University students: iBribed with a free iPad?

Two US universities are offering the iPad (or a MacBook) free to all incoming students next academic year. Could this be an iBribe in disguise? Post

Special Report: Apple iPad

Seton Hill University in Pennsylvania will be giving all full-time students a brand new shiny iPad as part of their Technology Advantage Program at the start of the 2010/11 academic year this autumn. Along with George Fox University, Oregon, which will give incoming students the choice of an iPad or MacBook, these universities are investing a huge amount of money to embrace the iPad technology with its students.

Though, with no clear plans on how Seton Hill University will use the device in line with their current infrastructure or degree courses, could this be considered as merely bribing students with the "latest and greatest"?

The iPad will allow students to purchase their textbooks and course materials per module or year through the iBooks application, allowing them to read and take notes on the go, along with the usual perks of having a portable device with Internet access. Students will be given the iPad to own and can take it with them once they graduate.

The university already has a booming Mac culture which already embraces Apple technology and offers in-house repairs and loaner MacBook's when their own machines are out of use. As CrunchGear point out, this rather puts the one laptop per child (OLPC) campaign to shame.

But with e-readers not taking off as well as some may have hoped in the academic setting, the more dazzling, colourful and aesthetically sleek device might well prove popular; especially if they are being given away to students for free. It would also be beneficial to the university to provide their reading materials in e-book and iBooks format as there is greater chance the student will buy the often cheaper version and even read it afterwards.

However, the iPad is geared to be automatically popular as the iPod and iPhone predecessors always have been with the student generation, and I applaud the clear and obvious step away from the usual Windows environment. Though, I cannot see the public student computers being replaced with Mac's any time soon as I have pointed out before the flaws with an all non-Windows infrastructure and environment.

This is my 500th post on ZDNet - a landmark for me - and it's going on a damn iPad story. Even with a month since the announcement, I still cannot get over the thought of it being a giant iPod touch still. At the end of the day, whatever makes the student's happiest and most productive, I guess.

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