Mobile Learning at Abilene Christian University

Perkins, S., & Saltsman, G. (2010). Mobile learning at Abilene Christian University: Success, challenges, and results. Journal of the Research Center for Educational Technology, 6(1), 47-54.

Article Review
ACU launched a college-wide mobile learning initiative in 2008 by giving every freshman and faculty member an iPhone or iPod Touch, with a goal to facilitate students’ academic and social needs via mobile technologies. The initiative was evaluated one year later through a study surveying both students and faculty members. The program received positive feedback from the respondents regarding the overall success and impact of the program. The sampling of the study is not random. First, a 29-item 6-point Likert-scale survey was given to 243 students who took a required freshmen course. The sample was selected due to its large size and the reported regular effort to utilize mobile device applications by the instructor of the course. However, instead of using a mobile survey format, the researchers gave out the survey in hard copies because of proficiency concerns for mobile downloading and responding. The finding shows that in addition to general positive responses, students using iPhone provided significantly more positive responses than students using iPod Touch. The second survey study with faculty device recipients was conducted online. A total of 109 faculty members responded to survey invitation. Similarly, faculty members reported that they observed their students to be more collaborative and organized by using the mobile devices. The significant difference between the use of iPhone and iPod Touch was also found in the faculty survey. The researchers concluded that it is essential to have ubiquitous use of devices for all faculty and students and mobile-device platforms can be a successful alternative for learning activities.

The case of ACU presents an encouraging move in using mobile devices in higher education, though we are not sure about the degree of its students and faculty members as “fluent” mobile users as well as their previous digital experiences. One limitation of the study might be that the sample of the student survey was not randomly drawn at ACU, so it only represents students of one course. Some items in the student survey might need a second consideration, such as “I think that using my device in this class has improved my grade”, due to the fact that student respondents were freshmen and they couldn’t compare their grades with the previous year’s. Future studies could include case studies about 1) how instructors specifically use mobile devices to assist teaching and learning; and 2) how students might use certain types of iPhone applications developed by ACU to assist their formal and informal learning.

EdLab Connections

In designing mobile applications for higher education, it is essential to understand what types of mobile devices students and faculty members use as well as what potential devices and grant opportunities the college can get. It is a challenge that while a few higher education institutions (including Harvard) have been developing text-based mobile applications to meet students’ needs, the trend in higher education mobile learning (e.g., research, grant) seems driving toward iPhone applications. Maybe at the same time of going-on mobile development, we need to carefully think about that how the next-step development might take into account the future transition to iPhone applications.