eCampus of the Month: Abilene Christian University

Last May, ACU received a $1.8 million award from AT&T to build Connected, a studio for mobile learning experimentation and a K-12 professional development program that trains teachers to use education technology devices such as eReaders and internet-ready phones.

This wasn’t the first time AT&T partnered with ACU. The phone giant and Alcatel-Lucent helped develop the university’s Wi-Fi internet network several years ago.

AT&T also gave $1 million to ACU in 2007 for the computer infrastructure in the school’s Bob and Shirley Hunter Welcome Center.

The wireless network powers the thousands of mobile devices—mostly Apple iPods and iPhones—that ACU has doled out to incoming students in recent years. The school pays for the mobile hardware, while students pay for the monthly AT&T service plan, according to ACU officials.

ACU began its Mobile Learning Initiative in 2008 when the school gave about 1,000 incoming freshmen the choice between an iPhone and an iPod Touch to be used for streaming educational videos and recorded lectures, among other uses. About 700 freshmen picked the iPhone, the university reported.

Making mobile products such as iPhones and iPods a central part of student and faculty life at ACU, Roberts said, is the kind of initiative that challenges IT officials into embracing a new role on campus.

“It’s scary as a CIO to feed over the control of handheld devices on campus. There are all of these demons of times past when IT was a controlling central hub of all technology on campus,” Roberts said. “Those days are gone, and we have to learn how to make peace with that. … The faster we embrace that, the better it will be for our students and faculty.”

(Editor’s note: To nominate your school for our eCampus of the Month honor, go to