iPhones or iPod Touches will be issued to incoming freshmen at Abilene Christian University (ACU) this fall. The intent is to provide what amounts to a "campus lifeline" that lets students check on every aspect of their campus life with a single, pocket-sized device.
According to ACU Chief Information Officer Kevin Roberts, more than 15 web applications have already been developed. See this ACU iPhone application video for more details.
(iPhones at ACU video)
The video is really an interesting piece of near-future science fiction itsef; it shows how a fully deployed mobile learning environment might look like. However, everything in the video is easily doable with an iPhone or iPod Touch:
Receive podcasts with class lectures
Find classes on map application
Visual walk-through of campus
Change class section or drop classes
Text messages from profs re classes
More pilot projects like this are being done with Apple's participation; more projects like this one are expected at universities like Harvard, MIT and Stanford.
Frankly, they'd better hurry up. The enormous number of unlocked iPhones has created a robust application development group; they are going to have all the necessary apps written by fall, at the rate they're going.
The iPhone used in this way reminds me very strongly of multi-function pocket-sized devices like the pocket computer from Niven and Pournelle's The Mote in God's Eye or the joymaker from Pohl's The Age of the Pussyfoot.
MyManu Titan 'Screenless Smartphone'
'...the programmed software includes procedures for translating most normal variations of voice, idiom, accent, and other variable modalities into a computer-oriented sim-script.' - Frederik Pohl, 1966.