Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Putting the iPod before the horse 

Bad enough students are getting Napster subscriptions at reduced rates from their college. Now, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, they are also getting iPods at Duke. Ah, but Mom, it's for education!
Students might use their iPods, for instance, to listen to assigned songs or audio clips in music or foreign-language courses. And students in some courses will be given microphones so they can record lectures or field interviews with the devices.

Lynne M. O'Brien, director of the Duke Center for Instructional Technology, said that she has spoken with an instructor in Spanish who plans to use the iPods to record and distribute assignments. A professor of environmental studies is interested in using iPods to record interviews in the field.

The university plans to hire a consultant who will help faculty members use the iPods, although most faculty members do not yet know about the iPod project.
And of course they can snag iTunes at 99 cents a pop and spare the university the threat of lawsuits for illegal downloading. At least there's a patina of legitimate educational potential here, but just that.

I wonder if this is the least-cost means for universities to avoid lawsuits from downloading. If someone developed software that prevented people from downloading mp3s without some special code, wouldn't that be more cost-effective? I'm just speculating here, but it just seems that paying tribute to the recording companies is something that can be avoided.