Apple has just released a big update to iTunes U, which in the process will probably cannibalize similar well established educational classroom management services from Showbie and Edmodo. Apps like these allow communication, feedback and setting and receiving of class assignments.
For the uninitiated, iTunes U is a repository of free educational courses from certified institutions around the world. Previously it had been a rather one way affair, with institutes able to put lectures and class materials for students to consume. The attraction for teachers is that it is a hugely simple process to create a cool looking, accessible course for all the world to see. The new update makes iTunes U more of a proper classroom in that you can now set an assignment as a teacher and you can get your students to do it on their iPad. The best bit is they can turn it in using iTunes U, and you can seamlessly send a grade and a comment back to them, all saved in your and their iTunes U.
Much like Apple has recently done with Flipboard when they announced the new News app at WWDC, there are other services which do a similar thing which teachers presently use to augment their work with iTunes U. Now iTunes U has these features too, this will cause a problem for Showbie and Edmodo which have very polished services of their own, but may not be able to compete in the face of Apple’s now seamless offering.
I really like this new update for iTunes U and I will certainly be using it with my students in the new term. This also follows a fairly typical model for Apple, in that they come late to the party but when they arrive, they do it in style.
If you’ve never used iTunes U, give it a go. I’m about to use it to learn have to code in Swift and there are thousands of free courses to make us all lifelong learners. You can download the iTunes U app for free from the App Store here, and here is an example of some of the things my school are currently doing with it.