Previously, iTunes U was just educational content in iTunes that you could download. Now, its basically full course materials. We looked into a sample Chemistry course to get a feel. It all starts with an overview of the course, including the description, bio of the teacher, even a complete syllabus. This will help you know whether you want to commit to this course, but realistically that is just the beginning.
From there you can dig a little deeper. There's a Posts tab that contains assignments and information sent from the teacher. You get a checklist of assignments from various sources. Let's say the assignment is "Read Chapter 1" in some fancy new interactive textbook that's in the new iBooks
. Just tap the assignment and you'll be brought right there
to where you need to go. When you're through, you can hop back and tap the checkbox to mark it complete. Keeping tabs on your homework has never been easier, but sadly it's still on you to actually do it.
But of course while reading that chapter you'll have taken some notes and highlights that you'll want to collect together, and the iTunes U app helps you do that too. Any notes taken in materials related to the course will be pulled together, and from there you can aggregate them and create handy flipcards to learn your lessons.
Finally, iTunes U creates a complete list of all materials used in the course, whether they be iBooks, web links, PDFs, apps, media files in iTunes and so on and so forth. With a tap you're taken right there and, should you need to purchase something, you can do it with one tap -- no hopping from App Store to iTunes and back again. iTunes U has the potential to shake the world of online learning, not only because it's quite impressive but because it is quite free.
What happens next, though, is up to the schools and universities across the US. It's now open to K - 12 schools as well as higher level institutions, and we're eager to find out, once and for all, whether we really are smarter than a fifth grader.
Darren Murph contributed to this report.