iBooks 2.0 is now in my 'bad books'

Yesterday I wrote about Apple’s two new releases that are significant for those of us working in online learning – iBooks2 and iTunes U2.

One of the issues for those of us in online learning, but in the non-education sector, is that iTunes U is aimed at educational institutions. True we can all consume the FREE content in iTunes U but ONLY educational institutions can use the course development platform (iTunes U Course Manager). This is a pity because it would provide a valuable alternative for those designing learning programmes in the non-education sector. I guess a ‘commercial’ version may feature somewhere on Apple’s secret roadmap but I think Apple also needs to recognise that ‘education’ is a business too and not get too carried away with its ‘free stuff for future Apple customers’ strategy.

More significantly there appears to be an even bigger spanner in the works when it comes to iBooks2. This product isn’t targeted just at the education market; though most of the posts on it over the last 24 hours have made a big play of interactive textbooks for students. Unlike iTunes U the authoring software for iBooks, iBooks Author, is available FREE to all (provided you use a Mac of course). The problem appears to be with the licence agreement. If you develop a book in iBooks Author the copyright of that book belongs to Apple! What’s more you can only sell an iBook through Apple – though you can give it away free on another platform (such as your own website).

Apple, in this EULA, is claiming a right not just to its software, but to its software’s output. It’s akin to Microsoft trying to restrict what people can do with Word documents, or Adobe declaring that if you use Photoshop to export a JPEG, you can’t freely sell it to Getty. Dan Wineman

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Apple launches new iTunes U

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


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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Articulate Storyline

Articulate StorylineI use Articulate Studio a lot in my e-learning projects. It’s a great tool and because it relies on PowerPoint as the primary authoring environment (Articulate Presenter is actually a PowerPoint add-on) it is ideal for trainers who are just getting into e-learning. This reliance on PowerPoint however has also caused some key problems – primarily because PowerPoint is a presentation tool not an e-learning development tool. It quite common to see e-learning that looks a lot like PowerPoint presentations with a voice over. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – Articualte Presenter was originally conceived as a presentation tool NOT an e-learning authoring tool (the name gives the game away). However as a learning designer I have always wanted to break out of the PowerPoint environment and be a little more creative with my e-learning projects.

For a while now there has been some speculation as to when the next version of Articulate Studio (the current version is Studio 09) might appear and what additional features it may contain. More recently there has been speculation that it might abandon Flash altogether and take the HTML5 route. Well it appears that the mist is clearing and we will see in 2011 TWO new products from Articulate:

A new product called Articulate Storyline which will be aimed at intermediate e-learning designers. This will be a standalone installed desktop application (like Quizmaker) and will publish to both Flash and HTML5 (primarily to keep us iPad owners happy). It will have a lot more creative control over learning interaction and also the player design. Release is due in Summer 2011.

Articulate Studio will remain but will be upgraded with new functionality. It seems that this will still be the first choice for those just getting started in e-learning. Release is not until the end of 2011.

And Quizmaker – well I assume that as a standalone product it will also get an upgrade and either be bundled with Storyline OR with Studio.

This seems like a good strategy. We need a tool with the ease of use of Articulate Studio that can break free of the constraints of being a PowerPoint add-on BUT of course learning this tool is going to a challenge to those who have never developed any e-learning (or indeed any form of on-screen multimedia) before. Hopefully moving from Studio to Storyline will be reasonably straightforward so once Studio has been mastered there is a clear next step.

The only downside? The extra cost of buying and managing two products in an organisation. But if they let us do more then that investment will be repaid quite quickly (one good client project might just do it)!

There is limited information about the new products on the Articulate web site but there is a discussion thread here:



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