Apple is preparing a significant upgrade to its iTunes U educational catalog on Thursday to help teachers communicate with students, handle homework and incorporate educational apps into their course materials.
What started out in 2007 as a repository within iTunes for university video lectures has expanded into a suite of content and apps for students and teachers.
Over the past eight years, Apple has added new material to iTunes U and organized the content by grade level and subject, which is designed to make it easier for teachers to identify relevant content.
ITunes U has evolved into a teacher’s classroom companion. Instructors can use Apple’s technology to design courses for the iPad, selecting reading from digital textbooks, educational apps and videos culled from the Internet. There are some 15 million iPads in schools and more than 100,000 educational apps.
With this latest version of Apple’s educational software, students will be able to turn in homework from their tablets; these documents will carry a timestamp recording when the student submits term papers, book reports and other work. An integrated grade book will alert teachers when a student’s work is complete and ready for review, or if it’s time to send a reminder.
ITunes U also will allow teachers to import popular educational apps into the course materials, from Apple’s own software to third-party apps such as Explain Everything or Stop Motion Studio. New discussion features will open a new avenue of communication between teachers and students.
Apple has had a presence in the classroom for the last four decades, since the 1984 introduction of the original Macintosh computer. These updates to Apple’s iTunes U come at a time when other technology giants are making inroads in the classroom.
Google, for instance, offers Google Apps for Education, a free package of software, such as Gmail and Docs, for schools. The companion Classroom software lets teachers create and organize assignments. Meanwhile, inexpensive Chromebook laptops powered by Google’s software are gaining momentum. Online bookseller Amazon has long been a player in distributing digital textbooks. Last year, the Seattle company acquired TenMarks, a startup whose software helps math teachers tailor instruction to each student’s needs.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.