Today, Apple has announced some updates coming for iTunes U with new features that look to make the iPad experience better for students and educators. Starting in just over a week, the company will roll out iPad optimized course creation tools as well a new Discussions feature.
As Apple points out in the release announcement, the update will mark the first time teachers will be able to create entire courses directly on the iPad. Educators will be able to import assets from Apple's iWork and iBooks Author as well as the over 75,000 educational apps made for iPad on the App Store. There will be full camera support added as well, allowing teachers to incorporate photos and video to enrich the course material.
The new Discussions feature is essentially like a chat and message forum for students enrolled in private iTunes U courses. Designed to further engage students with their classmates, course material, and teachers, Discussions allows student to follow classroom topics, start new ones and join conversations, as well as set-up various types of notifications. Teachers will be able to moderate the forum in order to keep things on topic and appropriate, according to Apple.
iTunes U contains over "750,000 individual learning materials" as "the world’s largest online catalog of free educational content," according to Apple. It will remain a free download when the new update rolls out on July 8.