A new iTunes U app has been revealed at the educational event hosted by Apple today in New York, where educational updates such as iBook 2 and an app for authoring digital books were also announced.
Over 1,000 universities already use iTunes U software. Six universities previously had access to the iTunes U update, having used it to create several hundred courses.
iTunes U is a free service, and available today in 123 countries. It is now also newly available for K-12 schools to sign up and use.
The new app allows free access to a number of complete, new online courses -- useful for both students and teachers.
The iTunes U app allows users to:
Click on a course when they are ready to begin;
Access full course materials including books, lecture notes, audio streams and video;
Quick access to multimedia that has been uploaded - a simple tap is required to stream uploaded lectures;
Access book shortcuts from iTunes U, and once you read the chapter, you can mark the assignment complete;
Mark courses when they are complete, as well as organize multimedia that is waiting for study and review.
Teachers are also able to use the app as a communication tool. The app includes a means in which they are able to post messages to all their students at any point. This could be used, for example, to remind a class when an assignment is due. Students in turn will receive a notification when they have new messages.
Considering the amount of controversy online communication between teachers and students is currently receiving, allowing this capacity in a controlled, formal space could set the debate finally to rest.
The new iTunes U app, in review, allows students to gain access to full courses with uploaded video, documents, apps, and books. Students are now able to share syllabus materials and assignments, and it will be fully integratable with the new iBooks 2 app, promoting further means to entice academic institutions and students to adopt the software.
The iTunes U update appears to be a new kind of university portal. Whether or not academic institutions will want to use this free service, instead of their own online systems where they maintain full control, remains to be seen.