The Duke Global Health Institute (DGHI) recently announced they are about to begin a pilot program that will study how the Apple’s iPad can be used in field research:

This fall, iPads will be distributed in “Research Methods in Global Health Sciences II,” a course in DGHI’s Master of Science in Global Health (MSc-GH) degree program, which is taught by DGHI member and sociologist Jen’nan Read. The course introduces students to a range of methodological techniques used in global health research, including qualitative field research, quantitative survey research, evaluations, and interventions.

In the article Read goes on to give examples of how the iPad can increase research efficiency in the field by allowing students in low resource areas to record more data that traditional methods are able to offer. Read mentions some of the key features of the iPad – small form factor, lightweight, touch-screen, Wi-Fi, and 3G – as being essential when it comes to field research and survey data collection.

The device has a 10-hour battery life and as surveys and interviews may be conducted in dusty environments that do not offer a place to sit or rest a laptop or netbook, the slate form factor of the iPad is easy to handle and less susceptible to damage.

The funding for the iPad’s will come from the Duke Center for Instructional Technology (CIT). CIT already has a program set up for faculty members to borrow the iPad, preloaded with apps, so they can experiment with how it could potentially be used for academic purposes.

Duke University was one of the first schools to utilize the iPod in the classroom setting – so their current foray into the iPad’s abilities should come as no surprise.