Apple's iPod touch, iPhone as education tool: Should universities dictate whether you're a Mac or PC?

Apple has been a strong player in the education vertical for years via its Mac juggernaut. Now it appears that the iPhone and iPod touch has a shot at extending that dominance.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Apple has been a strong player in the education vertical for years via its Mac juggernaut. Now it appears that the iPhone and iPod touch has a shot at extending that dominance. 

News of the iPhone as tool have been springing up everywhere (Techmeme). The latest is that Missouri's Journalism school is requiring students to acquire an iPod touch or iPhone. What's notable is that Missouri is following the crowd---and the crowd has an iPod. Here's the full passage from Missouri's undergrad handbook:

Effective Fall 2009, students majoring in Journalism at Missouri are required to have either an iPod Touch (the minimum requirement) or iPhone to allow for the delivery of freshman-orientation information as well as course material. Students will electronically download such material to either of those devices from iTunes University, a no-cost component of the iTunes Store.

The iPod Touch fulfills the requirement. The more expensive iPhone fulfills the requirement but is not required. The best solution if the student does not already have an iPod Touch or iPhone is to work with TigerTech, the MU computer store, to acquire one.

Many, many schools are starting to do this. We will start recording lectures so that students may review them before exams. Students also will have ready access to critical information on where to find help to solve various problems thanks to material we will deliver in conjunction with freshman orientation.

Yes, the device is a music player, but it is much, much more. 

TigerTech estimates that 90 percent of Missouri students have iPods. We are trying to take advantage of that as a means to deliver course content. The video capability of the iPod Touch and iPhone makes this an ideal delivery platform and gives students a device on which they can review lectures and other course material while on the go or working out. Students with documented need (as determined through the FAFSA filing process) may include the cost in financial aid packages because it is required.

A few things worth noting:

  • iTunes University has created a nice little vertical integration mojo for Apple;
  • Missouri is pushing the iPod touch over the iPhone (a nice choice in my opinion);
  • Financial aid for iPods could be a boon;
  • And this academia rush for Apple bodes well for any enterprise push (once these students get clout in any corporations they work for).

More from the Missouri J-school policy, which encourages Mac adoption:

Q. What exactly is required?

A. The minimum is a wireless laptop with Microsoft Office installed. Most of the MU campus has easy wireless access.

Q. What brand or model should I buy?

A. The faculty has designated Apple Computer as its preferred provider for two primary reasons: (1) Apple’s OS X operating system is based on Unix, which makes these computers far less susceptible to viruses than other computers. Viruses are a serious problem on university campuses. (2) Apple MacBook and MacBook Pro computers come bundled with iLife, a suite of applications ideal for learning the basics of photo editing, and audio and video editing. We’ll use those programs in several classes. Incoming students will receive information on recommended models and pricing in February of each year.


Q. What if I prefer a Windows-based machine?

A. That’s an option, but it’s one we do not recommend unless you plan to make a career of computer-assisted reporting. By the time you purchase photo, audio and video software for a PC, you probably will have spent more than you would if buying a comparable Apple Computer. Buy a PC if you prefer to do so, but make sure it is wireless and has Microsoft Office. Almost 100 percent of last year’s freshmen chose Apple computers.

The Missouri J-school can't be clearer than that. Students are strongly discouraged from any "I'm a PC" slogans. 

If this University of Missouri J-school policy were to be adopted broadly it would clearly be great for Apple, which would own the student market by policy. For what it's worth Columbia's J-School just recommends any laptop and mentions Apple, Dell, HP etc. Apple and Dell offer educational discounts at Columbia. Northwestern's Medill school says it's "primarily a Windows PC operation."

Medill's FAQ states:

Some students use Macs, but it has proven to make the technology side of their Medill experience much more challenging. We strongly encourage you to purchase or bring a Windows laptop that meets the requirements above to use during your time at Medill.

Two thoughts: Can we get some open standards in the house? And do I really want my university dictating my computing choice. At Medill a Mac would be a handicap. At Missouri I'm strongly encouraged not to be a PC. "Any device I choose" would be my policy of choice.

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