There’s surely little Apple loves more than seeing an iPad in the classroom. Being associated with education provides its own brand halo effect. Plus, the even bigger bonus is getting to expose young impressionable minds to your technology and platforms — when they are young and impressionable. As the Jesuits were fond of saying: “Give me the child, and I will mould the man.”
So no surprise that Apple is continuing to push its educational tools with a view to expanding the utility of iPads in the classroom. Today it’s announced updates to its iTunes U educational app that aim to make it easier for educators to create and manage course content directly on an iPad.
Teachers using the app now get full course creation capabilities on iPad, with the ability to directly pull in “rich content and learning materials” from iWork, iBooks Author or any of the 75,000+ educational apps available for iPad, says Apple
The app will also now allow teachers to easily incorporate their own photos and videos — taken with the iPad’s camera — into courses, so they can quickly loop in additional locally relevant classroom content. Top line: this is about selling more iPads to schools by making time-strapped teachers’ lives easier.
The update also extends how students can use their own iPads in educational settings — enabling them to start classroom discussions or ask questions directly from their tablet, using a feature called Discussions. This can also be used to automatically follow particular classroom conversations, join new topics and set up push notifications to keep on top of various threads.
The updated app also allows teachers to participate in forums and moderate discussions.
In a canned quote accompanying news of the update, Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services, summed it up as “learning becomes even more personalised on iPad”.
Apple launched its iTunes U app back in 2012 to make content from the iTunes U educational portal easily available across its mobile device portfolio. At the time it also expanded its tools for creating e-books and digital textbooks, to add more fuel to the iOS ecosystem educational fire.
Since then momentum has continued to build generally in the mobile education space, with plentiful startups also seeing big potential from mobilizing educational content — from the likes of Quipper, which also makes course management tools, to mobile learning startups like Gojimo. Interest from startups in this space partly explains why Apple can’t rest on its laurels.
But it’s not just startups — Amazon, for instance, has also been aggressively pursuing the educational market with initiatives via its Kindle Fire tablets. iPad may be the defacto educational standard but Amazons tablets are cheaper to buy — so the more educational software value Apple adds, the more it can fend off the threat from cheaper Android slates.
Earlier this year Apple expanded the reach of its iBooks Textbooks and iTunes U Course Manager products to new markets, reaching 51 and 70 markets respectively, as of January. It’s evidently stepped that up further since.
Today it notes that educators can create iTunes U courses in 69 countries, and can make their courses and educational content accessible in 155 countries via the iTunes U app. Apple also added that its free iBooks Author app (launched in January 2012) has now been used to create nearly 30,000 Multi-Touch books.