Monday, March 16, 2009

A Visit to Abilene Christian University

Today I was excited to visit the folks at Abilene Christian University (ACU) in Abilene, TX, to talk about mobile learning. Their ConnectEd initiative has been well covered in just about every publication that covers education and technology, plus they have shared a lot of information through their website and blogs. I have followed ACU since I first saw their video last year and all was pretty well as I had expected. Lots of students with iPhones or iPods and lots of activity.

I was unable to attend their sold-out conference at the end of February due to another commitment, but all their materials are (or very soon will be) on their ConnectEd Summit 2009 site.

As a bit of history I learned that, like other institutions, ACU had been looking at laptops and tablets for students. At a group meeting to discuss ubiquitous computing, someone asked how are we going to restrict these cell phones? 98% of the student population used these devices. Luckily rather than to outlaw or otherwise restrict them, they embraced them and supported the constant connectivity.

The excitement of the faculty and staff to think outside the box and better prepare students for the new connected world was impressive, plus the members of the team were very open and willing to consider new ideas. When I arrived they were discussing the new integrated curriculum they are planning. They continue to think of how they can improve the student experience and are anxiously awaiting the news tomorrow of version 3.0 details for the iPhone.

What I didn't expect to be impressed by was their library. They have created a very active center where students can talk aloud, collaborate and receive assistance. They can also grab a cup of coffee or drink from the Starbucks right in the library. There are areas for students to receive help with their writing, presentations, research, and technical issues. There is even a copy center. What they are planning on the floor above is to expand this center for assistance with creating videos, audio or other types of multimedia and to integrate these materials into their presentations and other work.

If you get a chance to visit them or attend one of their next conferences, I would definitely recommend it. In any case, keep your eyes on ACU as we can all learn from them.


  1. I too am excited by what ACU is doing with mobile devices. They are definitely in the forefront. Your description of their library is very interesting. We want to build a Learning Commons on our campus that may end up with a very similar structure.

  2. ACU's main floor is actually called the Learning Commons, and it is extremely popular with students. Dr. Mark Tucker is dean over the library, and George Saltsman helped create the concept for the Learning Commons. Either would be glad to visit with peers about how it's all working. They kept stats about the increased usage in the library after the transformation, and you will be amazed.

  3. Thanks, Michelle. I don't think that I would be amazed at all as it was very busy indeed on Monday morning when I was there. I really wished that I had asked to take a picture, but didn't think of it. (If you happen to have a picture of one of the areas, I'd love to post it here.)

    What a wonderful surprise when all I expected to see was the mobile initiatives. I was also very impressed with their wonderful cafeteria.