Officials from Duke University said on Wednesday that they would continue distributing Apple’s popular iPod digital device to students next year, albeit in a more focused manner. The decision was reached after a preliminary review of this year’s program where 1,600 20GB iPods were issued to all incoming first-year students.
“When people first think of the iPod, it’s a natural for music,” Dr. Richard Lucic of Duke University, told MacCentral. “My classes focus on Computer Science and we use the iPod in different ways, including moving large files so students can take them home.”
Lucic says the iPod initiative has done a couple of key things for the students. First, it is empowering the students to think on their own and come up with new ways to incorporate technology into their work. Second, it allows students to access lectures and course material and keep it on their iPods for later use.
“Before if you missed a lecture, you missed it and that was it,” said Lucic. “Now, I record all of the lectures and make them available to students as podcasts, so they can listen to them anywhere.”
Students are also finding what use to be dead time in their days more productive as they take their iPods and audio course material or lectures with them on the bus, according to Lucic.
It’s not just the students that are finding better, more innovative ways to use the iPod at Duke, the faculty are working with the device, as well. Lucic has changed the way students do individual and groups reports — the results, said Lucic, were amazing.
“I had some classes where I had them split up into groups of four or five to discuss the topic of the paper and then post an MP3 instead of turning in a written paper,” said Lucic. “The quality of the work was far superior to any of the written work I received in the past.”
Lucic credited the students embracing the technology as reasons for the quality of the work.
While the freshman received the iPods to keep this year, other courses could petition to have themselves considered an “iPod Course.” To do this the class would have to write a proposal, pointing out how they would use the iPod for educational purposes and provide evaluation and feedback on how the program worked. The iPods given out under these circumstances have to be given back at the end of the school year.
Peter Lange, the university’s provost and senior academic officer said the university would pay for next year’s program with funds previously set aside for strategic technology initiatives, rather than with operational or student funds. First-, third- and fourth-year undergraduates will be eligible to receive iPods, while sophomores will be expected to continue using the iPods they received last fall. While costs for supporting iPod use under the new program will vary depending on how many courses adopt the technology, the costs are expected to be below those of the past year.
Overall, Lucic said the faculty and administration at Duke was in favor of the iPod program and to further integrate it into the curriculum.
“I am definitely in favor of it,” said Lucic. “I’ve been to at least two sessions where the administration has asked for feedback and I was surprised at how positive it was. These are people from many different departments and there was a lot of positive feedback.”