Yesterday Apple released an update for its free iTunes U app that will allow any teacher to create private courses, even if their school or institution does not have a public iTunes U affiliation.
Teachers will be able to use the iTunes U Course Manager to build their own courses using a variety of materials, from PDF handouts to audio and video lectures, and content and links from the Internet, iBookstore, App Store and iTunes store. Teachers can give their students access to their courses by inviting them to request enrollment via a code or URL.
The private course tool is available for all teachers, although if their school or institution is not publicly affiliated with iTunes U they are limited to 12 courses and 50 students per course. As an added bonus, teachers will not have to submit these private courses and wait for verification by Apple. The normal verification process required for adding public courses and content to iTunes U is still in place.
Other updates in version 1.2 include an enhanced search function that encompasses all subscribed course materials and the ability for students to take time-stamped notes while listening to or watching a lecture that will sync across all their devices. As promised, Apple has also improved the social features by adding support for students to share favorite courses via Twitter, Mail or Messages.
The dedicated iTunes U app is the world’s largest catalog of free educational content and is available for all iOS devices running version 5.0 or later. It contains over 500,000 free lectures, videos, books and other resources and includes collections from educational institutions in 26 countries. It has taken off throughout the past 6 months with over 14 million downloads and as sales of the iPad in the educational market are continuing to increase, it is rapidly becoming a necessary app in many schools.