Showbie versus iTunes U

With more and more technology in the classroom, things change completely. No more paper assignments, paper agendas, paper textbooks. Everything that is “paper” will disappear in the future. That is why educational technology is becoming more and more prominent.

In this blog post, I will be comparing two online classroom platforms: Showbie and iTunes U. To get a better understanding of the platforms, I’ll quickly explain what they are.

So, what’s iTunes U and what’s Showbie? Both apps transform the paper classroom in a digital learning environment. They literally bring your classroom together on an iPad (or in the case of Showbie, other tablets and Chromebooks as well).

Comparing Showbie and iTunes U


If you want free access to a platform, there is no discussion. You should definitely pick iTunes U.

Showbie also allows you to use it for free, but you only have some basic features. You can’t create groups, have discussions, give students advanced assignments and feedback, involve parents, upload bigger files, use the portfolio features or access the grade book. However you don’t need the paid version when you’re using Showbie for distributing and collecting assignments. Showbie’s Pro version will cost you $179 a year (for a single teacher). Most often teachers actually will have Showbie Pro via their school, which makes the price more competitive.


In Showbie, you can create groups about certain topics. You can add your students (or parents) to let them discuss the topics or just be aware of class arrangements. Each group can have a different purpose. For example: you can add a group with some differentiation exercises, a group for reading ideas or a group for parents only. For someone to join the group, the teachers distribute another unique code.

iTunes U also allows you to add discussions, but differently and less advanced. You can only add a question or discussion topic in a course. This means it should also be related to your course and nothing else. Students can enter the discussion and reply to the question. On top of that, every assignment in iTunes U carries a private communication channel with every student in the course. Students and teachers can chat in this channel as well as post pictures, videos and documents. These kind of basic discussions are also possible in Showbie.


As a teacher, you organize Showbie like your classrooms. You can add classes and then share the class code with the students of that class. You can choose to which class you assign your assignments.

iTunes U is organized slightly differently. Here you can choose whether you create a course available for everyone with a code or a course based on your classes. In the first option, you have to share the unique course code with students who have to enroll in the course. That can be students from different classes. Assignments are given to all the students who enroll in that course.

The second option works more like Showbie.

Something else you have to think about: iTunes U allows you to publish a course or to keep it private. When keeping your course private, you can use all the possibilities and features I’m talking about in this post. When you want to create a public course, your school has to apply for an iTunes U site. If you don’t have a school platform via iTunes U, there are some limits. A teacher can only create 12 courses with 20GB room for lesson materials.


Because of the differences in organization, Showbie and iTunes U have a slightly different audience. Showbie is more for middle and high school classrooms. iTunes U also reaches colleges and universities, hence the possibility to enroll in courses instead of classes.


With Showbie you can easily build assignments in minutes and share them with your students via a unique code.

This is no different to iTunes U. iTunes U also allows you to share your classes or courses with your student via a unique code. You can add some materials to the assignment your students have to, or can use. iTunes U allows you to deliver courses with media files like images, video and audio.

Annotation tools

With Showbie you can annotate your students' work and grade it. The annotation tools are very basic if you don’t have the pro version. Pro features allow you to draw and write on students' work and add comments and voice recordings. Students can also make some annotations on their assignments. Something quite unique to Showbie is that annotations are available even on the web version of showbie.

iTunes U’s annotation tool is only accessible for students. The annotation tools give students the option to easily mark up a PDF. The annotation tools are rather basic and don’t have many options. Luckily, you can easily switch from iTunes U to another great annotation app and back.


Students can just open the assignment and start working on it in both cases. When the students have handed in their assignment you can easily grade the assignments. You can also leave a comment for the student. A huge disadvantage of both platforms is that there’s too little room for feedback.

In Showbie’s pro features, you have a grade book that allows a quick glance at your students grades. You can also export the grades as CVS, HTML or just send an email.

iTunes U also features a grade book. You know exactly how each student is doing on every project, see when a student has viewed an assignment, when their work is complete, and when it’s time to reach out with a reminder.


A great feature of iTunes U is definitely the huge library with a huge range of courses and iTunes materials. You can use the search toolbox to look for a topic that might interest you as a student or that inspires you as a teacher. You can also see which other schools have created a course.


Showbie is designed for teachers. They were in control of the paper classroom, so they are now also in control of the online classroom. Students have to download the app and can enroll in classes when the teacher gives a code.

iTunes U allows students to do more. Students can choose any course they want to enroll into. They’ll need a code from their teacher in many cases, but besides that, students can also enroll courses they find in the library.


Showbie has a website account that makes it possible for you and your students to access Showbie anywhere, including your laptop, Chromebook and Android phone. You can also download the app for your iPad, iPhone or iPod.

The iTunes U app is only available on iPad, iPhone and iPod. You can also open iTunes U within your iTunes account. This means that you can open it on Windows where iTunes is also available.

Choosing the right online classroom platform comes with many personal decisions. Ask yourself the following questions, and you’ll know what platform is best for your teaching.

Infographic Showbie versus iTunes U

Lucie Renard

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