Note: since publishing iTunes U has been updated and functionality has improved https://www.apple.com/support/itunes-u/ The iTunes U course catalogue is also worth exploring for great content.
One of the amazing things about the iPad in the school setting has been the sudden range of possibilities that have been opened up. One of these, which has great possibilities in the classroom, is iTunes U.
iTunes U is a way for teachers to create courses with a variety of content and resources. All of which can be delivered instantly to an any iPad after simply entering the required course code. The workspace is simple for teachers to work in. There isn’t a huge amount for teachers to grasp in order to start a course. The only prerequisites are a Mac or PC running Safari. On a PC this can easily be downloaded on the Web. Students will need to have the iTunes U app on their device (free to download). Tunes U courses can only be accessed on iPad, iPhone and iPad Touch devices.
Once students are enrolled they can access all of the resources that the teacher has provided. The teacher can add resources easily and students will automatically receive the resources in their iTunes U course. Students can open resources and move them easily into other applications so that they can be worked on.
The iTunes U workspace is also easily navigated and students can even keep notes on topics right there in the course.
A number of my colleagues are starting to create courses for their classes and realising that a paperless classroom is becoming a real possibility.
With iTunes U it is also possible to access free courses designed by other educators. All content in the public course area is fully checked by Apple before being made available. This of course means that students can learn independently on topics which are of interest to them.
Definitely worth a look.
One of the limitations of iTunes U is that the course remains locked to the creators iTunes account. This means that the course can’t be duplicated and adapted by another educator. This may also have implications if a school wants to own the course created and continue to use it even when a teacher has moved on.
It may be wise to produce class or school iTunes accounts if the school wants to retain ownership of courses created. This also would make it easier for more than one educator to access the school course account and edit a course.
iTunes U courses are limited to 50 students. If there are more requiring access then the course can be duplicated to accommodate more students. This duplication could also be useful if a teacher wanted to differentiate aspects of the course for different students.
Below: This is an example of a Professional Development course which a colleague has recently produced using iTunes U.