charge money for its video downloads, since the university sees giving away lectures as part of its educational mission.
Other YouTube partners participating in the test include a weekly Web show hosted by Dan Brown of Lincoln, Neb., and Khan Academy, a non-profit organization that offers video lectures on subjects like physics and finance for 99 cents per download. —David Shieh