Just in time for back to school, Apple releases iTunes U 2.0

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Apple has long sought to become the centerpiece of the classroom, most recently through the use of the iPad and its free iTunes U store. This week the company took another step further in achieving that goal, releasing iTunes U 2.0. The update, available now for iPhones, iPods and iPads running iOS 7 or later, brings along several new features including the ability to host discussions between students and teachers within the app. As opposed to emailing the teacher with a problem, students in private courses can now ask their questions from within the app and receive a notification when a teacher or other student responds.

The update also gives teachers a greater ability to create and manage their courses from within the app, including issuing course outlines and assignments as well as keeping track their students' progress. Teachers will also be able to integrate their courses with Apple's Pages, Keynote and Numbers apps as well other apps from the App Store.

The revamped app comes as retailers and manufacturers prepare for the back to school shopping season, one of the busiest shopping seasons of the year. According to research firm Gartner last year's back to school season saw 80.3 million PCs shipped, with the U.S. accounting for 16.1 million.

Last week Apple announced their latest back-to-school deal, offering discounts to college students on its Macs and iPads as well as bundling $100 gift cards to students who are purchasing new Macs, and $50 gift cards to students who are buying a new iPad or iPhone.

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