Higher education’s best mobile technology programs

The University of Missouri last fall required all incoming journalism students to have an iPhone or iPod Touch.
The University of Missouri last fall required all incoming journalism students to have an iPhone or iPod Touch.

With small private campuses and large research universities alike teeming with iPhones, iPod Touches, BlackBerries, and other mobile devices, a college counseling company has highlighted five institutions in particular as the best landing spots for students attached to their gadgets.

IvyWise, a New York-based counseling company that released a list of the most environmentally friendly colleges in April, recently unveiled another list to help college applicants, this time focusing on schools that leverage the power of mobile devices to store and deliver recorded lectures, syllabi, homework, tests, and a host of other information that can be accessed any time, anywhere on campus.

The list, compiled by IvyWise counselors and released May 12, includes Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pa., Stanford University, the University of Maryland’s College Park campus, Ohio State University, and the University of Missouri.

Notably absent from this list is Abilene Christian University in Texas, which just received $1.8 million from AT&T to build a studio for mobile learning experimentation.

Two of the universities in IvyWise’s list—Missouri and Seton Hill—attracted national attention this academic year when officials announced their latest education technology plans. The University of Missouri last fall required all incoming journalism students to have an iPod Touch or an iPhone so they could download material from iTunes University, a site run by Apple that includes thousands of educational videos.

Missouri officials noted that “at least 50 colleges and universities make use of iPods in their programs,” although it’s unclear how many of those schools require students to own the mobile devices. Students who couldn’t shell out a few hundred dollars for a new Apple product could pay for the device through financial aid, according to the university, because having an iPod Touch or iPhone was a journalism program requirement.

University officials said mobile devices such as the Microsoft Zune would let students listen to recorded lectures, but they added that the Zune is “not as capable as the iPod Touch beyond [its] use as an audio-video player.” BlackBerries also will “fulfill the minimum requirement” in the school’s journalism program, according to the university.

Seton Hill was among the first universities to embrace Apple’s eReader, the iPad, announcing in late March—before the iPad was released—that all incoming full-time freshmen would receive an iPad beginning in the fall 2010 semester. All other students will have a chance to opt into the iPad program, Seton Hill officials said.

The university “absorbed the cost of the iPad,” because putting Apple’s eReader devices in students’ hands marked a “strategic decision to shift resources and invest in technologies that optimize the students’ access to resources,” said Seton Hill President JoAnne Boyle.

Freshmen will pay a $500 technology fee starting in the fall 2010 semester, according to a university announcement.

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