Texas university to give Apple iPhone or iPod Touch to all incoming freshmen

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 the iPhones or iPod Touches 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 innovative plans for this technology have attracted the attention of Apple executives and leaders at Ivy League universities. In fact, Roberts returned to Abilene Monday from Cupertino, Calif., where he was asked to present ACU’s creative vision for converged media devices at Apple headquarters to executives and to selected leaders from universities including Harvard, Yale, MIT, Duke, Stanford, Oxford, Princeton and UCLA, Schubert said.

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 here.

“We are not merely providing cutting-edge technology tools to our incoming students,” said Roberts in the press release. “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 in the press release, “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.

Source: Abilene Christian University

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “MrMcLargeHuge” for the heads up.]

MacDailyNews Note: ACU has an annual enrollment of about 5,000 students from across the United States and 60 other nations around the world.


  1. What a great idea. After they graduate these students can use their i-whatevers at work—oh wait. Apple’s crippled devices don’t have Microsoft Internet Explorer for the IE-specific company intranet and cannot connect to Microsoft Exchange servers for e-mail.

    All I can say is enjoy your toys while you’re in school kids because they have absolutely no value in the REAL WORLD. I pray someone gets a clue at Abilene Christian University.

    Your potential. Our passion.™

  2. This is my old Alma Mater! I graduated in 2006 with a degree in Physics. It is truly a Top notch school, just doesn’t have a stellar Football team on TV.

    But the story behind this is even funnier! Originally, Apple approached Southern Methodist University with this program along with their iTunes U. SMU said no, so Abilene Christian Jumped in on the chase and said “Hey, We’ll do it!”

    We so stole the deal. And everyone is thrilled about it, even the upper class men. I mean, they all have iPhones now anyways I’m sure.

  3. Plus, SMU has more important projects to embarrass itself.

    “The George W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation announces SMU as the site of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, consisting of a library, museum and institute.”


    GW will personally donate his copy of “” rel=”nofollow”>The Pet Goat“. It’s the book that changed his life and inspired widespread evil goat killings in Afghanistan.

  4. Great idea, but who is on the hook for the two year service plan? The students or the college? I didn’t seem to see that in the article.

    Giving out the phones is the easy part. Paying the monthly fee for 2 – 4 years is a little more difficult for most college students, especially if some of your students decide to spend a summer or semester in Europe of Asia and you don’t have the right service plan in place.

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