ACU first university in nation to provide iPhone or iPod touch to all incoming freshmen

Posted February 25, 2008
iPhone image courtesy of Apple

image Courtesy of Apple



An Apple iPhone or iPod touch will become a central part of Abilene Christian University's innovative learning experience this fall when all freshmen are provided one of these converged media devices, said Phil Schubert, ACU executive vice president.

At ACU - the first university in the nation to provide these cutting-edge media devices to its incoming class - freshmen will use an iPhone or iPod touch to receive homework alerts, answer in-class surveys and quizzes, get directions to their professors' offices, and check their meal and account balances - among more than 15 other useful web applications already developed, said ACU Chief Information Officer Kevin Roberts. ACU's vision for technology has been captured in a forward-looking film called 'Connected,' found online - along with information about ACU's other ground-breaking mobile learning
efforts - at the ACU website.

"We are not merely providing cutting-edge technology tools to our incoming students," said Roberts. "We are also providing the web applications that ensure these tools will become critical to the students' learning experience. Because 93 percent of ACU students bring their own computers with them to college, we are choosing to take them to the next level by providing converged mobile devices."

Dr. Dwayne VanRheenen, ACU provost, said, "This is exciting to me, not only because we're giving students new tools, but because we are transforming the learning environment. The extensive research that's been done on campus in the past 10 months has prepared us to launch with freshmen this fall, and research will be ongoing as we expand the program in the future."

For a number of years, ACU's faculty and technology staff have researched strategic opportunities presented by handheld devices in higher education, said Roberts. However, for the past six months, ACU's intensive research has focused on more than 30 projects exploring pioneering mobile learning strategies for enhancing the campus environment.

The 2008 Horizon Report stated, "As new devices… are released that make content almost as easy to access and view on a mobile as on a computer, the demand for mobile content will continue to grow. This is more than merely an expectation to provide content: this is an opportunity for higher education to reach its constituents wherever they may be."

The Horizon Report, produced annually as a collaboration between the New Media Consortium (of which ACU is a member) and the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI), also described the explosion of converged media technology. "More than a billion new mobile devices are being manufactured - a new phone for every six people on the planet. In this market, innovation is unfolding at an unprecedented pace . . . mobiles are quickly becoming the most affordable portable platform for staying networked on the go."

Using innovative technology to enhance learning is not new at ACU. In fact, ACU was one of the first universities to use mobile devices as a learning tool in its graduate distance education programs. "Expanding to undergraduate, residential students is a natural progression for us," Roberts said.

"We enjoy great relationships with many technological leaders such as Apple, AT&T and Amdocs," Schubert said. "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."

ACU's innovative, diverse learning environment attracts about 4,700 students from nearly every state and 60 nations to its beautiful 200-acre Texas campus. Strong academic programs include business, pre-med, theatre, physics, psychology, education and information technology.


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