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Four Initial Answers from Apple’s Education Announcement

This article was originally posted on e-Literate

In a recent post I offered four key questions for the Apple Education Announcement held today (Jan 19th). Now that the event is over and the blogosphere is responding, I thought it would be useful to answer those four questions. Once I’ve had time to digest all the information coming out, I’ll post more of an analysis.

1. Regarding textbook content, will the model follow iTunes, iBooks, or Amazon’s Kindle Self-Publishing?

The answer to this question is that we have a new hybrid model that attempts to takes elements from all three models mentioned in the question, at least for the K-12 market that was the focus of initial efforts.

  • Like iTunes, it places an affordable maximum price of $14.99.
  • Like iBooks, it allows the content creator to set its price (although within the $0.00 to $14.99 range).
  • Like Amazon’s Kindle Self-Publishing, it democratizes textbook creation and distribution, providing an attractive path that could avoid traditional textbook publishers.

UPDATE: From a new post at TheNextWeb, there is a very important paragraph that indicates the publisher partnerships are tenuous.

McGraw-Hill CEO Terry McGraw told Peter Kafka of All Things D that the $15 mark was ‘pilot pricing’, which would indicate that it hoped to raise the price at some point. Apple’s Eddy Cue had a completely different take on it, telling Kafka that “This isn’t pilot pricing, all of our books will be $14.99.”

2. Will iTunesU support OER content without artificial restrictions?

Although there are still some open questions, Apple appeared to sidestep the whole OER movement. However, the answer to this question is no – all content is targeted for the iPad, and iBooks does have digital rights management (DRM) applied to all content.

The caveat here is the new iTunesU app that could allow authors to embed free OER content. That is tied to the iPad device, but it avoids DRM restrictions.

3. Will the content consumption model be explicitly tied to the iPad?

A simple, understated answer here – YES, YES and YES. The iPad is the whole centerpiece of Apple’s updated education strategy. iBook Author, iBooks, and iTunesU app are all based on iPad consumption. iBook Author runs on a Mac, but the output is only for iPad.

4. Will Apple transform iTunesU to go beyond content distribution and expand the learning platform?

The clear answer here is yes. After a mere 6 years, Apple’s strategists have finally caught up to Michael Feldstein’s vision and made iTunesU (or at least the new iPad iTunesU app) a learning platform. Apple added a syllabus tool, note taking, assignments and other tools to “help teachers reinvent curriculum”. The caveat is that all students would need to be on the iPad.

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