At an event in New York today, Phil Schiller, the technology giant’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, said the free online courses would be available through a new iTunesU app, and would allow “anyone anywhere at anytime to take courses for free”.
Institutions which have signed up to be part of the scheme include Stanford University and Yale University.
Mr Schiller also announced that Apple would be working with publishing giants Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to “reinvent the textbook”, beginning with the secondary school sector in the US
Textbooks will now be available as a category on the iBookstore, and Apple has announced that textbooks released through iBooks 2 will feature innovations such as 3D imaging and embedded video.
Plans are also underway to release an app, iBook Author, which will allow academics to create interactive digital textbooks.
However, critics have noted that Apple’s plans will only benefit those who have access to Apple products.
Both the iTunes U app and iBooks 2 will only be available on the iPad, and academics wishing to create a textbook will need to do so on a Mac computer, and then use iTunes Publisher in order to sell the book online.
Speaking to the technology site Mashable ahead of today’s launch, Dan Rosensweig, chief executive officer of online textbook rental company Chegg, said that he was not convinced that Apple could significantly impact the textbook market.
“You can have great devices, but it doesn’t mean content will be built for the device, and it doesn’t mean schools will use them,” he said