When reporting on Apple’s entry into the educational space, most commentators lingered fondly over iBook and capabilities offered by iAuthor. However, the new iTunesU App may be the real game changer in how institutions offer and students interact with course content.
It’s easy to understand why the new iTunesU App played third fiddle to the other initiatives. A mostly bypassed button on iTunes, iTunesU offered free-to-watch lectures and audio podcasts. In Apple’s iPad-centered view of education, the capabilities of the iTunesU App for content delivery and interaction could render technologies such as the Learning Management System, obsolete.
Here are some of the reasons why:
1) Ease of Use: Quite simply, materials offered in iTunesU look like the typical course binder where learners can view course information, posts, notes, and materials. The only “electronic” thing about this is that it’s offered on an iPad. This is a far cry from current electronic delivery methods that require elaborate help mechanisms and student orientations.
2) Single Point of Access: From the iTunesU course binder, learners can download all course materials whether they’re videos, apps, or books from iBooks. This also includes lecture, notes, study sheets and PDF’s that can be attached to the syllabus. Moreover, instructors can create materials in iAuthor and make them available in their iTunesU course binder. iTunesU is not only the glue that holds iBooks and iTunes together, but it’s the mechanism that could weave these applications into the very fabric of education.
3) Interaction: We’ve already seen how iTunesU allows the instructor to gather materials in one and offer them, possibility even free of charge, to students. What hasn’t been apparent is how the applications offers students the same capabilities. Learners can synch their notes and course information between devices, all kept in their iTunesU account. In addition to taking notes on the material, iTunesU offers students a checkbox for each course section, allowing them to track their progress.
Although there are many questions still to be answered, iTunesU holds enormous promise for the delivery of content. Not only does it promise to be the venue for integrating low-cost textbooks in the lives of students, it offers instructors the means to tap the endless customization promised by iAuthor. Anyone who has witnessed a learner pay over 90 dollars for a textbook and than another fee on top of that for access to electronic materials knows that textbook cost is an issue. Anyone who has seen instructors pour hours into revamping a course when publishers release new editions or ask students to buy several textbooks, only to read a chapter from each one, can see problems in these practices as well. It could be, with iTunesU, that the revolution is finally at our door.