With a fall 2010 freshman class of digital natives and a campus fully saturated with iOS devices, Abilene Christian University’s (http://www.acu.edu) mobile-learning initiative, Connected, enters its third year with dozens of real-world projects designed to find new ways to learn, work and collaborate in the digital age.

ACU’s mobile-learning initiative — based on Apple’s iPhone, iPod touch and iPad — has attracted partners including Cambridge University Press, Alcatel Lucent, Inkling, McGraw-Hill and GetYa Learn On. ACU’s 5,000-student/faculty campus is the test-bed for the partner projects. Scott Perkins, Ph.D., coordinator of research for ACU’s mobile-learning initiative, says that over two years of empirical investigations of the impact of mobile learning on student outcomes at ACU have shown that:

° Faculty and students are consistently positive about the overall impact and potential of the program.

° Complete ubiquity with devices for all students in a class is essential.

° iPhones present a more attractive platform for learning in comparison to iPod touches.

° Learning activities can be successfully transitioned to mobile-device platforms with no reduction of learning efficiency or content mastery.

As part of ACU’s partnership with Cambridge University Press and Alcatel Lucent to research the future of digital books, 50 students taking ACU’s fall 2010 economics course, Principles of Microeconomics, will explore the iPad using McGraw-Hill’s digital text, “The Micro Economy Today 12/e” by Schiller and Inkling’s iPad app that displays interactive digital textbooks.

“The students and their instructor will be regularly surveyed throughout the semester,” says Perkins. “These surveys will provide insight on the benefits and challenges of using a digital platform for an entire college course — feedback that will likely reach to the upper levels of corporate interest.”

A second Inkling / McGraw-Hill / ACU pilot will occur in ACU’s Marketing Strategy course. The text, “Marketing 10/e” by Kerin et al, will be delivered on an iPad. In addition to this digital text, students will also use iPads as survey/data collection devices, involving the assessment of the microeconomics pilot class as well as their own class.

“What we’re discovering in mobility is driving new needs for flexible texts, and that’s driving lots of creative thinking and activity for us about digital texts,” says Dr. William Rankin, ACU’s director of educational innovation. “But before we head down that road, we want to understand how digital texts influence learning and how people interact with digital texts.”

Prototype testing from ACU’s partnership with Cambridge University Press and Alcatel Lucent’s Bell Labs are planned for later in the fall 2010 semester on the ACU campus.