ACU researches uses of iPhone in higher education

Posted August 23, 2007 This fall, Abilene Christian University will explore campus-wide benefits of converged, mobile devices like the Apple iPhone in higher education. In a pilot study of faculty and educational technology developers, the group will research innovative applications for smart phones and media players in deepening learning in the 21st century. In addition, ACU will explore how these converged, mobile devices can help foster community on campus and facilitate administrative tasks.

For a number of years, ACU faculty and technology staff have been studying strategic opportunities presented by handheld devices in higher education. Changing technology has enabled various companies to release PDAs and smart phones that allow users to send text messages, check email, take pictures, listen to music and download information, said Kevin Roberts, ACU’s chief information officer.

"The creation of Apple's iPhone – which offers many popular services in one device – has made what we see as the first really compelling solution," said Roberts.

ACU is creating a small case study group to analyze ways to use the iPhone as a learning tool—both in and out of the classroom—and as a way to enhance the university community.

"We are very excited about the possibilities that the iPhone offers the learning process, both inside and outside the classroom," said Dr. Bill Rankin, associate professor of English at ACU. "We have a vision for creative ways to enhance the learning experience using a portable device, and we hope to learn more as our pilot group begins using the iPhone every day in the academic setting."

This pilot study of iPhone usage in education will continue an ACU tradition of being an innovative leader in the use of technology on campus, Roberts said. ACU was one of the first 100 schools selected as iTunes Universities by Apple, and the first one to fully utilize iTunes as the primary means of offering distance learning through the ACU WorldWide program.

ACU was also one of the first universities in the country to have full faculty, staff and student deployments of the Google suite for higher education, and the university has been the beta-testing site for various types of software from several vendors through the years. In addition, the university's partnership with Genesis Networks Solutions, the fast-growing local software testing company, has opened doors for relationships with national and international technology giants.

The pilot program with the Apple iPhone is just one project ongoing at ACU to study technological trends in higher education and the new ways of teaching they facilitate.

"We enjoy great relationships with many technological leaders such as Apple, AT&T and Amdocs," said Phil Schubert, executive vice president of ACU. "These relationships help us as we continue to be a university on the leading edge of technology, a central component of our 21st Century Vision."