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Jun302006

Blended Learning using SMS

Background



Short Message Service (SMS) is the beginning of something new in blended learning. The sight of nimble-fingered teenagers bathed in the neon glow of their mobile phones as they drum out a message in SMS shorthand has become a pop-culture phenomenon. Text is a fun way to communicate. Embedded screens in mobile phones enhance both communication and interaction. With a camera attached to the mobile phone students will be able to point it at the lecturer and SMS their friend during the lecture with the picture and perhaps a message, "c I told u it was boring".
Blended learning can best be described as using whatever method is most suitable."

More useful, perhaps, is that it can also be used to show projects at school to parents at work. However, when students introduce something new, the teacher has a tendency to remove it, prohibit it, or confiscate it. Who can remember the early introduction of the ballpoint pen and calculator?

Short Message Service is exactly what it sounds like it is, a text message sent to or received from a mobile phone. The text messages are short, up to 160 characters, and if a phone is out of coverage, in use or turned off, the service holds the message until the phone comes back into the area. Using SMS is easy. A person types a message on a phone, specifies who is going to get the message, and sends it.

Blended learning scores big in the mobile phone world. Blended learning can best be described as using whatever method is most suitable. The ability to send, read and respond to messages, reflect on responses, revise interpretations, and modify original assumptions and perceptions is a distinguishing characteristic of online teaching. Considered a hallmark of the online world, blended learning actually serves as a great example of a best teaching practice that spans both the conventional and digital worlds. Increasingly, instructors employ blended learning in the classroom. Blended learning translates well to the mobile phone world through the development of quizzes, treasure hunts and other imaginative uses. The BBC has recently introduced paid SMS text messages called 'TXT Bites' for GSCE revision.

SMS is also the beginning of a change in education. Wireless is a particularly attractive option for blended learning."


General



SMS is also the beginning of a change in education. Wireless is a particularly attractive option for blended learning. Students can use SMS to receive exam results, to be encouraged and motivated by a friendly message from the teacher, or sent a SMS message in class to pay attention to avoid embarrassment in front of others. SMS can also be used to provide answers to multiple-choice questions, draft an agenda on the move, negotiate simple contracts and design promotional messages. Students can also participate in class sessions via text chat. Testing the limits of SMS for blended learning causes experimentation and invention.

Blended SMS Tutorial



A tutorial was given to a cohort of 197 students from the School of Business and Accountancy at Ngee Ann Polytechnic in Singapore. They were required to use SMS to carry out the following tasks:


  • Design an SMS advertisement to promote a business service or product;

  • Negotiate a contract to sell some goods with their tutor using SMS;

  • Purchase a can of soft drink using SMS, and send a SMS message to their tutor concerning the steps taken to obtain the drink;

  • Create an agenda for a meeting a business is having the next day and SMS it to their tutor as if he was a member of the company.



75% agreed that the tutorial enabled them to see the potential of SMS as an e-learning tool."


The survey results confirm the popularity of the mobile phone as a means of communication among students with 90% agreeing that they used their mobile phones more than 10 times per week. The objectives of the tutorial were met as 85% agreed that before the tutorial they did not realise that a mobile phone can be used for tutorials and 75% agreed that the tutorial enabled them to see the potential of SMS as an e-learning tool. 60% agreed that they would like more tutorials to be conducted through a mobile phone .

The other learning objective of making students aware of the use of SMS as a tool for conducting business was also accomplished as 70% agreed that the tutorial made them realise that SMS can be used to make contracts.

A key driver of success in learning is motivation and SMS can achieve this because of its everyday use by students."

Overall, the SMS tutorial was positively received by the students as the majority of them found that the topics in the tutorial were interesting (75%), that they could complete the tutorial easily through their mobile phones (80%) and that the tutorial was pegged at a reasonable level of difficulty (80%).

The mobile phone has also been used in the lecture by presenting students with a legal problem then requiring them to answer the question posed, give a reason, state the name of the relevant case and SMS the answer to the lecturer in real time. Speed and accuracy were taken into consideration.

Conclusion



Overall, the SMS tutorial was positively received by the students"

SMS should only be used if it augments the learning process as it is not the only blended learning solution. The type of platform and method of delivery that best suits the course material needs to be considered. A key driver of success in learning is motivation, and SMS can achieve this because of its everyday use by students. Interactive online tutorials can give the student more rapid feedback than when work is turned in on paper. Perhaps this is the single biggest advantage in SMS learning. Likewise having a live event, which promotes instant interactivity i.e. negotiating a contract in real time, is also important.

Team



The team of lecturers from the School of Business & Accounting, Ngee Ann Polytechnic working on this project:
Bernard Randall, Joseph Seet, Steven Lim and T. Elangovan

First published September 2002.

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