Apple unveils interactive textbooks, revamped iTunes U

Giving authors an easy way to publish content, Rankin said, will usurp the traditional view of peer review in education.

“This is really a revolutionary change in publishing and information,” he said. “The benefit of crowdsourcing … outweighs dramatically the elitism that used to dominate peer review. This breaks down the hierarchies and barriers to real learning.”

Apple also showed off its newest version of iTunes U, an online library that college students have used to download 700 million videos and other educational material over the past four years.

The newest iteration of iTunes U will bring a host of functionality to the app available in the Apple Apps Store. Students will be able to take entire online courses through iTunes U–everything from watching recorded lectures, to submitting assignments, to rating faculty members. Syllabi and faculty member profiles are also available on the iTunes U app.

The app even allows students to sign up for courses.

Homework assigned by professors using the iTunes U app are sent to a student’s iPad immediately. The student will be notified of the assignment, tap it on the iPad screen, and be transferred to the day’s assignment. Students can place a check mark next to every finished assignment in the iTunes U queue.

Higher education’s early iTune U adopters are Duke, Yale, The Open University, Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC), and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

“Never before have educators been able to offer full courses in such an innovative way, allowing anyone who’s interested in a particular topic to learn from anywhere in the world,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of internet software and services. “Not just the classroom.”

Schiller said Apple would add to its new iTunes U and iBooks 2 offerings, although details on when that might happen were scarce.

“There is a lot that’s talked about that might be wrong in education, and no one person or company can fix it all,” he said.