JetPack: the Always-Open University Library that Fits in Your Pocket

Posted: October 18th, 2011 under Design, Google Android, Mobile Web Design, monetizing mobile content, Web Tech. Tags: , , , , , ,

…but without the annoying biology grad student who is using himself as a human guinea pig to see if it’s possible to survive for 3 months on a diet of only beer, vitamin pills and broccoli florets. 

the website for jetpack

The switchover to all-digital textbooks is happening faster than predicted. I'm not too sure about reading an entire text on a smartphone screen, but for in-between class cramming, or getting instant updates to course material, it's not a bad choice.

I’d love to say that this is it, we’ve found the perfect replacement for textbooks, but from what I can see here, this is still a very limited solution. They are also trying to accomplish something that is unbelievably complex. I know, because we’ve been trying to do the same thing: come up with a way to create once-publish many.

That is — we all pretty much know how to make very interactive web sites, using HTML, Javascript, Flash, CSS, etc. etc. But the sticking point is trying to get that experience to play out the same way across all these varied platforms. The app-building tools coming out from Adobe are aimed at resolving this dilemma … but Purdue has evidently decided to enter the software-creation arena, next to Apple, Adobe, Microsoft, Google, et al.

Nut graf: 

Bowen says JetPack allows users to simply upload content without worrying about putting it into a specific format or learning to code.

“It’s as simple to do as putting content on a blog such as WordPress,” Bowen says. “At a basic level, if you want to just add images or video to the text, you can easily do that. On the other hand, if you are more advanced and you want to add interactive content, you can add a wide range of interactivity with HTML5. You don’t have to worry about what formats work on different devices. That’s all done for you.”

Content that can be used to supplement the e-book text in JetPack includes:

* Photographs
* Graphs
* Video
* Documents
* Interactive media
* Specialized calculators
* Interactive self-assessments or games
* Quizzes
* Links to online resources such as Wolfram Apha or Google

“In later releases authors will be able to add data feeds from social media sites or other websites, which are known as APIs, so the material is automatically updated,” Bowen says. “This could be news articles from the past month on a particular topic, for example, so that whenever the person reads that chapter, or pack, there is also a discussion of current events that is kept up-to-date.”

The space is crowded. And the other players have some very sharp elbows down near the basket. Basically, Purdue is buying itself a whole sack o’ trouble here – they are either going to piss off the textbook manufacturers who want to push their own solution … or they are going to wind up creating some software that infringes on some patent. If this does actually work out and allow indie authors/videographers to easily create cross-platform multimedia learning environments, then this is going to be an absolute godsend.

The screenshots of what Jetpack is supposed to help learning materials creators actually publish to the iPad/Android tablet platforms looks pretty decent:

Tilting at windmills?

I’m not sure why they settled on using Amelia Earhart as their poster girl for an app that will be distributed to students … wasn’t she famously completely lost without a trace? Is that some kind of post-ironic statement about how higher learning is lost in the fog…?

Nice timeline and images.

Or were they just really big fans of the “Air” comic put out by Vertigo until the circulation numbers sagged because the story got bogged down in incomprehensibility?

At any rate, I do like the attention to the graphic design & look and feel of the app that they’ve plainly put into this effort. The 3-D renderings of the tickets above are quite nice, and if the timeline zips across the screen at the flick of a finger, then that would be just *Hawesome* … and if the photos/images were hyperlinks to other content that helped tell the story, even better.

 

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