June 20, 2012


iTunes U has been great at replicating the sit-and-listen part of the college learning experience. It’s been less great, however, at replicating the thing that has traditionally made the university such a great learning environment: class discussion, the lively back-and-forth that can come from the seminar setting. And it’s been less great at that, of course, because it hasn’t tried to be any good: iTunes U has been a clearinghouse for college lectures, and that, so far, has been more than enough.

Until today, that is. Now available on the iTunes platform is a Stanford class, “App Development for the iPhone and iPad,” which allows, for the first time, interactive class discussions. The class — to date, the most popular among Stanford’s many iTunes U offerings — will employ the course discussion infrastructure of Piazza, which Stanford has already been using as an online supplement to its in-person discussions. Students in the class — which is still free to take — will get to interact with each other, asking questions and working through problems.

Where, I wonder, could this be leading?

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