Can Apple Change Education With the New iTunes U?

The computer giant'slatest re-imagines how educators work in the classroom

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If there’s a company that can reinvent education I would put Apple at the top of the list. During the Apple Education event on January 19, 2012 in NYC, they launched the all-new iTunes U, iBooks Author and iBooks 2. In doing so they have created an engaging learning ecosystem that enables educators to create a real-time, interactive learning experience.

The new iTunes U store has expanded to include grades K-12 and community college courses to go along with the colleges and universities courses they already offer. There are free courses from some of the most prestigious higher education institutions in the world, including Duke, Harvard, Standard and Yale, among others. The updated iTunes U store already has over 100 courses on it already. Below are three more major upgrades:

iBooks Author Tool: Specifically designed for the higher education market, this custom-authoring tool gives instructors/authors the ability to create interactive textbooks. There’s also a free desktop version that can be downloaded. Not limited to people who are creating textbooks, the tool is open to anyone who wants to create a beautiful book with a multi-media experience.

iBooks 2: The updated app focuses on creating a digital bookstore for interactive textbooks. Apple is working with textbook manufacturers McGraw Hill, Pearson and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which produce 90% of the American textbook market. The reinvented eTextbooks integrates videos, 3D models and allows students to take in-line notes that can be saved to an Apple Cloud document while reading the textbook, creating a richer learning experience that utilizes the full capabilities of Apple iOS5 devices.

iTunes U App: This is an update to the iTunes store app that has been in existence, which launched with more than 500,000 free lectures.

Some of the Major New Features

  • Users can access full course material online: syllabus, office hours, notes, and posted assignments.
  • The new app allows you to read books and view presentations from a single app.
  • Users are allowed to leave feedback online for the courses.

Access requires an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch with iOS5 or later. If Apple is trying to change the entire education landscape, one of the downfalls of the iTunes U is that it cuts out Window and Android users. The harsh reality, though, is this is part of Apple’s business model. Like it or not, it has worked well for them and don’t be surprised if you continue to see universities and K-12 educational systems adopting the iPads and iPod Touches in the future.