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 Sneak Peeks

Articulate Storyline Demos

When I get time I am still playing with the beta version of Storyline – the new standalone e-learning authoring tool from those wonderful people at Articulate. I can’t say a lot about the beta because as beta testers we had to agree not to disclose details but we are now able to use Storyline to work on real client projects. I’m not planning on doing that just yet but I thought I’d whet your appetite by pointing you towards a couple of demos that Tom Kuhlmann has shared on his Rapid e-Learning blog recently. You may already have seen them and thought – ‘I don’t recognise that Articulate player?’ Well the reason you don’t recognise it is it’s the ‘standard’ Storyline player. These demos don’t do very much but it gives a flavour of the sort of output you can get from Storyline. The last example shows a screen walkthrough – Storyline has a Screenr like tool built into it. This is going to be a cool new tool in 2012.

A Disaster Can Strike

Are you Prepared?

Screen Walkthrough


Articulate Storyline Pre-Beta

I have seen the new Articulate Storyline – or at least a pre-beta version of it. Don Freda gave us a demo via webinar at the Articulate UK Users conference at the University of Leeds. So what does Storyline do that Studio doesn’t? Well it didn’t feel like a full Studio replacement but that may be because of the limited demo that we saw. First of all Storyline is a standalone program – it doesn’t rely on PowerPoint as its base authoring environment. This is both both good and bad – good because no longer do we have to rely on piggy backing off another application, bad because does it effectively recreate all the functionality that we relied upon in PowerPoint? I couldn’t get any pictures sadly but here are the menus from Storyline:

Home, Insert, Slides, Design, Animations, View, Help, Character Tools (Design, Format)

So what does each of these menus do? Well I really don’t know (even after watching the demo) but my best guess is that they pretty much replicate a lot of the PowerPoint functionality in the same way that PowerPoint functions such as animations etc. were added to Quizmaker 09.

Most of Don’s demo focussed on the scenario building aspects of Storyline. Its ability to develop scenarios with different characters (using the Character Tools menus above) is really powerful. You can create libraries of different characters and then weave them into scenarios which use branching to take the learners on different routes through the content. So for example when you are presented with a scenario where two people are discussing a possible solution you can choose which solution you would go with and follow the ‘storyline’ from there. To make the scenario more believable you can even alter each character’s expression to suit the situation so Frankie can be happy, sad or even perplexed at the touch of a slider (well a drop-down actually). This capability is underpinned by things like ‘MouseOver’ or ‘Hover’ or ‘Click’ events just like in real app development. In this respect Storyline really does take hyperlinks and branching to a new level, and one which is way beyond what you can currently achieve easily with PowerPoint.

Don also touched on whether it would work with the iPad. The good news is that it will – there will be a new publish option to iOS (though there may be some features not fully supported). How this will work for the two current form factors (iPhone and iPad) remains to be seen. There won’t however be a publish to HTML5 option.

Regarding workflow it looks like Storyline will replace Studio as the core authoring environment and like Studio it will have the add Quizmaker or Engage buttons to drop in quizzes or learning interactions before finally publishing.

So where does that leave Studio? Well Studio, Quizmaker and Engage are all due an upgrade by the end of this year so it seems that Studio (effectively Presenter) will be positioned as the entry level authoring environment while Storyline will be used by more advanced users. This strategy seems sensible and it allows an organisation to buy a certain number of Studio licenses for low level users and a smaller number of Storyline licenses for more advanced e-learning designers. The pricing for Storyline is apparently going to be ‘similar’ to Presenter so I guess that means it can be bought standalone or with Quizmaker and/or Engagage for $xxx

Release date for Storyline is ‘this summer’. Will Studio users be able to upgrade to Storyline? Should we do so, or should we wait until the Studio upgrade later in the year? I don’t know the answer but it’s something I am definitely thinking about!

That’s about it. Time to start designing my new Storyline course!

I’ve requested to be included on the beta test programme so hopefully we will see more pretty shortly. Can’t wait!

Follow Storyline thread on Articulate e-Learning Heroes Forum:


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