This was the question I found myself asking this weekend as I attempted to move my robust ENG 201: Writing About Literature course into the format. Compare iAuthor to any LMS feature list and the application fails, miserably. It doesn’t have a gradebook, discussion forum or chat; it isn’t designed to integrate with any SIS or offer any sort of Single Sign On capabilities. In fact, it doesn’t take long to realize that comparing iAuthor to any LMS on the market is like comparing apples to oranges — quite as frustrating and quite as futile.
Of course, iAuthor isn’t meant to be an LMS. It’s an alternative; not a competitor. iAuthor takes one aspect of putting a course online and does it extremely well. It manages content. This makes sense as that is what iAuthor is meant to do. Arguably, iAuthor puts content online better than any LMS out there.
There’s definitely a learning curve. After a short weekend investment, I had all of my pre-written content divided into sections and up in an iAuthor template. The table of contents was created automatically and the use of styles allowed me to change all of the formatting in a single swoop. This is also one of the main attributes of the template. Much more time would be required to make my course content unique and a true showcase, but the time I invested was a good enough start.
Here’s a quick snapshot of what the iAuthor interface looks like and what I was able to do in about five hours over the weekend:
In doing one thing, and doing it extraordinarily well, iAuthor exposes another chink in the armor of the traditional LMS. There are single products out there for almost every function of the LMS; they do it and do it better. This is one reason why some contend that the days of the LMS are numbered. iAuthor does a great job of presenting content, even more so because it allows for the seamless incorporation of Creative Commons and other open materials.
However, the reason why iAuthor’s powers of disruption are limited is that it is tied to the iPad. In order to invest the time it takes to learn the full capabilities of iAuthor, you had better be sure that your students have access to this technology. As far as academic use is concerned, the fate of one seems tied to the fate of the other. All we can do now, is to keep testing the viability of the iAuthor + iPad in the classroom to see if the utility of the two together is enough to overcome the cost.
In the coming months, we will be posting on one experiment of designing a course on iAuthor and using that course in the face to face classroom. Stay tuned… it’s going to be an exciting ride!