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Abilene Christian University 2008-09 Mobile-Learning Report

Our Promise ACU is a vibrant, innovative, Christ-centered community that engages students in authentic spiritual and intellectual growth, equipping them to make a real difference in the world.


hat you hold in your hands is the crystallized product of a vision. It represents the dedicated labor and thinking of hundreds of people at Abilene Christian University – faculty, students, technologists and administrators – all struggling and sacrificing to give that vision shape, dimension and substance. The smooth polish of this document belies the exertion behind it: sleepless nights and early mornings, vigorous debates and giddy invention sessions, scores of white-board markers, hundreds of meetings, thousands of pages, crates of caffeinated soda. The sheer output of energy over this past year has been staggering. And for what? The French writer Antoine de St. Exupéry once wrote, “As for the future, your task is not to foresee it, but to enable it.” We think he got it only half right. Our task has, indeed, been to foresee the future, to imagine what learning will look like a decade from now – and a decade after that … to dream for students who are not yet born and to create for those who are already here. When we say we’re working to fashion the university of the future, we mean just that – not only for ACU, but for universities everywhere. We’ve endeavored to imagine a world where classes become untethered from the stony isolation of four walls, where information is accessible in new contexts and situations, where learning becomes truly mobile, permeating our students’ lives. And having labored to foresee this, we’ve also striven to enable it, committing our time, our passion, our abilities, and our hopes to manifesting our vision.

We’ve had some amazing successes in the year since we launched our mobile-learning initiative: international accolades, speaking appointments around the world, conferences attended by representatives from the most prestigious schools. People have seen our vision for the future and responded enthusiastically. From the first showing of our Connected video to the most recent reports from our mobile-learning researchers, the world has watched our vision unfold and has commended it. Of course, all this attention from our peers has been immensely gratifying, and we’re proud of our accomplishments. But that’s not why we’re doing this. We’re pursuing the future of learning because we know our students will live and work in a world that doesn’t yet exist – a world whose challenges and possibilities are only now beginning to coalesce. If we can offer them the advantages not only of seeing the new world these changes will create, but also of pioneering that world for those who will come after us, then we’ve done something truly valuable. This is at the heart of ACU’s mission to educate students for Christian service and leadership throughout the world. In the following pages, you’ll discover the story of our efforts to enable the future of education. You’ll read testimonials from students and faculty about the ways mobility is changing their lives and the way they learn and work. You’ll read about the activities of scholars, researchers and technologists as they labor together to understand what’s next, and you’ll find the account of lessons we’ve learned. We hope this will be enlightening. More importantly, we hope it will be inspiring, helping you, too, to catch the vision as we work to be exceptional, innovative and make a real difference. n 3 /connected

When I got the iPhone, it was a little strange to be using my phone in class, but it was an easy adjustment. My professor will ask a question about something and I don’t know what it is, but right here on my phone, with just one touch, I have, I have a Wikipedia app – I can look it up. I know what they’re talking about, because it’s right there.”

Tyler Sutphen Sophomore Major: Marketing Abilene, Texas

Erin Boyd Sophomore Major: Biology Fort Worth, Texas


Sixty-four percent of ACU’s 957 entering freshmen in Fall 2008 chose an iPhone over an iPod touch. One was Kailey Rhoden, a music and graphic design major from Dallas. Once ACU’s Fall 2009 class enrolls, more than half of the student body will have mobile-learning devices provided by the university.

Brittany Kight Sophomore Major: Information Technology Corpus Christi, Texas

The research I am working on has given me the opportunity to learn how to program iPhone applications that I would not have been able to learn at another university. The professors understand my need for creativity, and they encourage me to be creative in my projects.” t

Student Experiences

In high school, a class discussion would end once we reached a level beyond our knowledge. A teacher or student saying ‘I don’t know’ left the class with many unanswered questions. However, with the iPhone, there was never an end to a discussion due to lack of knowledge. If we did not know an answer to a question, the professor would simply ask someone to research it right there in class and we would come back to the topic later. The iPhone also allows me to keep in contact with my professors a lot more than if I just had email on my laptop. My professors would send an email to my afternoon class in the morning, and by the time class started, we had everything we needed. Also, I could send emails to professors asking questions about homework and exams. I did not have to wait for office hours, and most of the time I received a reply within the hour.”

Kight and another student developed an alternate-reality game for incoming students to use on their mobile devices. The game is designed to facilitate interaction among new students as they get to know one another. Kight’s work on software and gaming programs for the mobile-learning initiative is funded by a research grant from the ACU Honors College and is supervised by Dr. Brian Burton, assistant professor in the School of Information Technology and Computing.


Dr. Fortune Mhlanga, professor of computer science, teaches students about iPhone app development in ACU’s School of Information Technology and Computing.

Student Experiences


Jacob Poulette and Richard Tanner, senior information technology majors, have become freelance app developers. Their customers already include ACU and the Abilene Library Consortium, and will soon include other businesses and organizations.

ACU students develop new iPhone apps

“I /connected

believe we have only seen the tip of the iceberg on what can be done academically with the iPhone,” says Dr. Brian Burton, assistant professor of information technology. During Maymester

2009, Burton taught a class focusing on designing and developing new apps for the iPhone and iPod touch. “Students had to come into this class already knowing how to program,” says Burton. “We focused on the specific theory and skills needed to program in a mobile environment. Developing for mobile technology has very specific challenges, given the small viewing size and low processing power.” Students Richard Tanner, Jacob Poulette, Joseph Meade and Douglass Timmons continued their work on developing apps after the end of the Maymester class. Tanner hopes to have Neutral Zone, the game he began developing in the class, ready for release in the coming months. This fall, ACU students, faculty and staff will be able to download an ACU-branded game developed by the students in which players will drive a purple golf cart around the campus, acting as a taxi service for virtual people. “In addition to being a fun game, it will familiarize players with the layout of campus and the names and purposes of each building,” says Tanner. “The hope is that prospective students will enjoy the game and that it will keep ACU fresh in their minds as they make their college decisions. For incoming students, the game will be a great way to familiarize themselves with their new campus, even if they

The opportunities to do freelance iPhone development are only possible because of the iPhone development class offered this summer at ACU. With all the discussions and new apps slated for development, future students’ experiences will continue to be better and more rewarding each year as the initiative matures and takes shape.”

Jacob Poulette

Senior Information Technology major

Teaching & Learning: The Digital Age

Information is “scarce” and publishing is limited. Quality and assessment of information are assured by the professionalized processes of publishing and cataloguing.

Information is abundant and publishing is pervasive and easily accessible. Access to information is assured, but open publishing and free-form tagging no longer guarantee quality and assessment.

Course presentations and materials are typically developed in advance outside of class with teachers as primary developers.

Course presentations and materials are developed dynamically both inside and outside of class with students as co-developers or as primary developers.

Course activity typically focuses on presentation of information with students contextualizing, practicing, or using information at home.

Course activity typically focuses on students contextualizing, practicing, or using information with presentation of information occurring at home through media or online access.

The classroom is the primary site of access to course content, and access is often “linear”–  students cannot typically return to previous class presentations.

Access to course content is augmented by electronic sources and media, and access is often recursive or “on-demand,” allowing students to return to content when and as often as they’d like.

Course activity often focuses on the students as audience and the teacher as presenter.

Course activity focuses on students as participants and agents and the teacher as guide or mentor.

Course activity emphasizes exposition, simulation, and analysis of pre-screened information – displaying, organizing, summarizing, explaining and critiquing are central activities.

Course activity emphasizes discovery and application with information “in the wild” – finding, assessing, synthesizing, and applying become more central.

Students and teachers have access to one another primarily in the classroom.

In addition to classroom access, students and teachers have access to one another via “virtual” means – online discussions, email, chat, social networking, etc.

Discrete disciplinary boundaries are established and preserved for organizational necessity.

Interdisciplinary connections are encouraged and disciplinary boundaries are seen as porous or even arbitrary.

Douglass Timmons is working on an app project for the Abilene Library Consortium.

At its core, mobile learning represents a shift in the relationship between information and learner. In previous models, where information was contained in discrete repositories – archives, libraries, and classrooms – learners had to move to the information, often leaving the contexts where they needed to use it. In mobile learning, information is always present for learners, providing access when and where they need it. While this creates more engagement and immediacy, it also presents challenges. In the old model, information was largely pre-sorted and vetted; in the new model, information often exists without editorial intervention, so learners must sort through, judge and make sense of it for themselves. And there’s simply more of it. The average Google search yields more information than the average person 50 years ago would have encountered in an entire career. The table on the right illustrates some of the ways this new information culture affects education.

a potential market of millions of customers. The opendoor policy on the Apple App Store makes it easy for people like myself to quickly develop programs. “App development has allowed me to combine all the graphics, programming and general computer skills I have attained throughout my college experience into one viable market,” Tanner says. “I am very happy to be here at the right place, at the right time.” n



don’t realize they are learning as they play.” Tanner, Poulette and Timmons also are working with the Abilene Library Consortium on an app to allow users to browse and place holds on materials from any library in the consortium. The project is an adaptation of an open-source project begun by a public library in Washington, D.C. “Mobile learning is providing an opportunity for students to be more collaborative with one another and with the faculty using a standardized system,” says Burton. “It has given a few students the opportunity to learn to develop for mobile technology, thanks to the Maymester course.” “Personally, being able to learn to develop the apps has been a huge opportunity for me,” Tanner says. “The iPhone and iPod market has continued to grow since its launch, which gives aspiring developers

Teaching & Learning: The Print Age

Source: Dr. William Rankin

Faculty Experiences /connected


ACU faculty expand research opportunities through mobile learning


oon after announcing plans for the mobile-learning initiative 18 months ago, faculty, administrators and technology leaders at ACU committed themselves to an empirical evaluation of the program’s impact. We envisioned how pervasive mobility would transform college classrooms and campus life and were determined to pursue and support research that would help us understand this transformation. Now, one year after distributing devices to full-time, entering freshmen, we are able to report on a number of such projects. Ranging from surveys of student and faculty attitudes, perceptions and usage patterns to an experimental comparison of mobile device usage as a substitute for in-class lectures in a chemistry lab, these studies collectively show that: 1) ACU faculty and students are very positive about the program, 2) complete ubiquity with devices for all faculty and students in a class is essential, 3) iPhones present a more attractive platform for learning, and 4) learning activities can be successfully transitioned to mobile-device platforms. We named five Mobile-Learning Fellows for 2008-09. Each faculty member was chosen through a competitive, peer-review process. These Fellows partnered with the mobile-learning leadership team to examine a topic or issue relevant to this initiative. Each Fellow presented preliminary findings at our ConnectEd Summit in February and is now busy writing and speaking about these projects. With four invited manuscripts, 15 presentations in peerreviewed conference settings, and many opportunities for consultation and outside partnerships, Fellows are quickly becoming recognized as international leaders in the conversations on mobile-device usage within each of their disciplines. And six new mobile-learning projects are under way in Fall 2009, with focuses ranging from using and evaluating discipline-specific

classroom applications to reorganizing whole course structure around this emerging learning platform. What have we learned so far? Ubiquitous classroom coverage matters, with issues of adequate bandwidth and available channels for large lecture classes representing unforeseen challenges to campus technology infrastructure. Having a device in the hands of every student in the classroom is a prerequisite to broad academic adoption. This is partly why iPhones outperform iPod touches: iPhones are more likely to be carried in and out of the classroom, and those using them report significantly higher levels of utilization and satisfaction. We’ve seen that pre-class podcasts and autonomous student review of information can effectively replace laboratorybased lectures with absolutely no decrease in student performance. The majority of students in specific courses where mobile devices have been routinely used rate themselves as having improved their academic performance (grades and organization) and engagement (active learning, contact with professors and teaching assistants, involvement and attention). Our students and faculty are eager for more rapid pursuit of goals to provide complete campus coverage and integration of mobility into the learning process. We are encouraged by the widespread endorsement of the program (89 percent of students and 87 percent of faculty rate it a success) and we are challenged by the need for greater development of and training for classroom applications. There are challenges, but we are excited about the unprecedented speed of this transition among our faculty and the pervasive student use of these devices for information-seeking, social and communication activities. We have been overwhelmed with international attention, awards and accolades, speaking invitations, phone requests for consultation, and media interview requests. Our goal of being a world

By Dr. Scott Perkins Professor of Psychology and Director of Research

leader in the use and evaluation of mobile devices in higher education has moved from vision to reality. Nowhere is this more visible than in the attendance at the two mobile-learning conferences hosted by ACU in February and July 2009. Both events sold out with hundreds of attendees from around the globe, and in each case, the research of ACU faculty on mobility and higher education set the standard for other attendees. Our position as a leader in this international conversation is bolstered by our continuing commitment to evaluate the impact and success of our program objectively, allowing ACU faculty and corporate partners to continue to lead the way in constructing and assessing the learning environment of the future. n t

Dr. Susan Lewis, assistant professor of journalism and mass communication, experimented with mobile-learning technology in her classes in ACU’s nationally accredited JMC program.

2008-09 ACU Mobile-Learning Fellows • Dr. Brian Burton, Assistant Professor of Computer Science, “Collaboration with Mobile Technology at ACU” • Dr. Rob Byrd, Associate Professor of Information Technology and Computing, “Mobile Device Effectiveness in Academic Environments”

• Dr. Brad Crisp, Assistant Professor of Information Systems and Management Sciences, “Is it Work or Play? Utilitarian Versus Hedonic Uses of Converged Mobile Devices in Higher Education” • Dr. Matt Dodd, Assistant Professor of Conflict Resolution, “Student Self-Rated Maturity and Communication Patterns with Friends, Parents and Teachers”

• Cynthia Powell, Instructor of Chemistry, “Using iPhones to Support Student Learning in Inquiry-Based Laboratory Experiments”

2009-10 ACU Mobile-Learning Fellows • Dr. Brad Crisp, Assistant Professor of Information Systems and Management Sciences, “Utilitarian Versus Hedonic Uses of Mobile Devices in Higher Education: All Work and No Play Makes …”

• Dr. Jaime Goff, Assistant Professor of Marriage and Family Therapy, “The Effects of Mobile Learning in Marriage and Family Therapy Graduate Education on Student Engagement and Course Evaluations”

• Dr. Mark Phillips, Assistant Professor of Management Sciences, “Reconfiguring an Entry-Level Majors’ Course Utilizing Mobile Learning Tools on a Regular (Daily) Basis” • Cynthia Powell, Instructor of Chemistry, “Using Podcasts on Mobile Devices to Support Increased Student Independence in Inquiry-Based Chemistry Labs” • Dr. Jennifer Shewmaker, Assistant Professor of Psychology, “Monitoring the Behavioral and Academic Progress of At-Risk Elementary Students on a Mobile Device Platform” • Dr. Autumn Sutherlin, Assistant Professor of Biochemistry, “The Use of Clickers and Electronic Flashcards on the iPhone/iPod touch in a Chemistry Classroom”

Connected Web site offers myriad resources


bilene Christian’s Connected Web site ( offers a clearinghouse of information and resources about the deployment of mobile learning at ACU. Offering links to podcasts and videos on iTunes U, discussions of activities and events and a collection of research materials, the Connected Web site is designed to help the educational community and others keep abreast of current mobile-learning activities and gain access to the lessons we’ve learned from past endeavors. n

Chemistry labs, classes combine science with mobile learning


very important movement in science education is the inclusion of inquiry-based experiments,” says Cynthia Powell, instructor of chemistry and biochemistry. “Inquiry-based experiments require students to plan and execute their own experiments. And a lot of research has shown that this type of experiment helps students understand and learn material a lot more effectively. “The problem is, students coming into a laboratory very often don’t have the supporting skills they need to plan a rigorous experiment. So this semester, we prepared podcasts that could be used as scaffolding tools or support tools for our students,” she says. “This would allow students to access information on how to do a particular procedure, or to use a particular technique or type of equipment, and independently access the information they needed to plan their own experiment.” Powell and her teaching assistants monitored both the students who had access to the podcasts and the students who did not. The results were clear: students who had access to the podcasts on their iPhones needed much less assistance from Powell or the TAs than the students who didn’t have access to the podcasts. “I loved how we used the iPhone in class,” says Erin Boyd, sophomore biology major. She adds that Powell’s podcasts “described the lab’s procedure in detail and showed you what to expect before ever walking in the door. This allowed me to quickly move from simple questions like ‘What is this piece of equipment called?’ to more advanced questions about what was actually taking place.” “We feel like this is critical,” Powell says. “As scientists, our students need to be learning how to collect and gather data on their own, and this is an important way that we can help our students on this path toward independence.” n 9

Faculty Experiences /connected

“One of the challenges in the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication is to deal with an audience that is equipped with mobile devices,” says Dr. Kenneth Pybus. “People with mobile devices are consuming news differently than the way we’ve done it for a generation. And so we need to adjust the way we deliver the news. We need to give them the news in video, in text, in audio, in any way that might be the best way to tell the news story.” Pybus and his student team developed an iPhone interface for The Optimist’s Web site last year, and are currently working on an updated version for the 2009-10 school year. “Part of good journalism is ease of use,” Pybus says. “We want to encourage as many students as possible to know about what’s going on on campus and in their community.”

“I love books,” says Dr. Kyle Dickson. “I love the smell, and the feel, and the heft of them. So I looked rather suspiciously at the iPhone as a platform for reading. It didn’t seem like a reading device.” What Dickson found in his classes, however, was that students wanted to read not only syllabi and course reference documents on their iPhones – they also wanted to read stories. “I ran into this when we were reading a short story of Tolstoy’s,” says Dickson, who uploaded a public-access version of the story to his students’ mobile devices. “It took five seconds to distribute, and within five minutes my students had it in front of them. And every one of them read the entire story, not on a printout, which I think I had expected, but on the screen in front of them.”

Dr. Kenneth Pybus

Dr. Kyle Dickson

Assistant Professor of Journalism and Mass Communication, and Faculty Advisor for The Optimist Student Newspaper

Associate Professor of English and Director of the Digital Media Center

“It’s really good for review,” says Dr. Autumn Sutherlin about the set of iPhone NANO tools – applications which allow teachers to poll students using their iPhones. “I’ll ask students questions that are coming up on the test, or related material. Students can get a feel for what they know and what they don’t, and I can get a feel for what they know and what they don’t. I think most students really enjoy using it.” Sutherlin also used iPhones in her University Seminar class during a discussion on critical thinking. “We could poll the students without them having to specifically volunteer that they were the ones feeling a certain way,” she says. “I think it left the students more open to sharing what they truly thought.”

Dr. Autumn Sutherlin Assistant Professor of Biochemistry

Connected conferences move online

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ducators from universities, colleges and primary and secondary schools around the world gathered virtually to learn more about implementing mobile-learning technology in the classroom through the first Connected Online mobile-learning conference hosted July 16, 2009, by ACU. Participants in the conference were presented with reasons why mobile learning is such an important step for education, lessons from two universities that have already launched major mobile-learning initiatives, perspectives on Abilene Christian’s own mobile-learning initiative, examples of teaching tools and applications and a glimpse of how mobile learning could

factor into kindergarten through 12th-grade education. “Connected Online: Exploring Mobile Learning was one of the best-run online conferences I’ve attended,” said Brad Ovenell-Carter, assistant head of Island Pacific School in Bowen Island, British Columbia. Interest in the conference was high, with nearly 225 people registering within five days of registration opening. Participants came from five countries, 32 states and 100 institutions, including some from Australia, where the time zone difference meant the conference took place from 12:30 a.m. to 6:30 a.m. n

“ Like most faculty members, Dr. Jonathan Stewart never feels he has enough time to cover all his material in class. So in 2007, after a discussion in his Financial Management class was cut short, Stewart hit on an innovative way to get the extra information to his students: a podcast. “It occurred to me that this could be a great teaching tool,” Stewart recalls. “So that afternoon, I plugged an old microphone into my Mac and recorded my first podcast. “Since that time, I’ve published 29 podcasts for the general public and 10 to 15 others directed specifically at my students,” he says. His podcast, Stewllenium Radio, is enhanced with music and sound effects to make it more entertaining. “My hope is that the playful, over-the-top nature of the show resonates with my students and makes it seem more like entertainment and less like a lecture,” he says. “I think the podcast benefits students by providing them an additional resource which they can use when they want, where they want, and as frequently as they want.”

Dr. Jonathan Stewart Professor of Accounting and Finance

“Mobile learning has allowed me a kind of versatility and an immediacy that I didn’t have before,” says Adam Hester. “When I need students to do immediate research – like when I want them to choose a play from the current Broadway list to use in a class discussion, they can go to themselves instead of me having to pull up the Web site. It’s a time-saver when you’re doing Internet research.” Hester has high hopes for the video capabilities of the new iPhone 3GS, which this year’s freshman class will have. He plans for his professors to use the new phones to videotape sections of scenes when they work on blocking. The professors will then use the footage to explain and illustrate how to create good blocking. “There are also a lot of apps on the iPhone that can tend to other needs that aren’t necessarily Internet-related,” Hester adds. He has used a calculator application to determine square footage of set pieces, played music for cast warm-ups through iTunes, used the searchable Shakespeare app during ACU’s annual Shakespeare Festival, and even used the Pitch Pro app in lieu of a piano during rehearsals. Given the device’s versatility, it’s likely that future ACU Theatre students will consider their iPhones as indispensable a tool as their scripts.

Adam Hester

Professor and Chair of Theatre

A couple years ago I began experimenting with an online class blog. Part of the goal of that was to put the conversation in the medium that the students were already communicating in. They were already writing notes on Facebook; they were posting things; they were emailing, texting and getting a lot of their news and information on the Internet. So if I could put a blog online – many students were already bloggers themselves – the students could have a conversation that would also be a venue for them to interact and see each other’s work. This one simple teaching tool, a class blog, became one of the most satisfying and enriching academic experiences I’ve ever had.”

Dr. Richard Beck

Associate Professor and Chair of Psychology


(From left) Dr. Jeff Childers, Dr. Kristina Campos, Cynthia Powell, Dr. Kenneth Pybus and Adam Hester participate on a panel discussion at ACU’s ConnectEd Summit in February 2009.

Faculty Experiences /connected


Flying High Aboard an Educational Phenomenon

Mobile learning takes off, fueled by the ACU-hosted ConnectEd Summit

By Dr. William Rankin Adapted from ACU Today Magazine, Winter 2009

e on the ACU mobile-learning team had grown fairly used to flying under the radar, which is why it was so strange walking onto the show floor at the EDUCAUSE national meeting in Orlando, Fla., last October. Here were nine of us from ACU among almost 5,000 visitors at the world’s largest educational technology conference, and we could hardly take a step without running into ourselves. One vendor was showing our Connected video and teaching a series of half-hour classes about ACU’s mobile-learning initiative. Another was projecting ACU’s logo on their screens and talking about how schools could move into the new millennium by mirroring our strategies. Group after group was pointing to us as an example of next-generation thinking about education – and people were gobbling it up. When we realized they’d put two of our presentations in rooms that seated 400, we worried we might not fill them; instead, they were packed. People would glance at our nametags, see “Abilene Christian University,” and stop dead in their tracks: “We’ve seen your movie!” they’d say. “We’ve heard about what you’re doing. When can we come and visit your campus?” We knew we worked at a fine Christian university, but this was something new: ACU had become a kind of Geek Graceland. It all started with a dedicated team who wanted to transform education for our students. Looking at our culture, we realized some critical changes had occurred. If we wanted to continue teaching our students in real, meaningful ways and give them the exceptional preparation we strive to provide, we would have to figure out an innovative way to respond. First, we realized that the entering class of 2011 would be the first graduating class never to have

generation of students, the digital world provided an infrastructure that shaped their daily lives. Most importantly, we realized this was a generation whose lives and careers would be profoundly shaped by technology. They didn’t have the option of opting out; they’d be expected to live, work and succeed in the digital world. How were we going to prepare them for that life? How were we going to give them the quality education that ACU tradition demanded? When we watched Steve Jobs introduce the iPhone – a device to bring together content, mobility and communication in a way no other device had ever done – we knew we had the platform for a new kind of teaching and learning that could serve this incoming generation of students. Now we just had to build the plan. After more than a year of study, late nights and preparation, we were ready. On Feb. 25, 2008, we announced our plans to the world: ACU would be the first campus to launch a next-generation mobile learning initiative based on Apple’s iPhone and iPod touch. The response was overwhelming: calls, blog posts, newspaper articles, radio and television stories. During a three-hour period the next morning, we served more Web traffic than we usually serve in three months. Stories about ACU appeared on every continent (except Antarctica). Of course, not every story was positive. Some people saw this as a mere publicity stunt. But we knew better. We knew that hard work and preparation had positioned us to be a world leader in higher education. And as we walked out onto that show floor at EDUCAUSE, we knew we had made the right choice. School after school was looking at mobile learning, working to discover how this new generation of mobile devices in the hands of the new generation of digital students would transform education. They kept asking


MOBILE LEARNING INNOVATION known a world without the World Wide Web. Tim Berners-Lee had invented it the year they were born, and Google had shown up the year they learned to read and write. Unlike our generation with its card catalogues, complex bibliographies and baroque classification systems, this was a generation for whom information was quick, easy to get and pervasive. These weren’t people who had to wait for information to be published, even in something as flexible and seemingly up-to-date as a daily newspaper. They were used to knowing right away – the second an event happened. We also knew that these students were not only comfortable with mobility; they expected it. They were the first class in ACU history to bring more laptops than desktop computers to campus, and we’d have to do something to meet their hunger for mobility. Having grown up with the Web and having used it anywhere, they expected to be able to use it everywhere. And for a campus increasingly focused on service-learning, internships and field research, that wasn’t such a bad expectation to have. We knew this was a generation that valued community – but of a new kind and on a new level. These students wanted to be connected 24/7. This was the Facebook generation, the Twitter generation, a group who let everyone know exactly what they were up to through regular status updates. They were bloggers and texters, as comfortable with YouTube and Flickr as they were with breathing. For this


Featured speakers at the ConnectEd Summit in February 2009 included Harvard University’s Dr. Eric Mazur (top), Jason Ediger of Apple and iTunes U (middle left), and Apple Distinguished Educator Dr. Steve Molyneux from Telford, UK (middle right). The event was attended by more than 400 professionals in the Teague Special Events Center on ACU’s campus (below).

us: how had we done it? What were the pitfalls and benefits? Could they meet with us to talk about our initiative? Could they come to campus to see what we were doing? We quickly realized we were in danger of becoming full-time consultants, which would leave us no time to do our own work. What we needed was an opportunity to bring people together – both those who were already launching mobile-learning initiatives and those who were interested in doing so. We thought it might be nice to host a little conference at ACU: invite a few schools, bring in a few vendors, talk things out. We were already in the last days of October, but the end of February seemed like a great time to host our conference. The calendar was fairly empty and it would be the first anniversary of our own announcement. The minute we got back to town, we started working. It was a whirlwind three months, putting together materials, arranging speakers, working out the program. As people started registering, we realized that our quiet little conference was turning into something much bigger. Even in a climate of restricted travel budgets, people were coming – from everywhere. We bumped our initial goal up to 250 attendees, then 300, then 350. We scrambled to find room for all the people who were planning to come, only to have to find new places by the following week. What had started out as a little conference for a few schools had become one of the largest mobile-learning conferences in the world. When the dust settled, the ACU ConnectEd Summit had hosted 412 people from 64 colleges and universities (including MIT, Harvard, Texas, Texas A&M, Clemson and Vanderbilt), 29 K-12 districts (including Fairfax County, Va., and Dallas ISD), and 26 companies (including Apple, AT&T, Alcatel-Lucent, Blackboard, Xythos, Pearson Learning Solutions, John Wiley & Sons, and Turning Technologies).

They came from 31 states and eight countries, from as far away as Perth, Australia. The schools who showed up on campus for the Feb. 27 conference served more than 1.77 million students. How did it turn out? Great. People left energized to begin their own mobile-learning programs, spurred on by the conference workshops and our keynote speakers: Dr. Steve Molyneux, an Apple Distinguished Educator and consultant from England whose Wikipedia page reads like a primer for the history of educational technology; Dr. Eric Mazur, Balkanski Professor of Physics at Harvard and a pioneer of engaged learning; John Regan, vice president of the Government, Education and Medicine group at AT&T; and Jason Ediger, director of iTunes U and head of mobile learning in Apple’s Education Group. There’s so much more to do. Our mobile-learning initiative is just in its infancy, and over the next several years, we’ll work hard to integrate this technology more fully into our classes and our campus, preparing our students for their digitally connected lives. There’s still a lot to learn, too – from our students and from others in the field – but it’s great to be where we are. And we’ve appreciated so much the accolades people have given Abilene Christian for our leadership: Campus Technology magazine’s 2008 Innovator of the Year award for mobile learning, U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of ACU as the number-one school to watch in the West. More recently, ACUTA gave us a 2009 award for Institutional Excellence in Information Communication Technology, Alcatel-Lucent chose us for its 2009 Analyst Choice Award and its Dynamic Enterprise Award – the first time such honors have ever been given to a university – and the New Media Consortium named us a Center of Excellence. While it’s not clear exactly what will happen in the coming years, one thing is certain: we’re on 13 everybody’s radar now. n /connected


Faculty, staff and students pose for the camera after wrapping filming in one of the video’s final classroom scenes.

teams. However, several of these novel and prospective uses for the new generation of highly mobile, converged computing devices have since become reality. “One strength of incorporating mobility at ACU has been putting educators and developers in the same room,” says Dr. William Rankin, associate professor of English and director of educational innovation. The chance to work together in producing the Connected video yielded benefits for each group – faculty, students and developers alike.” The video has been viewed more than 107,000 times by visitors to the university’s Web site. Videos about mobile learning at ACU have been viewed or downloaded more than 177,000 times since late February 2008. n A 32-inch flat screen monitor at the entrance to the Adams Center for Teaching and Learning shows the locations around the globe where people are viewing the university’s Web site. The larger the red circles, the more people who are online. This Google Map graphic represents the traffic generated in one hour – 10-11 a.m. CST on Feb. 28, 2008 – as people downloaded the Connected video on the day the mobile-learning initiative was announced.


ACU’s Connected mobile-learning initiative is the product of a decade of research and experimentation. In Fall 1999, ACU began evaluation of mobile learning by providing IBM laptops to a freshman learning community led by Dr. Paul Lakey, Sherry Rankin, and Randy Daughtory. Later that academic year, Dr. Terry Pope began evaluation of mobile computing in an upper-division course. Though promising, the technology wasn’t quite ready. Over the following years, teams of technologists, faculty, and students – led by George Saltsman and others – continued evaluation of laptops, PDAs and cellphones. Each successive generation of technology presented more promise, and ACU gained an increasingly informed understanding of the potential of mobile learning. When the iPhone was announced in January 2007, discussions of mobile learning reached a crescendo. The time to act was at hand.



n Jan. 23, 2008, ACU premiered Connected, a 15-minute film showcasing a compelling and futuristic vision of how mobile learning could transform higher education. The HD film, written and produced entirely by Abilene Christian students, faculty and staff, and featuring ACU students and faculty as actors, follows a freshman through her first two days on a college campus. She watches and participates as converged mobile devices such as the iPhone are leveraged to build student community, augment educational rigor and innovation and simplify day-to-day tasks. At the time, many of the applications portrayed in the film were fictional, based on ideas being developed by ACU’s faculty and staff research


Mobile-learning History at ACU 14

Connected video put a face on ACU’s initiative

The first meeting for what will become ACU’s mobile-learning initiative takes place in the Adams Center.

A recommendation for building a mobile-learning initiative based on Apple’s iPhone is first presented to ACU’s LINK team for consideration.

April 18, 2007

May 2, 2007


In June 2009, CIO magazine announced ACU as a recipient of its 2009 CIO 100 Award. The 22nd annual award program recognized organizations around the world that exemplify the highest level of operational and strategic excellence in information technology. ACU was one of only six universities named to this prestigious list. Other recipients included AT&T, Dell, GE Energy, IBM and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

What we want to do with this program is tap into each student’s innate abilities. We want to transform the shape of the classroom from that factory model, where everybody sits in ranks, and observes and consumes, to a model of engagement, where each student becomes a resource in the class. It’s hard with a standard textbook, which is static and uniform, to encourage that sort of diversity, right? But with a little tiny device – fits in my pocket – that has access to the whole world, to the whole world’s knowledge – to databases at libraries, to media files from all across the world, to things like YouTube and Flickr where people are putting up their own images – when I give students access to that, I give them a possibility for discovery that didn’t exist in the classroom before.”

Dr. William Rankin

ACU ranked No. 1 for innovation


he August 2008 edition of the U.S. News & World Report on “America’s Best Colleges” showed ACU continuing its top-tier ranking among universities. It also appeared in a new category recognizing innovation among 70 schools that peer institutions believe “everyone should be watching.” ACU was ranked the No. 1 “Up-and-Coming School” in the Universities-Master’s western region. n

Associate Professor of English and Director of Educational Innovation

Following positive responses from LINK, the Mobile-Learning Executive Team convenes for the first time, drawing up plans for a written plan to be presented at a previously-scheduled meeting with Apple.

A team from ACU presents the 40-page “The Apple iPhone & ACU: The Case for Development & Deployment of the iPhone in Higher Education” at Apple Headquarters in Cupertino, Calif.

The Mobile-Learning Executive Team begins meeting weekly to set strategic goals and plan the future of ACU’s mobile-learning efforts.

The Mobile-Learning Executive Team approves turning the “day-in-the-life” story from the plan into a video to be directed by senior Matt Maxwell.

ACU begins development of a blog focused on integrating mobile technologies in higher education, overseen primarily by graduate student Brice Nordquist.

May 11, 2007

June 6, 2007

July 16, 2007

July 18, 2007

July 26, 2007

Mobile-learning History at ACU

2009 Institutional Excellence Award t

In March 2009, ACUTA, the Association for Information Communications Technology Professionals in Higher Education, chose ACU for its most prestigious honor, the award for Institutional Excellence in Information Communications Technology. Three universities of different sizes receive the award each year; it is given to innovative and exemplary endeavors, products or services in the field of higher education technology. ACU won in the category of institutions with fewer than 5,000 students. Past recipients of Institutional Excellence awards include Harvard University, Notre Dame University and The University of Texas at Austin.

Mobile portal enhances iPhone experience


2009 New Media Consortium Center of Excellence Award /connected


The New Media Consortium, an international consortium of colleges, universities and museums dedicated to the exploration and use of new media and new technologies, named ACU a “Center of Excellence” – its highest honor – for the university’s mobile-learning initiative. According to George Saltsman, receiving the Center of Excellence Award is “like being named the MVP of an all-star game.” The NMC is the group that first identified mobile phones as a technology to watch in 2006, prompting ACU’s LINK technology advisory team to begin developing a local vision for projects such as the mobile-learning program.

Texas Region 14 “Technology Frontiers III” becomes the first external academic group to hear a presentation about ACU’s mobile-learning initiative.

August 30, 2007

November 10, 2007



Faculty are invited to submit applications for mobile-learning research projects. So many are interested (70 percent) that the venue has to be changed three times before a large enough space is found.

s ACU’s mobile-learning team planned the launch of the initiative in Fall 2008, ACU’s Web integration team had a challenge of their own: to develop a mobile interface compatible with the iPhone and iPod touch, allowing students to access all the information they need to navigate life at Abilene Christian. “We had several goals in creating the mobile portal,” says Dr. James Langford, director of Web integration. He and his team wanted to recreate the functionality of a desktop portal to be useful on the go and also to create new features not available on the desktop. The interface, developed by Langford, Chad Martin and Carmen Foster, now allows students to access campus maps, view ACU news updates, keep track of their meal plans,

Bean Bucks, Chapel credits, and even view and rate area restaurants. ACU Mobile ( also allows access to Google’s mobile apps, including ACU Gmail, Google Docs and Google Calendar. Students can access information, files and interactive tools for their classes on the “My Classes” tab, access campus maps and class materials, and even search for professors or other students they want to contact – all from their mobile devices. So far, both the students and ACU’s Web team are pleased with the results. “The combination of academic visionaries, creative in-house programmers and a thoughtful interface designer resulted in a very attractive and useful mobile portal,” says Langford. n

The first alpha version of the attendance tool, part of ACU’s online mobile suite, is completed and demonstrated.

Official premiere of the Connected video to an audience of students, administrators and invited corporate dignitaries.

Official announcement: “ACU to give an iPhone or iPod touch to every entering freshman.” President Royce Money informs a visiting group of prospective Presidential Scholars at lunch, and immediately following, the press release goes worldwide.

January 15, 2008

January 23, 2008

February 25, 2008

2008 Campus Technology Innovators: Mobile Learning


t’s no secret that smart phones are the wave of the mobile device future, and at Abilene Christian University (TX), technologists recently embarked on an effort to embrace this technology and deploy an iPhone program that connects students and faculty through academic, social, and infrastructure applications. … … As cohesive as it sounds, the project didn’t come together overnight. Faculty members at ACU had been considering mobile broadband as a revolutionary new computing platform since 2002, and previously had looked into BlackBerry devices from Research in Motion and Treos from Palm, to support a campuswide program. But the efforts were stalled until 2007, when – following the release of Apple’s iPhone and the publication of the 2008 Horizon Report,

which charted the landscape of emerging technologies for teaching, learning, and creative expression – faculty members became excited at the possibilities. Nearly 40 faculty members and technologists were involved in researching a solution around the new platform. Heading the project was Bill Rankin, director of mobile learning and professor of English, who worked with key team contributors Kevin Roberts, CIO; James Langford, director of web integration and programming; Jim Trietsch, associate CIO; and Kyle Dickson, co-director of mobile learning research and podcasting. By the end of the 2007-2008 school year, the Connected program was ready to roll. n

initial press


Excerpt from August 2008 issue reprinted with permission.

Ars Technica puts university in the spotlight


he benefit to working a tech job at a university is that you often get to experiment with tech rollouts aimed at boosting collaboration, connectivity, and educational aims without the concerns of a more corporate environment. In other words, you can play with some cool stuff and engage in some interesting tests. But sometimes such IT departments get accused of trading in their geek cards for gimmickry. Consider Abilene Christian University in Texas, which made headlines in February after announcing its plans to distribute iPhones to all incoming freshmen next fall. The school said it wanted to evaluate the iPhone’s potential for students and faculty, but many called it nothing short of a gimmick to gain headlines. Yet that’s not all ACU is doing; it’s also outsourcing much of its IT infrastructure (such as email) over to Google Apps for Education and making use of the collaborative services that Google has to offer. Hence we were excited to check in on The Chronicle of Higher Education’s online Q&A chat with ACU’s CIO, Kevin Roberts (there

ACU cited for innovation

is now a transcript of the chat online), to learn more about ACU’s reasoning behind the move and its progress to date. ACU is moving quickly to assess whether or not the iPhone is an educational tool in its own right or just another cellphone with a browser. Roberts says that the school is doing everything it can to prove that the iPhone pilot at ACU isn’t a gimmick.

Publicity stunt or patently smart? While the iPhone might be relatively new on the scene, Roberts said that the university has been researching mobile learning for more connected thanacu a decade. It was the iPhone that made them take the leap. “The combination of a mobile device and a fully functioning web browser [on the iPhone] was what tipped the scale for us. We felt like that combination was powerful and compelling,” he said. n

ampus Technology magazine honored Abilene Christian with its Innovator Award for 2008 in the area of mobile technology. The 14 Innovator Award winners, each in a different category, were selected from a field of 275 nominees from across the country. According to the magazine’s Web site, winning institutions were recognized for “a unique ability to advance teaching, learning, administration, and operations on North American college and university campuses.” The magazine featured ACU’s mobile-learning initiative in its August 2008 issue ( n

Excerpt from April 2008 issue reprinted with permission. Story by Jacqui Cheng.

Between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m., ACU serves as much incoming Web traffic alone as it typically does for both incoming and outgoing traffic during a three-month period.

The Chronicle of Higher Education and Wired magazine carry their first stories about ACU’s mobile-learning initiative.

Presentation at the New Media Consortium’s annual meeting at Princeton University. Key ACU leaders first discuss hosting a mobile-learning conference at ACU.

The first group of Mobile- Learning Fellows is announced.

ACU is named “Innovator of the Year” in mobility by Campus Technology magazine.

February 26, 2008

February 28, 2008

June 12, 2008

June 16, 2008

July 31, 2008

Mobile-learning History at ACU

ACU’s iPhone initiative: A year later

Handheld Learning Conference invites ACU reps to UK

I /connected

n just four years, the Handheld Learning Conference has gained itself a reputation for drawing discussion of cutting-edge technology from all over the globe. Co-sponsored by innovative leaders Apple, BECTA, Nintendo, T-Mobile, Walt Disney and BBC Channel 4, the educational conference invited ACU to present at its 2008 meeting in London. Dr. William Rankin, Dr. Kyle Dickson, Dr. James Langford and George Saltsman attended the conference. ACU also was named as a finalist for the 2008 Handheld Learning Innovation Award for tertiary education. The winner was left up to popular vote, with people texting in their choice for the most innovative initiative via SMS. Although ACU’s mobile-learning initiative did not win, being named a finalist was an honor considering the reputation of the conference, said Rankin. “We really feel that we’re looking at a transformative moment in education, and we’re pleased to be at the center of these discussions,” Rankin said. n


recently got a chance to follow up with George Saltsman (Faculty Development), Scott Perkins (Director of Research) and William (Bill) Rankin (Director of Educational Innovation), meeting up for a multiparty video chat which revealed the excitement these guys have for what they are seeing become the platform for education: the iPhone. We talked for well over an hour, and their intensity and enthusiasm never dwindled. I got a great look at what they planned, how they did it, and how it turned out after the first year. Read on to see how the iPhone (and the iPod touch) has played a role in creating a new model for higher education at ACU.

Implementation We knew the “what” already: ACU handed out 957 devices to incoming freshmen, as well as 169 to faculty and another 182 to staff. It wasn’t a blind move, or a gimmick; it was the result of much research, planning, and even a faculty contest to submit ideas for implementing technology – namely, the iPhone – into the curriculum in ways which would be beneficial, non-distracting and begin to chip away at the age-old paradigms of the lecture hall. There is a multi-dimensional appeal to the iPhone, and that’s what these three and their compatriots hung their hopes on: it’s innately sexy, thanks in no small part to some great marketing by Apple, it’s extremely useful and, most importantly, it has the potential to become an integral part of students’ social lives. Bill explains that a “significant amount of their value has to do with their use as a social device, or as an entertainment device … if my students need this device as part of their social network, then it guarantees that it’s in the classroom with them.” George adds that “it’s a part of the way they behave socially, it becomes a tool to help them

with their lives. That dynamic is very important in education – we don’t have to teach them about this device, they’re going to learn it on their own. It’s just one small [step] to be able to use that device for education and intellectual inquiry.” After listening to the conversation for a while, it became clear that there was a driving philosophy behind this, and one which made it all work. First, the devices were the students’, their use of them as social and entertainment devices was unrestricted. They let the iPhone do something it does quite well: become an integral part of a student’s daily life. Second, nothing was mandated. Acceptance and use by anyone, student, faculty or staff, was entirely voluntary. This is an interesting counterpoint to one of the lessons they learned along the way: ubiquity is key. A curriculum which incorporates the iPhone needs to be inclusive – everyone has to have a device – and materials and resources have to be universally accessible for a plan like this to work. In the end, they told me, the biggest challenge was not convincing people to get on board, it was simply meeting the demand. … … The results of the first year’s experiment are positive enough that future institutional investment can be justified to provide the necessary ubiquity. The resources required are significant, but they offer a very good return. 500 devices have already been handed out for the next year, and Bill, George and Scott are speaking at conferences around the globe about the program and its results. It’s clear that the readiness of today’s students to face the future depends on programs like this, and the “culture of innovation” that seems to drive ACU. n By Brett Terpstra, The Unofficial Apple Weblog; TUAW is a trademark of AOL LLC. Used with permission.


Dr. Kyle Dickson and Dr. William Rankin are named faculty-in-residence at the Adams Center for Teaching and Learning with the commission to forward mobile learning as part of ACU’s 21st-Century Vision.

ACU begins distributing iPhone and iPod touch devices to incoming freshmen. ACU claims the unofficial world record for the most iPhone 3G activations in one location in a 24-hour period: 612.

The New York Times carries its first story about ACU’s mobile-learning initiative.

ACU is named the No. 1 “Up-and-Coming School” in the Universities-Master’s western region by U.S. News & World Report.

The Google Bus visits ACU on its 10-campus “App to School” campaign.

August 13, 2008

August 16, 2008

August 20, 2008

August 22, 2008

September 15, 2008

ACU mobile-learning initiative receives worldwide coverage Print and Web media sources of stories, commentary and other coverage of ACU’s mobile-learning initiative since February 2008 2CoolTools 2dayBlog – Technology Journal Abilene Reporter-News AEC News Room American Electronics Association ( AppScout (N.Y.) Ars Technica AT&T AT&T – Factiva Alerts Atlanta Business Chronicle Baltimore Business Journal BC Heights Biz Journals Biz Yahoo Finance Bolsamania (Web Financial Group) Boston Business Journal Business First of Buffalo Business First of Columbus Business First of Greater Milwaukee Business Journal of Phoenix Business Week Business Wire Calibre Macro World Campus Technology Cellular-News Charlotte Business Journal Christian Chronicle Christian News and Updates Chronicle of Higher Education Church Video Ideas Cincinnati Business Journal CNBC CNET News Collegemediainnovation. org Consumer Electronics Net Coolest Gadgets Corporate Media News

Courrier International CrunchGear Current Cyperus Daily Nebraskan (University of Nebraska) Dallas Business Journal Dayton Business Journal Denver Business Journal Device Management Forum Digi Today DiGiTAL 50 Disparate Dot-Com Desk Earth Times East Bay Business Times Educational Origami e-Literate eSchool News eWeek eWeek (N.Y.) Fierce Wireless FinanzNachrichten Fort Worth Star-Telegram Gadget Review Gainesville (Fla.) Sun GetListy Globe Investor Higgaion High Download Internet News List Hispanic Business Hollywood Industry Houston Chronicle Human Rights Today iLounge Inbox Robot India PR Wire Industry Standard Breaking News

Information and the Future Innovation in College Media Insanely Great Mac Inside Collin County Business International Herald Tribune iPhone Activ8 iPhone Alley iPhone and the City iPhone Buzz iPhone China iPhone Journal iPhone Matters iPhone News, Reviews, Accessories iPhonefreak iPhoneMatters iPhone-one iPod Palace iPod Town, iPod Blog iThinkEd iTunesstore iWorld News iWorld News (UK) Jackson Business Journal Kansas Business Attorney Kronen Zeitung La Tercera Latest iNews Librarian by Design LinkNotes Los Angeles Business Los Angeles Times Mac Daily News Mac Life Mac Life Online Mac Observer Mac Rumors Macbook/pro MacDailyNews

MacFocus Magazine Maclife Online Macro World Investor Macworld MacWorld UK Memphis Business Journal Metafilter Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal Mobile Future Mobile Mag Mobile Technology News Mobilsiden MSN Money MSNBC Muleskinner Nashville Business Journal NetworkWorld New Media Consortium RSS New Mexico Business Journal Newswire Newswire Today Online Education and Learning Blog Orlando Business Journal Pacific Business News PC Chip PC Magazine PC World Canada PDAstreet PhoneDifferent Portland Business Journal PR Log Practical Educational Technology PressBox RBC Dain Rauscher Inc. RCR Wireless News Reuters

Sacramento Business Journal San Antonio Business Journal San Francicso Business Journal San Jose Business Journal SatNews Silo Breaker Softpedia Solid State Technology Magazine South Florida Business Journal Spinuzzi St. Louis Business Journal Stockwatch (Canada) Storage Magazine U.S. Surya-Lab SWiK Switched Sydney Morning Herald SYS-CON India SYS-CON U.S. Taipei Times Online Talking Creatively About Education 2.0 Tampa Bay Business Journal Tampa Bay Online Teaching With Technology Tech Digest Tech News Journal Tech News World Technorati techPowerUp! TechWoo TecTrends Texi (Singapore)

Presentation at the EDUCAUSE National Meeting; ACU’s sessions are held in packed rooms that seat 400.

ACU publicly announces the ConnectEd Mobile-Learning Summit, scheduled for Feb. 27, 2009.

October 15, 2008

October 29, 2008

November 5, 2008


Presentation at the Handheld Learning conference in London; ACU is a nominee for the Handheld Innovation Award.

TGBus The American Portrait The Brown Daily Herald (Providence, R.I.) The Business Journal Phoenix The Daily (University of Washington) The Daily Camera The Daily Texan (The University of Texas at Austin) The Dallas Morning News Technology Blog The Dartmouth The iPod Observer The New York Times The Spectrum (University of Buffalo) The Times South Africa Times of India (Bangalore) TMCnet Top iPhone News Trend Hunter Triangle Business Journal Tuned In U.S. News & World Report UberPhones Wall Street Journal Online Washington Business Journal Washington Square News Wichita Business Journal WideNet High-Tech News Yahoo! Yahoo! Canada Yahoo! Tech Yahoo! UK and Ireland

Alcatel-Lucent salutes ACU


lcatel-Lucent, a Fortune 500 global leader in broadband networking and IP technology, honored ACU in March 2009 with one of its first-ever Dynamic Enterprise Awards. The Fortune 500 company’s Web site states that the four winning institutions “demonstrate how fully leveraging the interconnection of networks, people, process and knowledge using IP technology provides unique competitive advantages.” ACU’s recognition makes the first time either a nonprofit or a university has garnered the award. ACU was honored for its innovation along with the Siam Commercial Bank of Thailand; Fluor Limited, part of the UK’s National Roads Telecommunications Service; and the Saudi Ministry of Culture & Information. Additionally, a panel of top-ranking industry analysts attending this year’s Enterprise Forum selected ACU as the winner of the first Analyst Choice Award. The university partnered with Alcatel-Lucent in developing its campus network. n

Dr. William Rankin is named director of educational innovation, a new position created to continue ACU’s leadership in new learning technologies and strategies.

ACU hosts its first ConnectEd Mobile-Learning Summit, attended by more than 400 people from 119 institutions in 31 states and eight countries.

February 6, 2009

February 27, 2009

Mobile-learning History at ACU

Advisory Boards and Consulting


t /connected


ACU is a charter member of the Google Higher Education Customer Advisory Board, and one of only 12 schools to participate.

ACU is one of approximately 40 schools to serve on the Pillar Institute of Sungard, an ERP vendor maintaining a greater than 60 percent market share in higher education. It is an advisory board assisting Sungard senior executives in strategic planning.

ACU consults with Turning Technologies (a global leader in student response and assessment systems) about the role of their ResponseWare and TurningPoint AnyWhere solutions for higher education and K-12.




ACU is a charter member in the newly formed AT&T Education Advisory Board. The goal of the board is to advise AT&T in all areas of the education marketplace.

ACU has been a longtime partner of Alcatel-Lucent, working closely with many areas of the organization to explore innovative uses of technology in a campus environment.

ACU is one of two universities to sit on the Global Advisory Board of Talisma, a company providing customer relationship management software. The other members span various markets including software companies, auto-makers and hospitality organizations.


ACU receives the award for Institutional Excellence in Information Communications Technology from ACUTA, the Association for Information Communications Technology Professionals in Higher Education.

ACU is named the Dynamic Enterprise Award winner by Alcatel-Lucent at a ceremony in Paris, France. It is the first time a university or any non-profit has ever won. ACU also receives the first-ever Analyst Choice Award.

ACU’s first iPhone application programming class begins, taught by faculty in the School of Information Technology and Computing.

March 4, 2009

March 6, 2009

May 12, 2009


Dr. William Rankin, associate professor of English and director of educational innovation at ACU, was named an Apple Distinguished Educator in the class of 2009 by Apple, Inc. ADEs exchange ideas and information about effective ways to integrate new technologies into educational settings. They provide valuable expertise to Apple and to fellow educators, publishing their findings on best practices in classroom technology.

Presentations and Webcasts by Faculty, Staff and Administrators

• Apple University Executive Forum, Cupertino, Calif., Kevin Roberts, Feb. 8, 2008. • Christian Colleges and Universities Information Technology Conference, Rochester (Mich.) College, George Saltsman and Jim Trietsch, Feb. 24, 2008. • The Connected World Third Annual Symposium, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, N.J., Dr. William Rankin, March 3, 2008. • NACUBO Student Financial Services Conference, New Orleans, La., Kevin Roberts, March 3, 2008. • Sungard Executive Summit, Anaheim, Calif., Kevin Roberts, April 12, 2008. • Sungard Summit, Anaheim, Calif., Kevin Roberts, April 15, 2008. • The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, Dr. Kyle Dickson, Dr. James Langford, Dr. William Rankin and George Saltsman, April 17, 2008. • Journalism Education Association/National Society of Professional Journalists Spring National High School Journalism Convention, Anaheim, Calif., George Saltsman, April 18, 2008. • South Texas College, McAllen, Texas, Dr. Kyle Dickson, Dr. James Langford, Dr. William Rankin and George Saltsman, April 17, 2008. • Texas Computer Educators Association TEC-SIG Annual Conference, Austin, Texas, George Saltsman, May 7, 2008. • Intended Consequences Podcast (online), Dr. Kyle Dickson, Dr. William Rankin and George Saltsman, May 21, 2008. • Alcatel University Innovation Program (online), Arthur Brant, Dr. Tim Coburn, Dr. Kyle Dickson, Dr. James Langford, Dr. William Rankin, Kevin Roberts and George Saltsman, May 22, 2008. • 2008 New Media Consortium Summer Conference, Princeton (N.J.) University, Dr. Kyle Dickson, Dr. William Rankin and George Saltsman, June 11-12, 2008. • Sungard Pillar Institutions, Scottsdale, Ariz., Kevin Roberts, June 20, 2008. • Alcatel-Lucent Inc., Abilene Christian University, Abilene, Texas, Arthur Brant, Dr. Kyle Dickson, Dr. William Rankin, Kevin Roberts, George Saltsman and Jim Trietsch, July 28, 2008. • Campus Technology Conference, Boston, Mass., Kevin Roberts, July 30-31, 2008. • Vision 20/20: Digital Ubiquity & University Transformation, University of Cincinnati (Ohio), Dr. James Langford, Kevin Roberts and George Saltsman, Aug. 6-7, 2008. • Mobile-Learning Launch Celebration, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, Texas, Dr. Kyle Dickson, Dr. William Rankin, Kevin Roberts, George Saltsman, Dr. Phil Schubert, Jim Trietsch, Aug. 15, 2008. • AT&T National Focus ’08, University of Cincinnati (Ohio), Jim Trietsch, Sept. 16, 2008. • Canadian Network for Innovation in Education, Wise & Witty Wednesdays Webcast, Canadian Network for Innovation in ACU named to CIO magazine’s Top 100 list for innovation, one of only six universities to make the list.

Second group of ACU Mobile-Learning Fellows announced.

June 1, 2009

June 2, 2009

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Education, Ottawa, Canada, Dr. Kyle Dickson, Dr. William Rankin and George Saltsman, Sept. 17, 2008. ACUTA Fall Seminar, Association for Communications Technology Professionals in Higher Education, Boston, Mass., Arthur Brant, Oct. 6, 2008. Loyola College, Baltimore, Md., Dr. Kyle Dickson, Dr. William Rankin and George Saltsman, Oct. 8, 2008. Handheld Learning 2008, London, UK, Dr. Kyle Dickson and Dr. William Rankin, Oct. 15, 2008. Hastings College and St. Albans College, St. Albans, UK, Dr. Kyle Dickson, Dr. William Rankin, Kevin Roberts and George Saltsman, Oct. 16, 2008. AT&T Executive Forum, Orlando, Fla., Kevin Roberts, Oct. 27, 2008. EDUCAUSE 2008 Annual Conference, Orlando, Fla., Hab Adkins, Dr. Kyle Dickson, Dr. James Langford, Dr. William Rankin and George Saltsman, Oct. 29, 2008. The University of Texas at Austin, College of Education, Austin, Texas, Dr. Kyle Dickson, Dr. William Rankin and George Saltsman, Nov. 12, 2008. Leadership Abilene, Abilene, Texas, George Saltsman, Nov. 13, 2008. Texas Faculty Development Network – West Texas, Texas Faculty Development Network, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas, George Saltsman, Nov. 17, 2008. South East Essex College, Southend on the Sea, UK, Dr. William Rankin and George Saltsman, Nov. 18, 2008. McAllen ISD, McAllen, Texas, Dr. William Rankin and George Saltsman, Dec. 2, 2008. University Business Web Series (online), University Business Magazine, Arthur Brant, Dec. 9, 2008. Mobile Learning 2009, Washington, D.C., Dr. C. Brad Crisp, Dr. William Rankin and Dr. Scott Perkins, Feb. 17, 2009. Gartner Wireless & Mobility Conference, Chicago, Ill., Kevin Roberts Feb. 23, 2009. Texas A&M University-Commerce, Boles ISD, Como Pickton ISD, Cumby ISD, Millers Grove ISD, Commerce ISD, AT&T Inc, Apple Inc, 3Com Inc., Abilene Christian University, Abilene, Texas, Dennis Marquardt, Dr. William Rankin and George Saltsman, Feb. 26, 2009. Apple Inc., Abilene Christian University, Abilene, Texas, Dr. William Rankin and George Saltsman, Feb. 26, 2009. ACU ConnectEd Summit, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, Texas, Arthur Brant, Dr. Brian Burton, Dr. Rob Byrd, Dr. Brad Crisp, Dr. Kyle Dickson, Dr. Matt Dodd, Dr. James Langford, Dennis Marquardt, Dr. Scott Perkins, Cynthia Powell, Dr. William Rankin, Dr. Brent Reeves, Kevin Roberts, Kay Reeves and Joshua Tooley, Feb. 27, 2009. Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise Forum, Paris, France, Arthur Brant and Kevin Roberts, March 5, 2009. Association of Collegiate Computing Services of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va., Dr. William Rankin, March 12, 2009. Sungard Summit, Philadelphia, Pa., Kevin Roberts, March 24, 2009. VoiceCon, Orlando, Fla., Arthur Brant, April 1, 2009.

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Advanced Digital Campus Leadership Institute (online), The Digital Innovation Group, Georgia College & State University and The University System of Georgia, Dr. William Rankin and George Saltsman, April 14, 2009. Western Cooperative for Educational Telecommunication Online Mobility Spotlight, Western Cooperative for Educational Telecommunication, Dr. William Rankin, April 15, 2009. ACUTA Annual Conference, Atlanta, Ga., Arthur Brant and Kevin Roberts, April 21, 2009. MoblEd+09, Pasadena (Calif.) City College, Dr. Scott Perkins, Dr. William Rankin and George Saltsman, April 23-24, 2009. EDUCAUSE Enterprise, Indianapolis, Ind., Jim Trietsch, May 6, 2009. Defense Acquisition University, Washington, D.C., Jim Trietsch, May 7, 2009. Defense Acquisition University, Washington, D.C., Kevin Roberts, May 9, 2009. Apple Europe, Paris, France, Dr. William Rankin and George Saltsman, May 18, 2009. Bell Labs, Cambridge University Press, Villarceaux, France, Dr. William Rankin and George Saltsman, May 19, 2009. Birmingham City University, South East Essex College, Birmingham, UK, Dr. William Rankin and George Saltsman, May 21, 2009. LearnTrends eLearning Tour (online), Dr. William Rankin and George Saltsman, May 21, 2009. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, Dr. William Rankin and George Saltsman, May 22, 2009. AcademiX 2009, Duke University, Durham, N.C., Dr. William Rankin, May 27, 2009. Association of Institutional Researchers, Atlanta, Ga., Dr. Tom Milholland, Dr. Scott Perkins and George Saltsman, June 1, 2009. The Think Farm, Auckland, New Zealand, Dr. Scott Perkins, Dr. William Rankin, and George Saltsman, June 2, 2009. Fairfax County Schools, Fairfax, Va., Dr. William Rankin, June 8, 2009. Texas Faculty Developers Network, Lone Star College System, The Woodlands, Texas, George Saltsman, June 9, 2009. 2009 NMC Summer Conference (New Media Consortium), California State University, Monterey Bay, Monterey, Calif., Dr. Kyle Dickson, Dr. William Rankin and George Saltsman, June 12-13, 2009. Freed-Hardeman University Educational Technology Spotlight, Henderson, Tenn., Dr. William Rankin, July 15, 2009. ACU Connected Online, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, Texas, Dr. Kyle Dickson, Dr. James Langford, Dr. Scott Perkins, Dr. William Rankin, George Saltsman, Josh Tooley, July 16, 2009. New York State Higher Education CIO Conference, Syracuse, N.Y., Kevin Roberts, July 22, 2009. Alcatel-Lucent Inc., Abilene Christian University, Abilene, Texas, Dr. Scott Perkins and George Saltsman, July 28, 2009. CIO 100 Award Ceremony, Colorado Springs, Colo., Kevin Roberts, Aug. 23, 2009.

ACU named a Center of Excellence for its mobile-learning program by the New Media Consortium.

ACU hosts its first Connected Online event. More than 225 people from 112 institutions in 32 states and five countries participate. Several from Australia stay up all night – 12:30 a.m. to 6:30 a.m. – to attend the conference.

Forbes magazine rates ACU in the top 10 percent of colleges and universities in the nation, and second highest in Texas in our Carnegie classfication.

June 13, 2009

July 16, 2009

August 12, 2009


121 t

ACU mobile-learning research proposals received from faculty following the initial call for research proposals in 2007.


Number of wireless network access points across ACU’s 208-acre campus, enhancing students’ mobile-learning experience.


Number of ACU students projected to have mobile-learning devices by Fall 2009, a 60 percent saturation rate. At least 75 percent of faculty are expected to own the devices by that time, as well.

iPhone 64%

Source: Dr. Brad Crisp


Device selection: faculty and students 957 devices distributed to all incoming first-year students • 169 devices to faculty; roughly half of faculty (emphasis on lower-division teachers) • 182 devices to staff

Student selection by carrier Approximately 50 percent of participating students reported being existing AT&T subscribers before coming to ACU. This group of students was significantly more likely to select an iPhone over an iPod touch than were students who were subscribers of other carriers. t

During August 2009, all full-time, entering freshmen and approximately half the ACU faculty were provided with either an iPhone on an iPod touch. Analysis of device choice indicated about two-thirds chose the iPhone, which carried a 24-month contract commitment with AT&T.

iPod touch


t /connected




iPod touch 36%

iPhones and iPod touches activated Aug. 16, 2008, for freshmen by 25 customer service representatives, making ACU’s campus the world’s largest AT&T store for a day.

Customers of AT&T (49%)

iPhone 81% iPhone 32% Customers of Other Carriers (41%)


Mobile-learning statistics


iPod touch 68%

Source: Dr. Brad Crisp

When we first began to use computers, we saw them as tools to complete a task, to complete a job. When our students come to devices like the iPhone, or new kinds of converged tools that put computing in smaller and smaller packages, they see them as communication devices.”

Dr. Kyle Dickson

Associate Professor of English and Director of the Digital Media Center

Student use of devices

40% 30%

0% Fall Week 3

End of Fall

Spring Week 3

End of Spring Extremely Positive

Extremely Negative

Source: Dr. Brad Crisp


Student attitudes over time Students responding to electronic surveys indicated they were extremely positive about the Mobile-Learning Initiative overall. This positive perception was stable over the course of the academic year, providing little evidence of a traditional “novelty” effect.

iPhone Gives Me More Enjoyment My Parents Prefer I Have an iPhone




Less Likely



(.49) My Prior Contract Made it Difficult to Switch



iPhone is More Useful to Me



Students responding to electronic surveys reported using their devices multiple times each day. Academic use was reported by students to be in the daily range. Social utilization was estimated at an even higher frequency, likely as a result of well-established habits involving immediate communication (text messaging) and social networking (e.g. Facebook) which characterize the practices of youth today. t

AT&T Contract is Too Expensive for Me

More Likely

Dependent Variable (iPhone=1, touch= 0) All variables significant at p<.001; Model correctly predicts 91% of observations Source: Dr. Brad Crisp

Many Times Per Day


Once Per Week

iPod touch

Not Used Regularly t












AT&T was My Prior Service Provider


Academic Work

Social Activities


Source: Dr. Brad Crisp

The mobile devices gave students constant access to the course material and to supplementary material. They knew exactly where to find all the class notes; they also had mobile access to podcasts and assignments. The feedback was very positive.”

Mike Cope

Instructor of Bible, Missions and Ministry

Variables influencing selection Data collected by Mobile-Learning Fellow Dr. Brad Crisp, provides detailed analysis of factors that influenced device choice. The additional features of the iPhone attracted students while the cost of an AT&T contract and difficulty of switching from a prior contract discouraged students from choosing the iPhone. Dr. Brad Crisp, assistant professor of information systems, was one of our first-year Mobile-Learning Fellows. Crisp conducted a student survey at the time of device distribution, setting a baseline for research that helped ACU understand the impact mobile learning was having on campus. A Mobile-Learning Fellow again this year, Crisp will join a team of international researchers coordinated by ACU who are studying mobility in education.


Mobile-learning statistics /connected


Other iPhone usage at ACU • Dr. John Ehrke (mathematics) developed a series of podcasts to help students understand advanced calculator commands in Maple, a math analysis program. • Mike Cope (College of Biblical Studies) and his teaching assistants provided students with weekly podcasts in Fall 2008 to highlight key ideas and help review for upcoming exams. This allowed the TAs, many of them graduate students studying for ministry, to think about the pastoral potential of mobility as they refined skills in communicating through digital media. • A pilot in Spring 2009 explored mobile blogging on WordPress. Faculty used class blogs to communicate announcements, distribute files, and begin discussions online. Dr. Kenneth Pybus (journalism and mass communication) used the blog to supplement the textbook in his Communication Law class, and Dr. Richard Beck (psychology) increased class engagement through online discussions. Based on the success he and others saw in this initial pilot, Mike Wiggins (art and design) helped design the interface for a campus-wide blog system available to faculty in Fall 2009. • In 2008-09, the College of Business Administration’s student chapter of the American Marketing Association investigated mobile technology and consumer decision-making. Students conducted independent research into mobile apps in the iTunes App Store and reported back to the chapter on a weekly basis.

iPhone/iPod touch section n = 25

Non-device sections n = 109

Declared Majors

48% Chemistry or Biochemistry 28% Biology 12% Other Science/Math 0% Undeclared 12% Other

16% Chemistry or Biochemistry 28% Biology 17% Other Science/Math 1% Undeclared 39% Other


100% Freshmen

39% Freshmen 38% Sophmores 16% Juniors 7% Seniors


68% Male 32% Female

45% Male 55% Female

Mean ACT

26.30 (4.12)

26.26 (3.48)

Source: Cynthia Powell


Experimenting in the chemistry lab Mobile-Learning Fellow Cynthia Powell conducted a controlled study investigating the impact of modifying the primary mode of instruction in a laboratory course. Using a special section of her course limited to full-time entering freshmen, her experimentation involved the substitution of podcasts in place of in-class lectures for lab instructions and safety protocols. Although several differences between this section and the four traditionally taught sections are apparent, the two groups of students showed nearly identical average ACT scores.

Chemistry lab outcome scores Student performance averages show a slight advantage for iPhone/iPod touch students on all components used to calculate the overall course grade. These differences, although not statistically significant, show that instruction in this highly-successful academic arena can transition to a mobile platform with no loss in student mastery of content. Furthermore, the potential for innovation and both collaborative and independent learning experimentation offered by using mobile devices in this context appears to be nearly unlimited. t iPhone/iPod touch section n = 25

Non-device sections n = 109

Lab Reports

95.96  (+/- 3.34)

94.55  (+/- 4.26)


81.52  (+/- 11.71)

79.69  (+/- 10.65)

Lab Notebook

93.04  (+/- 9.47)

91.89  (+/- 13.65)

Lab Final Exam

70.02  (+/- 13.58)

67.34  (+/- 13.81)

Lab Final Exam

88.89  (+/- 6.07)

87.26  (+/- 6.01)

Source: Cynthia Powell

We want students to feel completely comfortable with it. We want parents to know that we are serious about their students’ education and ACU’s commitment to lead the charge in developing the 21st-century classroom.”

Kevin Roberts Chief Information Officer




Always Bring to Class

Use for Class Activities Every Time

Use for Non-class Activities

Source: Dr. Scott Perkins


Student usage by device Somewhat surprisingly, research uncovered significant differences in frequency of usage by device. Students with iPhones reported that they were more likely to have the devices with them in class. In fact, iPhone students rated themselves as significantly more likely to use their device for academic work as well as other activities. iPhone students responded more positively to nearly all aspects of student engagement than students who had an iPod touch.

Source: Dr. Scott Perkins iPod touch


No Device

Strongly Agree


Strongly Disagree


Strongly Disagree



Students in a required, large-enrollment freshman course were surveyed at the end of the Fall 2008 semester. Despite this course being assumed to be comprised exclusively of freshmen, only 92 percent of the students responding met the criteria to receive a device by ACU, indicating that ubiquitous coverage of the classroom had not been achieved. Students with mobile-learning devices described their course performance more positively in terms of their anticipated grade and their level of course enjoyment. t


iPod touch

Strongly Agree



Students describe their performance

Performance vs. Expected

Expect “A” or “B”

Enjoyed More

Worked Harder

Adequate Communication

Mobile-learning media coverage

Use Regularly for Class

100 75 50

• Within three days Fifty-eight articles published around the world cited ACU’s mobile-learning launch, including Macworld, Chronicle of Higher Education, and U.S. News & World Report.

25 0 (25) (50) (75) (100) Program Was a Success Strongly Disagree

• Within three months More than 130 articles published around the world cited ACU’s mobile-learning launch, including Christian Chronicle, Wall Street Journal Online, and New Media Consortium.

Using the Device Was Easy Disagree


Strongly Agree

Source: Dr. Scott Perkins and Chris Faulkner


Faculty perceptions Faculty who were previously provided with mobile-learning devices were surveyed in the middle of the spring semester. Respondents rated the mobile-learning initiative highly on a number of dimensions. Although slightly less than half of faculty respondents indicated that they were using their devices regularly in class, this result is not surprising given that a majority of faculty indicated they were not teaching a course in which all students were equipped with devices. Nearly 90 percent indicated that they considered the program to be a success.

• Within six months More than 335 articles published around the world cited ACU’s mobile-learning launch, including CNBC, Dallas Morning News, New York Times, Times of South Africa, Times of India, and Taipei Times. • Mobile-learning videos ( The original Connected video, Connected Summit and other mobile-learning videos on ACU’s Web site have been viewed more than 177,000 times.


Representatives from ACU and AT&T created an efficient customer service team Aug. 16, 2008, that made picking up and activating iPhones and iPod touches easy for freshmen.


s we start the second year of our mobile-learning initiative, we’ve taken these few moments to pause and look back over our journey. Behind us, stretching through these pages, we see ground-breaking accomplishments and successes that bear witness to the energy, focus and dedication of hundreds here at Abilene Christian University – many of whose stories are yet to be told. And with our first year behind us, we look forward to new accounts of the inventiveness and industry of our students, faculty and staff in the coming year. Yet we’re also well aware of how much further we have to go, of how much of the journey remains ahead. In the past year, we’ve discovered new problems to solve, new questions to answer, and new lessons to learn. These are the heart of education. Looking forward, we know that the hard work of discovery is ahead, that the work of facing these challenges begins with our very next step. It is a step we take now.


It’s always difficult to leave the comfort of what is known and set out toward an uncharted horizon. From our vantage here at the end of our first year, we see a prospect filled with possibility. We know that we have much work to do – new learning applications to invent, new studies to conduct, new scholarship to author, and new opportunities for students and faculty to forge. But although the work will be challenging, we know that as long as our connections to one another, to our peers and to our world remain sound, our discoveries will have meaning and value. While the current world situation has caused some to pull back, to seek shelter from the unknown and the unforeseeable, we’ve resolved to drive on, exploring the mysteries before us. It is what scholars have always done – pushing past the known to a world that doesn’t yet exist. Perhaps the words of computer pioneer Alan Kay are appropriate for our ongoing endeavor: “The only way you can predict the future is to build it.” That’s what we’ll keep working to do. n

On the Cover Students in the chemistry classes and labs of ACU Mobile-Learning Fellow Cynthia Powell extensively used podcasts created to enrich their learning experience and increase their independence.


ACU Mobile-Learning Report 2009  
ACU Mobile-Learning Report 2009  

Abilene Christian University Mobile-Learning Report 2009