Apple's iTunes U has never been social. Apple doesn't really do social. (Well, there was Ping, but that was dead on arrival.) But there is a new feature that is meant to allow users to learn with others, ask questions, and work more collaboratively in the iTunes U environment.
For this new social effort, Apple is partnering with Piazza. An article on the Forbes site, describes Piazza, not very flatteringly, as "a free student question and answer service" that adds the social layer to an otherwise one way "course" experience.
Piazza, as with most ogf the previously mentioned sites, is a newer startup that launched in January 2011. It allows students to
discuss topics in a course and has been free. Professors
or students can set up a page for a class. The only difference in the Piazza with iTunes
connection is that those courses will be public rather than closed to the students in a traditional class.
The first iTunes U course that is being used for this added layer is not a surprise. It is the "Coding Together: Apps for iPhone and iPad" class offered by Stanford. It is already one of the most popular classes on iTunes U, with over 10 million downloads. (The registration is open through July 6, if you want to try it out, but the class runs from June 25 to August 27.) Of course, the new social tools are available for any course in iTunes U.