Apple’s Higher Ed Play

NEW YORK CITY — Apple officials today announced major new pushes in education, including 100 new free college courses prepared with colleges and universities, and suitable for viewing on an iPad.

The effort involves such leading institutions as Duke, Stanford and Yale Universities.

Phil Schiller, a senior vice president at Apple who is acting as emcee of the announcement, said that the iTunes U. courses would enable "anyone anywhere at any time to take courses for free."

The new courses are ready to go — and one is being taught at Duke University today. The project appears to be a challenge to entities like the Khan Academy, which has attracted considerable attention with its high quality, free offerings, although they are not linked to universities. No mention was made of whether credit would be awarded for these new courses.

In the new courses, instructors will combine audio, video (recorded or streaming), books, documents and more.

In addition, the new courses have features similar to learning management systems. Instructors can post messages and assignments for students, with automatic notification of students.

Apple officials also announced a plan to try to transform the textbook industry, starting with high school textbooks.

Apple unveiled iBooks 2 and iBook Author. The free tools are expected to allow greatly enhanced textbook flexibility. And while there had been some speculation that Apple was taking on publishers, the company announced partnerships on the project with such big-name publishers as Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Schiller said that the project would involve thousands of education apps for the iPad, and said that the project amounted to "reinventing the textbook."

He said that the company was concerned about the state of American education, and viewed iPad technology as having the potential to spur reforms. "We want it to accelerate and make it even easier to integrate the iPad into curriculum," he said. (Critics were quick to note that the new features would be available only on Apple technology products.)

He spoke here at a packed briefing in the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.


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