One year later, ACU’s mobile initiative is still going strong, according to a document released Friday that reported overwhelmingly favorable responses from students, faculty and staff.
“It was successful beyond our wildest imagination,” said Kevin Roberts, associate vice president of operations. More than 85 percent of the faculty reported that ACU should continue the program, and more than 90 percent of students rated it “good” or “very good,” he said.
“I loved it,” said Kate Wasemiller, sophomore speech pathology major from Abilene. Students could use the devices in class to check grades and email papers or questions, she said.
“Over 90 percent of students reported using it at least once a week in all their classes,” Roberts said.
However, students could not use them in the classroom all the time.
“Some of my classes were too big to all get on the Internet,” said Anna Bouchelle, sophomore social work major from Amarillo. “There were not many classes where we were able to use it.”
This problem can be chalked up to the lack of purely freshman classes and the fact that professors are learning to use these devices along with the students.
“It takes a while,” Roberts said. “It’s like, how do you plan to use a computer in your class? Well, there are a thousand different ways.”
Mike Cope’s Bible class went beyond grades and papers. Students frequently took polls and used their devices to respond.
“In a class with 300 students, receiving feedback is difficult,” said Cope, instructor in the Bible, missions and ministry department.Â “It’s also hard to know what’s connecting, what’s needed. Â The polls give an on-the-fly way to accomplish that – to some extent.”
Faculty took classes all summer to learn how to better use the devices, a task that made easier because more students will have access to a device, Roberts said.
“The more saturation we have around campus, the greater impact there will be,” Roberts said.
It is hard to say how professors, with a year under their belt, will use the devices in their class this year, but the new freshman class already has some ideas, although few involve schoolwork.
“I use the Maps feature all the time,” said Taylor Schmidt, freshman youth and family ministry major from San Antonio. “I’m always getting lost.”
The devices are useful in many ways for students far from home, as well.
“My mom added all these cool apps on it,” said Dana Defrees, freshman elementary education major from San Antonio. “USAA has this great app that lets you take a picture of a check and sends it straight to your bank account.”
Whether the mobile initiative played a part in students’ decisions to enroll at ACU is difficult to say, but “the iPhone was a definite plus,” Schmidt said.
While sophomores are toting the iPhone 3G, incoming freshman were given the option of an iPod Touch or the iPhone 3GS. With Apple releasing new devices every year, the initiative has the potential to cause confusion in classes where students have three different devices, but faculty will take that into account, Roberts said.
“The deal is anything used in class won’t use features of the 3GS,” he said. “We wanted to make sure, from an academic perspective, everything you need to do in your class you’ll be able to do on an iPod Touch.”
Students still will receive a new handset every two years, so this year’s freshmen will get an upgrade their junior year. The plan right now is that graduating seniors will keep the device when they leave, Roberts said.
Of course, keeping the handset is less important than receiving it in the first place. Devices had to be distributed to every student before the first day of school, so that they could be used in class. Last year, students congregated at the Team 55 desk in the Brown Library during Welcome Week.
“If you’ll remember, everyone came on that one day. It was exciting, but it was a little too exciting,” Roberts said, laughing.
Instead, this year, after completing enrollment requirements, students could go online, choose their device and it was mailed directly to them. Most students had them by the middle of May, Roberts said.
“Late registers could go to the Learning Commons like last year, but we only handed out a couple hundred instead of 900,” he said.
ACU’s success has encouraged several other schools to begin their own mobile initiatives. The university has given 95 presentations all over the world since the program’s launch. The recognition for the university has been staggering, and it can only improve, Roberts said.
“We have every reason to believe that the success we realized last year will continue,” he said.