Skip to main content

Apple’s Schoolwork app lets teachers dole out digital assignments to students

Apple’s Schoolwork app lets teachers dole out digital assignments to students

Share this story

Apple is making a big push into education, and part of that is through apps. At its event today, the company announced a tool called Schoolwork, which will allow teachers to assign digital handouts to students — Apple compared it to writing an email: teachers will be able to write notes, send PDFs, and include links to the web. And since this is all on an iPad, they’ll even be able to assign students activities that live inside of other apps.

One of Apple’s big selling points here is that Schoolwork will keep all student data private — only teachers will be able to see it; it will also allow them to monitor students’ progress to see how far along they are. Apple’s main competitor in schools, Google, has long made its money by collecting data; and while it offers much stricter privacy for students (it profits from device management fees in schools, rather than advertising), there’s no doubt that privacy fears remain, especially since students can transfer data to personal accounts once they’re old enough.

Schoolwork will launch in June, giving teachers some time to figure it out before the next school year begins. In June, Apple will also launch a version of Classroom — its device management app — for the Mac. It also plans to update student iCloud accounts to include 200GB of storage by default. That’s a big upgrade and a major usability improvement for students and schools, since iCloud came with a negligible 5GB by default until now. (Consumer accounts, unfortunately, are still stuck with 5GB.)

To offer apps that can work inside of Schoolwork, Apple also announced a new toolset for developers, called ClassKit. Using ClassKit, developers will be able to create, essentially, links to different parts of their app so that they can be assigned out through Schoolwork.

Apple has been falling behind in the education space largely due to the priciness of its hardware. (Its software hasn’t been all that education-friendly either.) The company started to change that two years ago when it released a suite of classroom tools that enabled multiuser support and gave teachers more control over what students are looking at, but the company hasn’t regularly introduced major features since then.

There also hasn’t been much incentive for developers to code educational apps since the potential audience isn’t all that large. That could change with the introduction of a more capable iPad today, which is priced to compete with Google’s very popular Chromebooks, but it’s still a difficult market to crack since different schools have different needs and interests.

The introduction of Schoolwork and ClassKit could help to limit some of those problems by making the whole package easier for teachers to use, but it’s not something we’ll be able to see for some time. What’ll matter is what developers decide to do with it, and if teachers end up finding it helpful.