What's New in iTunes U 2.0

Today, Apple announced iTunes U 2.0. There are two major new features in this release of the app and I wanted to give you a run-down. In addition, my colleague Andrew Jewell sat in for Bradley on the Out of School podcast this week and joined me in a discussion of the new app.

Course Manager for iOS

The first major feature is that all the capabilities of iTunes U Course Manager on the web are now available inside the iTunes U app on iOS. I've wanted this since, oh, thirty seconds after I saw iTunes U 1.0 back in 2010, so it's great to have it.

In addition to writing and posting posts, the first new capability is that you can access your Camera Roll and upload photos and videos directly to your course. This is a huge win, given all the great content creation tools on iOS.

Not so long ago, Andrew and I were doing some iTunes U training with teachers in a local school. We showed them a few content creation tools, such as Explain Everything and it was all going swimmingly until we got to the bit where they had to upload these instructional videos to iTunes U. It was all easy import and export to the Camera Roll on iOS ... and then an amazingly convoluted step involving USB cables, Image Capture and Safari on the Mac. It was actually harder to upload the videos through the Mac than it was to create it on the iPad in the first place.

With iTunes U 2.0, those teachers would be able to just grab the video and upload it directly to their course in iTunes U.

The second thing you can do with uploading is to take files that you've created in various apps on iOS and use "Open In..." to upload them to your course. This is similar to the technique used to upload files to Google Drive, Dropbox or Showbie. Another huge timesaver for teachers.

The final improvement to Course Manager is the addition of "cross-store search". Simply put, this allows a teacher to search for a term and find all content relating to that term across all of Apple's store fronts: the App Store, iTunes Store, iBookstore and the iTunes U catalogue.

In short, you can create and edit all aspects of a course directly from your iPad now.

Class Discussions

The second major feature of iTunes U 2.0 is the ability to open up class discussions on any post in a course. The way I understand this works is that students can respond to any post in the course and the rest of the enrolled students and the teacher are notified of the discussion.

This isn't a submission and feedback channel. It's designed for discussion around the course posts that will be visible to all students.

I'm really looking forward to getting my hands on the new iTunes U when it ships on the 8th of July. These improvements - in particular, Course Manager on iOS - will make a huge difference to the way teachers work with iTunes U.