One of the problems in the e-book market is the proprietary nature of many readers. To get the full features of some offerings, customers must choose their platforms—I-Pad, Kindle, Nook, etc. While PDFs can be read across many platforms, the media richness of the documents does not always meet customer demand. For example, the new I-Author tool allows user to incorporate video, audio, and other multi-media options, but only I-Pad users can get the full benefit of those titles. In its infancy, some companies are now offering services to convert book content into apps that run on multiple platforms. Using this method a publisher can provide the greatest distribution for their products and do much to eliminate the need to develop for each proprietary system.
Looking ahead along the online course development path, apps will become quite common, one would guess. There could be the Psychology 101 app, an app that could provide links to lectures, readings, and other rich materials to improve learning. One thing that is apparent in this information stream is that some courses will become commodities – low price will determine enrollment as long as a range of universities accept the credits toward a student’s graduation. The State of Ohio might have, for example, an Introduction to Sociology app that is available to all students at Ohio public institutions.
One benefit of creating apps for introductory courses is that, if handled well, universities can enhance the preparedness of their graduates by concentrating on higher level instruction. Students could take app-based courses without worrying about the circadian rhythms of semester-based classes. Further, app-based instruction could fit within the business culture allowing companies the option to certify their employees in certain areas as technologies disrupt operations and call for new practices. Instructional apps could be developed and deployed for specific needs.
As students and individuals consolidate their lives onto their chosen communication devices, apps might be the key to gaining market share. In this environment, as with all products, uniqueness and high-quality brands will win out. Universities will need to maximize their best programs and turn them into available apps.