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Apple to update iTunes U on iPad with student class discussions, teacher course creation & management

Apple on Monday revealed that it will bring a major new update to its education-focused iTunes U app for iPad starting July 8, offering class discussions for students, and giving teachers the ability to create, edit and manage entire courses.

"Education is at the core of Apple's DNA and iTunes U is an incredibly valuable resource for teachers and students," said Eddy Cue, Apple's senior vice president of Internet Software and Services. "iTunes U features an amazing selection of academic materials for everyone around the world. Now, with the ability to better manage and discuss educational content, learning becomes even more personalized on iPad."

The new features will come in the form of in-app updates to the iTunes U app for iPad. With the new course creation capabilities, teachers will be able to add rich content and learning materials from iWork, iBooks Author, or any of the more than 75,000 educational apps available for iPad.

The new feature utilizes the built-in camera for iPad, giving teachers the ability to capture photos and videos. This real-world subject matter can be inserted into any course.

"iTunes U is the most powerful destination for bringing the entire educational experience to life on iPad," said Fraser Speirs, head of computing and IT at Cedars School of Excellence in Scotland. "By freeing teachers to create and organize courses right on iPad, educators can be better focused on enabling student participation both with the content and one another."

On the student side, private iTunes U courses will give them the ability to collaborate with their classmates and teachers on iPad. The new Discussions feature will allow students to follow classroom discussion and join conversations on new topics.

Students can enable push notifications to be prompted when new topics are started or replies are added to active exchanges. And teachers can also participate in these forums, and can moderate discussions by removing off-topic messages or replies.

"Discussions in iTunes U puts the potential for thoughtful exploration and collaboration into the hands of every one of our students," said Larry Reiff, a teacher from Roslyn High School in New York. "iPad and iTunes U continue to provide students with the tools they need to build knowledge and demonstrate their learning."