Abilene Christian University (ACU) announced yesterday that they would be issuing iPhones or iPod Touches to incoming freshman for use in their college courses and day to day lives.
At ACU - the first university in the nation to provide these cutting-edge media devices to its incoming class - freshmen will use the iPhones or iPod Touches to receive homework alerts, answer in-class surveys and quizzes, get directions to their professors' offices, and check their meal and account balances - among more than 15 other useful web applications already developed, said ACU Chief Information Officer Kevin Roberts.
They specifically mention the use of web applications that they've developed, but extend this concept in a demonstration movie (Youtube link) called Connected. The movie shows how a fully deployed mobile learning environment might look, with mocked up examples of true iPhone applications:
The movie details a fully integrated iPhone and college experience, with integration into coursework, class participation, payment system, directory and 3d mapping. They caution that the movie is entirely speculative, of course. Some demos of their iPhone web apps are available at http://acu.mobi/.
This news, by itself, would only so interesting if the university was acting on its own, but MacRumors has heard that Apple is taking an active role in deploying the iPhone in university settings to try to regain some of their historic educational marketshare. Besides ACU, pilot projects are expected at universities such as Harvard, MIT and Stanford in the near future. The new iPhone SDK is expected to also play a role in future iPhone/University integration, though it appears that ACU does not yet have access to it.
In 2004, Duke University had a program in which they issued iPods to incoming Freshman to allow them to listen to lecture materials. Similarly, the iPhone will have tight audio/video integration with each school's iTunes University content.