Apple has updated iTunes U with a bunch of new features, cranking the version number up to 2 and introducing improved discussion features and the ability to create and update courses directly from the iPad app, which previously has been mostly a user-facing client for consuming content.
The update, live now in the App Store, gives the universal app new powers for students, letting them ask questions about the course, posts and assignments more easily in private courses, and allows other students to participate in discussions directly by asking follow-on or supplemental questions, or by answering questions posed by other students. Push notifications also now alert users about new questions and responses to discussions in process.
For teachers in particular, it’s a big update, since it now allows them to set up their iPads from their devices. They can provide course outlines, create assignments, put out class materials and track student progress right from the app, snap photos with the iPad’s camera, build materials in the iWork suite for iPad and then use the “Open in…” dialog to bring them into iTunes U. All of the material created for courses can be published to iTunes U right from the app, where they’ll be freely available to enrolled students.
Previously this was a desktop-only workflow, so this makes it easier for users to work on the go and get their classes up and running, or update them as the course progresses with new material. It’s a big step to making the iPad even more of an educational resource, not just as a content-consumption tool, but as something educators can turn to in order to run their courses, without the need for a traditional computer as a primary hub.