Duke Analyzes iPod Project

Report notes academic uses for and limitations on the technology.
June 16, 2005

Ever since Duke University announced a year ago that it would give iPods to all incoming freshmen,  the institution's project has been watched with interest. Was the project the wave of the future or a gimmick?

Duke already announced that it would scale back the project for the coming academic year, giving out the iPods only to undergraduates taking courses for which Duke’s Center for Instructional Technology has approved the professors’ use of the devices. On Wednesday, the university released a detailed analysis of how the grander experiment went with all freshmen.

Among the findings:

  • More than 600 students were in courses using the iPods each semester of the academic year that just concluded.
  • Use was greatest among foreign language and music courses, although a range of disciplines used the devices.
  • While audio playback was the initial focus of most of those involved, students and faculty reported the greatest interest in digital recording.
  • The effort was hurt by a lack of systems for bulk purchases of mp3 audio content for academic use.
  • There are many "inherent limitations" in the iPod, such as the lack of instructor tools for combining text and audio.
  • Some recordings made with the iPod were not of high enough quality for academic use.
  • The project resulted in increased collaboration among faculty members and technology officials at the university, and the publicity about the project led to more collaborations with other institutions.


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