Abilene Christian University ini Abilene, Texas, has announced recent research findings from its ACU Connected mobile learning program that show how mobility is transforming teaching and learning.

After three years of investigations and empirical research studies based on Apple’s iPhone, iPod touch and last year, the iPad, ACU named time efficiency, increased independence, engagement and enhanced communication as mobility’s emerging themes. Seven newly appointed ACU 2011-12 Mobile-Learning Fellows have launched six new studies to explore these themes in depth.
In a scientific study, ACU students who used an iPad to annotate text performed at a rate 25% higher on questions regarding transfer of information than their counterparts who used only paper.  A study of student iPad usage patterns is currently underway, conducted by Dr. Ian Shepherd, associate professor of management sciences, and Dr. Brent Reeves, associate professor of management sciences and computer science. This project will expand on what Shepherd and Reeves found in ACU’s first all-digital class in the 2010-11 school year: the iPad promotes both efficient use of time and more learning moments.  
ACU also found the iPad to provide increased access and engagement for students, and preliminary reports demonstrate high levels of satisfaction. Graduate students in an ACU online education program reported a 95% satisfaction rate using the iPad to accomplish their online coursework, citing convenience and the device’s range of features. The tablet also provided ease of use in conducting research and activities that promote higher-order thinking.

A study of first-generation college students from traditionally underrepresented demographics found that when undergraduates used the iPad to access social networks, they expanded their academic support communities. These findings are compatible with what ACU announced in June 2011: three-quarters of college freshmen surveyed said they would be willing to personally purchase an iPad if at least half of their textbooks were available digitally.

Confirming the role mobility plays in the lives of its students and faculty, ACU learned in 2010-11 that 86% of students reported improved student-to-student and student-to-teacher collaboration when using mobile devices in the instructional process. Students rated themselves as more engaged as a result of using mobile devices for learning activities and were consistently positive about the mobile learning program. Similarly, 84% of ACU’s faculty reported using their devices frequently in class to facilitate enhanced classroom collaboration. Fifty percent of ACU faculty reported using their mobile devices during every class period.
Dr. Autumn Sutherlin, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry at ACU, is collaborating with her colleague Dr. Cynthia Powell, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, on her three-year mobile-enhanced inquiry-based learning (MEIBL) study, which received Next Generation Learning Challenges funding. Sutherlin joins researchers at two institutions to further explore mobility’s impact in teaching in the natural sciences.   
In an effort to equip the next generation of educators with 21st-century teaching skills, Dr. Phyllis Bolin, associate professor of mathematics at ACU, is exploring the use of mobile-learning activities on student learning for pre-service teaching majors in mathematics. Dr. Sheila Delony, assistant professor of education at ACU and a former elementary school teacher who integrated technology into everything she taught, is exploring the use of video to aid reflection and professional development of teacher candidates.
ACU’s mobile learning experiments reach beyond the formal classroom. Kenny Jones, instructor of fine art at ACU, and his students are exploring how augmented reality increases patrons’ perceptions of visual design forms. Dr. Stephen Baldridge, assistant professor of social work, is exploring best practices for developing learning experiences for students outside the classroom.
ACU accelerated its mobile learning research through a contribution from AT&T.

”Mobility is changing education,” says Dr. Scott Hamm, coordinator of mobile-learning research for ACU’s Adams Center for Teaching and Learning. “I think we are moving from an ‘anytime, anywhere’ environment to an ‘all-the-time, everywhere’ environment for learning.”

Abilene Christian University launched a mobile-learning initiative, Connected, in 2008. The initiative trains students to not merely consume these vast amounts of information, but to assess information, to synthesize thoughts, to generate new ideas, and to contribute meaningfully to conversations of global importance. More than 4,500 students, including nearly 800 graduate students, enroll in ACU from 47 states and territories, and 41 nations. Go to http://www.acu/connected for more information.