Alongside the release of OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, Apple also updated iTunes U to allow teachers (and virtually anyone) to create courses for the iPad. More specifically, the courses that are created can be shared and viewed in the iTunes U iPad app.
Now it’s easier than ever to unleash the full potential of iPad in your classroom by creating your own courses for iPad. You get to share your ideas in a powerful new way, and your students get a rich, immersive learning experience using the iTunes U app for iPad. iTunes U is available no matter where you teach — at any college, university, or K-12 school.
It turns out that you actually don't have to be a teacher at all to create an iTunes U course. All you have to do is visit the iTunes U Course Manager page and create an account. However, the catch is that if your Apple ID is not associated with an educational institution, you cannot publish your course to iTunes U, but are given a link that you can share with whoever you want. When someone clicks on the link with their iPad, they will be taken to the iTunes U app and be granted access to your course. Apple ID's that are not associated with an educational institution are limited to creating no more than 12 courses and enrolling no more than 50 students per course.
This lower level of entry is awesome for teachers at schools that do not have an iTunes U account. For example, since the community college I teach at does not have an iTunes U account, I have never been able to create an iTunes U course to use alongside my courses. Now I can! Smaller K-12 schools may also not be interested in the hassle of creating an iTunes U account for their institution, but individual teachers can choose to use it anyway. This really was a smart move by Apple. Especially with the iPad mini's imminent release.
However, the biggest thing that iTunes U currently has going for it is its availability on the iPhone and iPad and the ability for anyone to be a "teacher". Personally, I will continue to use my own personal website to make content available to my students because of the restriction that my iTunes U courses must be viewed on an iPad. Availability on the iPad is awesome -- restricting to only the iPad? Not so much. (This is only the case for teachers who are not associated with an educational institution's iTunes U account). Now, my feelings may change if a large percentage of my students have iPads once the iPad mini is released, but with only 1 or 2 of my students owning iPads, iTunes U just isn't a practical choice for me.
From a student's perspective, if you're looking for a free online course that is not associated with an actual course you're enrolled in, there are similar services, like Udacity, that are much more robust and provide a better learning experience. I hope Apple is taking notes, because I'd love to see iTunes U reach a similar level.
In addition to the changes for teachers in iTunes U, the iTunes U iPhone and iPad app has also been updated for students.
iTunes U 1.2 now makes it easy to take notes while watching or listening to a lecture. This update also adds the ability to search within posts, assignments, notes, and materials — from any of your subscribed courses — using the improved Search feature in iTunes U. It is also now simple to share your favorite courses with friends using Twitter, Mail, and Messages.
So what do you think about these changes to iTunes U? Are you a teacher and planning to use iTunes U to supplement your class? I'd love to hear from students as well -- do you want your teachers to start using iTunes U? Have you ever taken an iTunes U course? What was it a good experience? Let us know!