Apple’s iTunes U has been a huge success with over 700 million downloads. One thing that has been missing from this online learning service, however, is a social element where students can learn together and ask each other questions. Now Apple, Stanford University and the Palo Alto-based startup Piazza have partnered to bring Piazza’s social learning platform for students, TAs and professors to the next session of Stanford’s iOS development class on iTunes U.

This is the first time that Piazza, Stanford and Apple have worked closely together to get a link to the course’s Piazza site within iTunes U. It’s a place where students can get together to ask and answer questions with the guidance of an instructor.

Pooja Sankar, Piazza founder and CEO, has noted a growing trend towards making more educational content available online. With all the software available today, there is a lot of help for teachers to create content and manage their students, making this a much easier task than it would have been years ago.

With the integration of Piazza, students will be able to ask each other questions and discuss class content in real time using a wiki-like site to edit responses. Piazza, though, is definitely more than just a message board — it differentiates between students’ responses, which they can edit together, and teachers’ responses, which they can also collaborate on. It’s also possible to see how many of their classmates are online at the same time.

As of now, the Piazza company has 11 employees and has raised about $6 million in funding. Sankar began this endeavor in 2012 and launched her first small beta tests at Stanford in January of 2011. At that point there were about 4,000 students using the application. Now there is closer to 250,000 students using this service at universities around the world.

So far, there have been 10 million downloads for Stanford’s iOS class for individual lecture videos, making it one of the most popular online classes available. With the integration of Piazza, the hope is that it will enhance learning and increase community-building and student collaboration through problem-solving with students from around the world.

Registration for the next session of iTunes U iOS Development Class opens today and ends July 6. The course runs from June 25 to August 27. To encourage students to sign up, the first 1,000 students to register will be eligible to have the apps they create as part of their final project evaluated for “special showcasing on Stanford’s iTunes U site.”

Source: TechCrunch, Apple and Piazza
Image Credit: Piazza