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January 20, 2012 / Cameron Campbell

iBooks Textbooks: a publication ghetto? New iTunes U: a stealth LMS?

NB: these are very very rough, initial thoughts, not totally fleshed out, but I wanted to get them out there while I’m thinking on it. Credit where it’s due, Christine Daviault (my lovely wife) pointed out the ghetto problem. Before you accuse me of something, breathe and realise this is written on an Apple machine, by a guy who works in higher ed, who’s just thinking aloud.

First, some context…

Right so Apple’s education announcement happened in the very early hours of this AM (afternoon in PST I guess). You can watch a video and read a bit about it from Apple here. Before the announcement there was a really interesting read on Cult of the Mac about how this is the opening salvo of Apple’s war on Amazon. You can read it here. There are already a lot of comments on the technical at various places: Loop Insight has coverage of the event that highlights the main features of the announcement, another good roundup can be found at engadget.

I haven’t had a chance to play with any of the new tools yet, I’ll get to that next week, but here’s my thought: Let’s accept for a second that the goal of this is to, at least partially, cut out the various middlemen (publishing firms and other distributors). We then are left with the idea of authors or independent publishing companies/project groups (I’m thinking of a faculty member partnering with a designer/design group at their university) producing books. So far, all good (though, as Harold Jarche said on twitter: “like I said, it takes a monopoly (Apple) to defeat the academic publishing oligopoly – both ways, the public loses”) but here’s the problem: the advancement/tenure process. If I self-publish a text book, which might make me more money, and will definitely give me more control over it’s contents (if not the distribution stream), will I get the same amount of credit towards my publication points as I would if it were published with a textbook publisher?

My guess is no. And my guess is that it might take at least three years (this is academia after all) before institutions change this sort of attitude. Thoughts?

UPDATE (that was fast eh?): then there is this on the EULA for the iBooks authoring tool

Stealth LMS?

If you go Engadget’s closer look at the new iTunes U, you’ll come across this:

As an example of this new remote method of learning, the company demoed a Chemistry course at its event, showing an overview, syllabus, credits and even the professor’s office hours. Tabs are placed along the right side of page with options for Info, Posts, Notes and Materials, allowing teachers to send updates direct to the app and students the ability to jot down important highlights. Wondering about integration? A simple tap on these pushed assignments will transport students direct to iBooks, where their specific coursework lies in wait and, once completed, can be crossed off on the provided task list.

The app can even be used for course registration, eliminating the frenzied rush typically associated with such events. It’s all available to download on the App Store right now at no cost in 123 countries. So, if you’re on Apple’s participating list of schools and you’re rocking an iPad, go ahead and get to virtually cracking those books.

To me, that sounds very much like a LMS lite, there’s no mention of assessment tools – or at least no details of them yet – though this doesn’t mean they aren’t there or aren’t coming. In some ways this announcement may well be the more important of the lot, but it seems to have escaped a lot of people’s notice.

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