Apple launches new iTunes U

Apple announced two very interesting new developments today for those involved in online learning.

iBooks2

eBooks get multimedia and interactivity embedded in the pages. This is an interesting development considering I have just been blogging about ‘learning from reading’ and ‘learning from watching video‘. iBooks2 even allows notetaking which pleases me immensely since I just blogged about the value of notetaking last month for 24Tips.

The new textbooks offer a host of functions which experts say will transform teaching – including images that turn into slideshows, links from the body text into glossaries, and multiple choice tests which are instantly assessed. Students will be able to create notes by highlighting text with their fingers, and then review all of their notes in one place – instantly creating a tailormade set of study cards. Guardian Online

Learn More: Review on Engadget

iTunes U

The most significant development though for e-learning is iTunes U. Apparently iTunes U has been around for some time but this new app provides a really cool interface for online learning. One of my favourite sayings was ‘If only Apple built an LMS.’ Well now it appears that they have. For me LMS’ have often been about the ‘MS’ not the ‘L’. Primarily they have been designed to enable L&D to manage learners and content as efficiently as possible. Well Apple’s approach has firmly placed the ball in the learner’s court.

If only Apple built an LMS. John Curran

iTunes U works in a similar way to other stuff on iTunes (music, video, apps). You browse the catalog, click to install, enter your password and bingo it downloads to your iOS device.

Currently all courses on iTunes U are free – most of it is provided by leading universities (see list of links at the end of this post). I guess this is Apple moving into the potentially lucrative education space by initially supporting Open Courseware, while the universities are experimenting with the freemium model. Or maybe I am too cynical and it’s all a genuine attempt to make the world a better place. I have only had a brief look at a couple of courses but they are quite comprehensive and clearly would have needed a reasonable amount of investment on the part of the universities. Other ‘courses’ however, such as some of those from Oxford University seem little more than a list of audio files – but it’s likely that this is legacy content from the initial version of iTunes U.

One key downside is that courses are asynchrounous – they are designed primarily for self-study. iTunes U appears to lack the ‘social learning’ activities that are becoming so popular in new LMS’. More significantly the content authoring platform is available to educational institutions ONLY. As a learning designer working in the non-education space I don’t appear to have any way of building programmes in iTunes U. That feels a lot like discrimination. Why not make the service open to all – surely a suitable business model could be identified?

One request please Apple – can we lose the iTunes when we’re not actually selling tunes? What about iOSU?

Here’s a very quick tour of an Open University course in iTunes U:

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