Apple Releases Free iTunesU App & Enhanced University Courses (Plus Textbooks)

Ana­lysts expect Apple to sell 48 mil­lion iPads this year, with new hard­ware and soft­ware dri­ving the sales. iPad3 is right around the cor­ner, and today Apple unveiled (watch here) a new ini­tia­tive that will bring text­books to the iPad/iPhone plat­form. Down­load the lat­est ver­sion of the iBooks app and you can now pur­chase text­books (typ­i­cal­ly for about $14.99) that fea­ture enhanced mate­ri­als such as 3‑D mod­els, search­able text, pho­to gal­leries and flash cards for study­ing. (To see it all in action, down­load a sec­tion of E.O Wilson’s Life on Earth text­book here.) And if you’re a teacher, Apple will pro­vide you soft­ware — iBooks Author — that will let you make your own inter­ac­tive text­books. Of course, all of this pre­sup­pos­es that stu­dents (or cash-starved schools) can swing the price of an iPad ($499 at min­i­mum) and that teach­ers want to oblige stu­dents to work with­in Apple’s closed ecosys­tem.

Then came anoth­er piece of news. Apple has released a new iTune­sU app that lets stu­dents access enhanced uni­ver­si­ty cours­es … for free. Once you down­load the app, you can select cours­es that com­bine audio/video lec­tures with sup­port­ing mate­ri­als: books and arti­cles (some­times free, some­times not), tran­scripts of lec­tures, exer­cis­es, slideshows, use­ful soft­ware and beyond. Some cours­es pre­loaded in the free app include:

Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion — Joanne Free­man, Yale
Colo­nial and Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Amer­i­ca – Jack Rakove, Stan­ford
Core Con­cepts in Chem­istry —  Stephen L. Craig, Duke
iPad and iPhone App Devel­op­ment — Paul Hegar­ty, Stan­ford

These cours­es now appear in our col­lec­tion of 400 Free Online Cours­es, which aggre­gates free cours­es avail­able on iTunes, YouTube, and the web.

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Comments (5)
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  • I’m a uni­ver­si­ty pro­fes­sor who also cre­ates online mate­r­i­al for my stu­dents and for com­mer­cial pub­lish­ing firms. Right now, the only moti­va­tion for a uni­ver­si­ty author to use ibooks author to enhance text is if Apple pays to have it done or if the the author is in a posi­tion to require his or her own stu­dents to pur­chase a par­tic­u­lar text — which hap­pens to be authored by the pro­fes­sor. It’s not open for all users.

    Nei­ther of those sit­u­a­tions is in the best inter­ests of the stu­dent and I can­not in good con­science ask my stu­dents to pay even more (to require an iPad) than they already are forced to pay. I require pur­chase of an online sup­ple­ment to text­books and that they own a click­er to use in my class. All this while a new text­book can run $175 in the cam­pus book­store.

    It’s far too ear­ly to know that iPad is the default choice of stu­dents for read­ing. In fact, I see more stu­dents read­ing with a non­il­lu­mi­nat­ed source like Kin­dle.

    Apple seems to come out ok in most of what they do but this seems like a bad move. I hope it does­n’t push stu­dents into a sit­u­a­tion where they have to pay even more.

  • Jarod Morrison says:

    A col­lege stu­dent can eas­i­ly drop $500 on books in a semes­ter. As a stu­dent fac­ing at least 8 semes­ters of buy­ing books, I’d be more than will­ing to buy an iPad my first year if I knew that my books would nev­er cost me more than $15 each.

  • claudia says:

    I love my I‑pad and it had replaced my lap­top in many things but, just out of curios­i­ty, I down­loaded the sec­tion of “Life on earth” you men­tioned in your post above and it “ate” 2GB, I mean 2GB of my total space!And this was just a secion of 1 book!
    If Apple plans to pro­mote this inter­ac­tive books they will have to come up with I‑pad devices hav­ing huge stor­age space and what will be the price con­sid­er­ing even the 16GB ver­sion at the moment is more ecpen­sive than many lap­tops on the mar­ket!
    I don’t see it com­ing very soon.


  • Matthew Barnes says:

    I sup­pose most majors may ben­e­fit from this. But for me, in my 4 years of col­lege, I’m pos­i­tive that I’ve spent less than $500 on text­books and that’s because I pri­mar­i­ly went to libraries for the required read­ing and if the text was­n’t avail­able at the library, I’d bud­dy up with a friend and we’d split the cost.

    Now for art sup­plies, I’m sure I’ve spent at least a grande!

  • We are con­sid­er­ing using iTunes U as a plat­form to sup­port our stu­dents. I have been try­ing to find out what Apple charges the insti­tu­tion to put con­tent in iTunes Uni­ver­si­ty. I see that it is free to the users. Is the same true for edu­ca­tion­al insti­tu­tions, or can I just not find the page with the pric­ing?


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