J-school requires iPhone

Why would the University of Missouri’s well-regarded journalism school make an iPhone or iPod Touch a requirement for all incoming students? My first guess was that Mizzou was making a new commitment to multimedia journalism and requiring an iPhone so students could learn to gather and post online news on the fly. But no.

According to the Columbia Missourian, the school has an entirely different motive: 

Brian Brooks, associate dean of the Journalism School, said the idea is to turn the music player into a learning device. “Lectures are the worst possible learning format,” Brooks said. “There’s been some research done that shows if a student can hear that lecture a second time, they retain three times as much of that lecture.”

Mizzou is going to record lectures and make them available free via iTunes  U. But students don’t need an iPod or any other Apple device to view them, so it seems the new requirement is basically bogus. And besides, the idea that students will use a smart phone or music player to review lectures has already been tried, with decidedly mixed results.

Five years ago, Duke University gave iPods free to all of its incoming freshmen to “foster innovative uses of technology in the classroom,” as Wired magazine reported. A year later, Duke scaled back the program.

Requiring J-school students to buy one specific brand of technology that uses proprietary file formats and is more expensive than many alternatives just doesn’t sound like a winning proposition to me. Requiring them to have a device that can capture audio and video for news gathering purposes would seem to make a lot more sense. 


8 Responses

  1. Actually, in the same article the associate dean states the real motivation for making it “a requirement” is so that a student could include the cost of the device in calculations for financial aid. Given that having one of these is considered nearly mandatory by every college student I know (including the one I’m paying for) that isn’t a bad idea at all.

    As to the proprietary file format criticism, the MPEG-4 format used for video on the iPhone/iPod isn’t proprietary to Apple and can be played on nearly any computer or device out there that can play mobile video. What is proprietary and what is probably most appealing to the University–is Apple’s whole delivery structure (iTunes Store/iTunes U) is easy to implement and just so dominant in the market, it would be difficult to justify going another way.

    I agree about the sensibility of having a device that can capture audio and video for newsgathering purposes, but given the rapid changes in the technology would it really make sense to try to forecast what the best choice for that would be over the next four years?

  2. […] agree with this concise assessment of the University of Missouri-Columbia’s decision to require incoming freshmen to buy […]

  3. So, uh, free lecture recordings on iTunesU, and they’re requiring (or suggesting, since it’s not mandatory) that everyone buy an iPhone or iPod?

    Most kids already have something of that sort, and those who don’t, like myself, would simply download the lectures to my computer cause i don’t necessarily go around studying without my laptop at hand.

    It just seems like simple Apple marketing through Mizzou to me.

  4. As Kirk points out — the primary source for this “story” makes it clear WHY there is a “requirement” to purchase an iPhone (less expensive) or iPodTouch (more expensive):

    It’s so that the expenditures qualify as a financial aid expenditure.

    It’s the same reason that I make some books “required” in my courses. Universities and professors try to work around financial aid rules to help students — of course, it helps to note (somewhere) that the “requirement” is, in reality, optional. The primary source of this story does just that.

    No story. No conspiracy.

    Well, there _is_ a story that is being missed. It’s the small print micromanaging of eligible financial aid expenditures.

  5. While it’s true that financial aid played a part in Missouri’s decision, the fact remains that the school chose to add a device to the list for a purpose that could easily be accomplished by lots of other devices that aren’t being labeled “required” and that aren’t tied to just one wireless provider. The J-school leadership also helped to stir up the debate over the decision by making the change without a faculty vote. The faculty subsequently approved the move, but not without some dissent. Here’s an update from the Missourian: http://bit.ly/hXIPL

  6. […] her blog, Deborah, reasonably asks why the school is requiring j-school students to own a device which doesn’t really work as a tool for newsgathering–in […]

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