New iTunes U update has useful tool for educators

iTunes U’s update includes an iPad course creator—but will prove useful?

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There are over 500,000 free lectures, videos and other resources available on iTunes U, which was created in 2007 as a section of the iTunes store dedicated to providing users with educational content.  Over 155 countries have access to iTunes U’s repertoire of material, made easier by Apple’s most recent update.

Apple announced on June 30 that they have enhanced the iTunes U experience for iPad users. For example, educators are now able to create and edit their own iTunes U courses directly on their iPads for the first time. They can incorporate pictures and video captured from their iPad’s camera and also add their work from other apps such as iWork or iBooks Author to their iTunes U courses.

“This is about selling more iPads to schools by making time-strapped teachers’ lives easier,” wrote Natasha Lomas.

“We’re on the go people now,” said Anne Beck, an instructional technology specialists for Clinton Public schools in Oklahoma. iTunes U’s update makes it easier and quicker for teachers to create and edit content, she added.

(Next page: A tool for every educator?)

Prior to the update, teachers had to create courses and organize material through a computer web browser. Beck said she didn’t use iTunes U to create content because of how time-consuming it would be to transition material from her multiple devices.

But will the transition to iPad be an easy one? What about teachers who are not proficient in iPad usage? What will the learning curve be like?

Fortunately, learning how to produce courses on iTunes U has been simplified by users like Ohio State University who have created course creation guides for educators.

Beck said the step-by-step approach that iTunes U uses makes it very easy to use the iPad to create content, even if an educator is not that experienced. She added that she thinks iTunes U will be easier for teachers to use than learning management systems like My Big Campus or Edmodo.

The update also betters the iTunes U experience for students, who can now have discussions and ask questions directly from their iPads.

“By freeing teachers to create and organize courses right on iPad, educators can be better focused on enabling student participation both with the content and one another,” said Fraser Speirs, head of computing and IT at Cedars School of Excellence in Scotland.

Apple currently has 94 percent of the tablet market share in schools in the U.S., with 10 million iPads used by schools around the world.

Schools in Beck’s district have a 1:1 iPad program, meaning that each student and teacher have an iPad to use throughout the school year.

But what about the schools that have not enacted such programs? Beck said that she believes any school can find the funds to use mobile devices in the classroom by shifting around the budget or applying for grants.

ITunes U’s enhancement to the iPad user experience is still very new. Only time will tell if the company’s update will be successful in further boosting the tablet’s popularity in the education scene.

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