iPods remain the must-have gadget for college students this term.

At the US Duke University, administrators are reassessing how best to use the devices as educational tools. After an experiment last year that involved giving all 1,650 incoming freshmen iPods, Duke has decided to distribute the devices more selectively.

To get an iPod from Duke for the upcoming year, students have to enroll in a course for which faculty members have requested the device.

"We are encouraging faculty to think of creative uses," says Tracy Futhey, Duke's vice president of IT and CIO.

According to Futhey, the devices proved useful in five areas, including as a study tool for repeated listening to audio (such as lectures), and for a variety of recording uses (for instance, making research notes). But faculty who taught courses available to upperclassmen couldn't build the use of iPods into their course plans because there was no assurance that students other than freshmen who enrolled would have one.

In April, Duke Provost Peter Lange announced the Duke Digital Initiative, an effort designed to support technology innovation in the classroom. As part of the program, Duke will expand its support to other technologies - including digital video cameras and tablet PCs.

Lange invited faculty members to submit proposals to Duke's Center for Instructional Technology for implementing such devices; as with the iPods, it will be the job of the center and Duke's Office of Information Technology to evaluate the proposals and distribute technology as required.