Apple today issued a significant update to its iTunes U application for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. The application focuses on enhancements for both teachers and students, and the application was first announced by Apple last week alongside the new Back to School retail initiatives.

Here’s what is new for students:

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• The new iTunes U makes it simple for students participating in private courses to pose questions on the course or any post or assignment • Other students in the class can jump into the discussion and ask more questions or provide answers • Teachers and students can keep up with the conversation when they receive push notifications as the discussion progresses

Here’s what’s new for teachers:

• Teachers can now create and update their courses using the iTunes U app on their iPad—getting started is fast, simple, and completely free • Provide every student a course outline, write posts, distribute assignments, upload class materials, easily track participating students, and much more • Take advantage of the built in camera on iPad to easily capture photos or videos and upload them for course assignments • Create materials using Pages, Numbers, and Keynote—or other apps from the App Store—and add them to your course by using “Open in iTunes U” from within each app • Teachers affiliated with qualified institutions have the option to publish their courses to the iTunes U Catalog—making them available to everyone for free

Both sets of enhancements are notable as Apple pushes the iPad and iOS experience deeper into classrooms across the world. Perhaps the biggest improvement if the ability for teachers to actually completely create and manage courses directly from the iPad app. The app also integrates with the iWork suite in order to issue documents, presentations, and spreadsheets to students. These courses created via the iPad can be distributed to both a teacher’s group of students or, if the teacher works at a “qualified institution,” to anyone via the iTunes U web catalog.

The 2.0 update is free on the App Store today.

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