Coming back from Internet Librarian I have finally swallowed the red IM pill and will be offering this service for my distance students. That sounds so nice of me ;-) I'm not "offering it", I'm finally starting to pay attention to the statistics and will likely join my students in this space, coming up from the rear of the pack and learning as I go. Contact information is here, and will likely also show up in my email sig.
I'm not sure if this will take off considering the demographics of distance students suggest they're an older lot, but I did recently get some survey results back that indicated about 13 of 24 respondants use IM (can't find the results right now - must! clean! office!) so I might just be surprised.
For those of you who've been waiting for a slightly more academic look at the use of IM in higher ed, here you go: EDUCAUSE REVIEW | November/December 2005, Volume 40, Number 6.
From the conclusion of that article:
With IM playing such a large role in the communication, interactivity, and socialization skills of today’s younger generation, higher education leaders and faculty must seriously consider its application and inclusion within students’ learning activities. The use of such collaborative communications tools within courses and course activities creates a more engaging learning environment for students, most of whom have already adopted the readily available IM tool and are using it prolifically.