An iPod for the student

Duke is providing all of its 1,650 new freshmen with an iPod, reports the Durham Herald-Sun.

The iPods, which can download and make use of both audio and text material, will come stocked with Duke-related downloads, including information for freshman orientation and the academic calendar. Duke also will create a special Web site modeled on the Apple iTunes site from which students will be able to download music and course content from faculty, including language lessons, recorded lectures and audio books.

Students in visiting assistant professor Lisa Merschel’s elementary Spanish class will use the iPods to listen to audio examples of textbook exercises and hear Spanish songs.

And adjunct professor Sally Schauman’s students will use their iPods to record lectures in class and interviews while out in the field for her freshman seminar about the ethics and science of urban water conservation.

I can see why language and music classes might find iPods useful, but surely taping interviews can be done with a tape recorder. And students would do better to listen once to a lecture and then review their notes. Listening to tapes is very time-consuming.

Duke got a discount from Apple on 20-gigabyte iPods, which retail for $299. “The cost for the entire project, including hiring an academic computing specialist, grant funding for faculty, research and purchasing the iPods, is expected to reach $500,000,” reports the Herald-Sun. No wonder college tuition keeps going up.

SCSU Scholars suggests this may be an easy way to avoid lawsuits over student downloading of music.

About Joanne


  1. dhanson says:

    My university professor wife has had students in some of her classes use digital tape recorders to record interviews. The digital recordings are superior to traditional tape because the students can download the interviews, edit them and even clear up poor audio quality with relative ease. My wife is also able to take excerpts from the interviews and incorporate them in PowerPoint presentations, web teaching materials, etc. Digital gives a LOT of options not available in traditional recording mediums.

    The digital tape recorders my wife uses are cheaper than the iPods, but don’t have the broad range of capabilities the iPod has.

  2. mike from Oregon says:

    “…her freshman seminar about the ethics and science of urban water conservation.”

    Am I reading this right? A course about ethics AND urban water conservation? I know they teach some strange stuff in college nowdays, but how those two subjects link together is a mystery to me. I can only HOPE that the ethics course is decent (although I have my doubts) and urban water conservation (to me) is a joke. It would be worth maybe one class, certainly not a whole term (again, IMHO).

  3. Alastair says:

    I’m not dead set against this sort of thing, but I am somewhat suspicious. I don’t know who ends up paying for it (tuition fees i.e. students of the future?). I’m in the UK so I’m not sure where Duke gets its money.

    I have strong suspicions that this is, essentially, like giving students a walkman/stereo, or perhaps a USB “key”. I’m a computer professional but am worried that too much emphasis is given to “computers” and/or new technology, to the detriment of actual teaching and education.

  4. Alastair,

    Duke is a private university but a good chunk of an average student’s tuition will be paid by state or federal financial aid. This is a good example of how government aid in-kind ends up increasing the cost of what they are trying to pay for.

    Off-topic: John from OK will never be John from FL. I just got back from a week in Tampa and that place is a swamp!

    Corrections on either topic are welcome.

  5. John from OK says:

    I guess I should have just kept reading and then I could have just referenced this:

  6. I think this has more to do with Duke’s relentless sales pitch.

  7. z1975ss says:

    Coach K’s obvious pay increase to not go to the Lakers, and new Ipods. Expect another double-digit increase in tuition costs for next year. 😉

  8. Ms. Jacobs;

    While taping interviews could be done with a tape recorder, once Duke has given the student iPods it would seem easier to use those rather than locating and using yet another piece of equipment. From Schauman’s point of view, the iPods are free.

  9. Michael says:

    Mike from Oregon, you’re not reading it right. It’s the ethics and science OF urban water conservation. Science and ethics focused on one problem. Seems like an interesting class to me.