The University of Missouri's journalism school has decided to require students to use either an iPod Touch or iPhone as part of their studies according to an article in The Wired Campus (even more interesting to read all the comments). See also a report in the Missourian. The reason for this move is to enable students to view podcasted lectures and communicate and follows a clear trend towards mobile learning solutions. The difference here is that the students are being asked to buy one particular brand and although Apple is generally regarded as cool, not everyone on campus is enthusiastic resulting in an anti-Apple group on Facebook.
The idea of podcasting lectures and other learning objects is excellent but we have to be able to do this to a variety of terminals and platforms giving users a choice. Most places have admittedly been locked into Windows for years but in recent years it has been possible to study using Apple or Linux computers. It really shouldn't matter what you use and we have to move away from all these proprietary solutions. It's particularly tough on students who have recently invested in shiny, happy terminals from other vendors.
One of the comments on Wired Campus claims that the university is starting to phase out campus computer labs thereby passing that cost over to the students who have to fork out for their mobile terminals. I think the age of the computer labs is soon over (let's face it, they are seldom inspiring learning environments) and that WiFi access and laptops is a much more attractive and flexible solution. The question is who finances the purchase or all those laptops and mobiles; let the students pay, offer leasing deals or even subsidised giveaways.
Missouri is one of many universities that are moving towards more mobile and flexible ways of distributing educational material. With so many universities distributing lectures via iTunes, Apple obviously have a massive student market but it's vital that education doesn't get locked into one particular brand or technology.