Duke will distribute Apple iPods to incoming first-year students, as part of an initiative to encourage creative uses of technology in education and campus life. The pocket-sized digital devices, which can store both audio and text material, will be preloaded with Duke-related content, such as information for freshman orientation and the academic calendar. A special Duke website modeled on the Apple iTunes site will make available, via iPod download, faculty-provided course content, including language lessons, music, recorded lectures, and audio books.
Duke officials say the iPod distribution is part of a pilot program between Duke and Apple Computer Inc. that will be evaluated after one year. Duke is paying for the project with strategic-planning funds that were set aside for one-time innovative technology purposes. The total cost of the project is expected to reach $500,000 or more, which includes hiring an academic computing specialist for the project, grant funding for faculty, associated research costs, and the purchase of the iPods.
"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," says 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 says 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."