(Via Duke University)

Duke University will distribute Apple iPods to its incoming freshmen, as part of an initiative to encourage creative uses of technology in education and campus life.

The pocket-sized digital devices, which can download and make use of both audio and text material, will be preloaded with Duke-related content, such as information for freshman orientation and the academic calendar. Through a special Duke Web site modeled on the Apple iTunes site, students also can download faculty-provided course content, including language lessons, music, recorded lectures and audio books. They also will be able to purchase music through the site.

Duke officials said the iPod distribution is part of a pilot program between Duke and Apple Computer, Inc. that will be evaluated after a year. Duke is paying for the project with strategic planning funds that it has set aside for one-time innovative technology purposes. The total cost of the project is expected to reach $500,000, which includes hiring an academic computing specialist for the project, grant funding for faculty, associated research costs and the purchase of the iPods, which Apple is providing to Duke at a discount.

“This iPod pilot program is an exciting new component of Duke’s strategic plan, which seeks to use information technology in innovative ways within the classroom and across the campus,” said Provost Peter Lange, the university’s senior academic officer.

“We’re approaching this as an experiment, one we hope will motivate our faculty and students to think creatively about using digital audio content and a mobile computing environment to advance educational goals in the same way that iPods and similar devices have had such a big impact on music distribution,” said Tracy Futhey, vice president for information technology. “We think the power and flexibility of these devices offer some real advantages over other media used to distribute educational content such as CD-ROMs and DVDs.”

Futhey said she also expects students to develop their own content and interesting new uses for the devices. “I could easily imagine our student newspaper creating a weekly or daily audio editorial that students could listen to as they walk across campus,” she said.

Lynne O’Brien, director of Duke’s Center for Instructional Technology (CIT), noted that over the last two years a growing number of faculty members have shown interest in adding audio and video components to their courses.

“The iPod project will encourage faculty to experiment with adding elements such as music, foreign language and poetry to class curricula,” she said. O’Brien cited as an example the elementary Spanish course taught by visiting assistant professor Lisa Merschel. Students in that course will use the iPods to listen to audio examples of textbook exercises, hear Spanish songs and record their own efforts to speak Spanish. In another course on environmental ethics, taught by adjunct professor Sally Schauman, students will use their iPods to record lectures and, while in the field, take notes and record interviews.

O’Brien said she expects other Duke faculty members to suggest ideas over the coming academic year to supplement those already slated for inclusion in the pilot program. “We will be inviting faculty to submit project ideas early in the fall semester,” she said.

Lange said Duke will distribute the iPods to students Aug. 19, 2004, as part of freshman orientation. “We’re limiting our distribution to this single class because it will make it easier for us to evaluate their experience relative to other students and determine whether the iPods promoted educational innovation as we hope. Duke students, like students at most universities, are already comfortable with the Internet and new technologies, and we think they’ll rise to the challenge of working with their professors and others to develop new ways of learning. As with other technology innovations, we will evaluate this experiment carefully,” Lange said.

The 1,650 20-GB iPods distributed to Duke freshmen are the latest- generation ipods from Apple and are compatible with both Mac and Windows systems, as are an additional 150 iPods slated for other academic and support needs. The iPods given to the first-year students will become property of the recipients. Students who do not own their own computers will also be able to participate in the project through computing laboratories on campus.

The university has developed a technical support plan for students that includes a one-year warranty on each iPod and assistance through the Duke Computer Store and the OIT help desk. Students who lose their iPods will be able to purchase a new one through the Duke Computer Store. Upperclassmen enrolled in classes utilizing iPods will be given loaners for the duration of the course.

Duke’s CIT, Office of Student Affairs, Office of the Provost, Office of the Executive Vice President and Office of Information Technology (OIT) are collaborating with Apple on the iPod project.