Course Packs, iPads and eReaders

On January 19th, Apple Inc. released some new products that may affect higher education. While Apple's new products are geared towards textbook sales (and for the moment focused on grades 9-12), they have also given us simple new tools for self-publishing "e-books". One of the first things that springs to mind is the ease of creating digital course packs using the new software, "iBooks Author". 

For people using Macintosh computers, the free iBooks Author software allows you to quickly drag and drop files into a compiled text complete with index, glossary, supplemental video or audio material, and even interactive quizzes. Files can include Word documents, text documents, web pages, or presentations. There are some limitations - PDF files cannot be included (you need to start with the original source file), and Powerpoint presentations must be first opened in Apple's Keynote software before they can be included. The resulting file can then be distributed to students for use on their iPads.  It should also be noted that the non-technical restrictions of copyright still apply, as they do to any course pack whether e-book, web-based, or paper.

This is more limited than what can be included on a course web site in Sakai, eCollege or Blackboard, but the real benefits are elsewhere. Reading can be difficult on the web, but it's effortless on the iPad (or Kindle, Nook, Sony eReader, etc.). Students don't need to be connected to the internet. The reading software provides methods to take (and share) notes. And, quite literally, instructors can start compiling their course packs in as few as five minutes. It's dead simple - if you can use a word processor you can do this. 

The only real problem is that the files created by iBooks Author are restricted to distribution on the Apple iPad. For use on Kindles, Nooks and other tablets or ebook devices, faculty would have to use other software to prepare compatible files. There are two free choices to note, Calibre and Sigil.  Calibre is the simpler of the two (it merely converts other files into e-book formats), but neither has the ease or sophistication of Apple's iBook Author. Still, it should be fairly simple to use Calibre to put together a simplified version of the course pack while building the primary version of the course pack in iBooks Author (the "epub" files that Calibre and Sigil produce can also be used on an iPad, but with the loss of several useful features). And another option for Macintosh users is Apple "Pages" which can also save in "epub" format while allowing direct import into iBook Author, so may provide the best workflow. 

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Joseph Delaney published on January 20, 2012 11:36 AM.

Jan 27: ScarletApps - Google Apps for Education was the previous entry in this blog.

Feb 5 (Sunday) - University Computing Systems Outage is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Monthly Archives


Powered by Movable Type 5.2.13