Sunday, October 31, 2010

I've started sampling some of the ePub eBooks available via iTunes U. One of the technically more interesting ones so far is "The Restless Universe" from The Open University. What caught my eye in this textbook was the implementation of a simple interactive Q&A which uses a hyperlink to show the answer, presumably after the learner has written down what they think the answer is, workbook style. Many would consider this to be essential for eTextbooks.

The following screen shot illustrates this feature:

I believe that this is easily implemented in the Pages application (part of Apple's iWork suite of applications c. $77 education price) and will attempt to test that in the coming days.

Here are three iTunes U sites that were ready with ePubs at launch:

Connexions - Open Textbooks
The Open University - OpenLearn Course Material
- Oxford -
Shakespeare's First Folio

What is currently supported:

For content providers:
˜ Uploading ePub files to a hosted iTunes U site
˜ Adding ePub via RSS to a feed-based iTunes U site

NOTE: The latter option is the most commonly used method in the University System of Georgia. Content is uploaded to the USG Podcasting Server which generates an RSS feed that can be used to populate a collection (aka course or channel) in iTunes U. This method enables faculty to disseminate content in other venues.

Here is an
examples page showing the various options for sharing an entire channel or a single episode (aka lecture, lesson or item).

For end-users:
˜ Downloading ePub files from iTunes U to an iTunes client on Mac and PC
˜ Syncing downloaded ePub files from iTunes to iBooks on an iPod touch, iPhone, or iPad
˜ Downloading ePub files, over the air, from iTunes U to iBooks on an iPad

Coming soon:
˜ Downloading ePub files, over the air, from iTunes U to iBooks on an iPod touch or iPhone (this will come later with iOS 4.2)

Friday, October 29, 2010

On October 29, 2010, iTunes U administrators received the message shown in the screen shot below. It announces the fact that ePub-based eBooks may now be included in iTunes U collections (aka courses or channels) and items (aka lessons or episodes).

This is a very significant development as I argued back in April 2010 that it would be. Support for ePub in iTunes U provides faculty with an excellent vehicle for disseminating instructional materials in the form of ePub documents. These can range in size from 300-400 page textbooks to much smaller documents such as handouts or even syllabi.

We should also expect to see an upsurge in interest in applications that facilitate the creation of ePub documents and there are already many options to choose from. Apple's pages application added support for ePub as reported here back in August 2010. Pages and the iWork suite of which it is a part will undoubtedly become must have software.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

My presentation was very well received and we were able to capture both the slides and presenter audio/video to produce this 54 minute screencast. I hope that you find it interesting and useful. One of three versions will be auto-selected for you depending upon the device that you are using (computer or mobile device with a good web browser and MPEG-4 video capability). The desktop computer version is quite large (1.13 GB) so may take a while to load enough data to play without interruption to the end if your bandwidth is limited.

This is also a good example of screencasting using the terrific ScreenFlow application from Telestream. The slideshow was captured on the presenter's MacOS X 10.6.x MacBook Pro laptop and the presenter audio and video were captured by a Canon DV cam and wireless mic (thanks to Blake Bridges of the
Georgia Digital Innovation Group).