It’s every student’s pet hate, getting out of bed and going into college when their class has been moved or cancelled. It’s the bane of every teacher’s life, chasing up students who have disappeared off the face of the earth, taking with them their coursework (which was due in last week). Surely, in the digital age we live in there lies a solution?
Step forward text messaging or SMS (short messaging service) for short. Yes, a far cry from the days when teachers confiscated mobile phones, there is now an ever growing trend to harness the potential of SMS as a new tool for student-teacher communication.
And it makes sense. A report by Business Insights has stated that the mobile telecom service market is worth over £40 billion (€60 billion), and in September 2006 alone, over 3.6 billion text messages were sent, beating the previous record set in August (New Media Age). SMS usage is most popular amongst the youth market segment, which is not surprising as 94% of 18-24 year olds send personal texts (MDA professional text messaging report, 2006).
With its familiarity and practicalities, text messaging is now a major player in the further and higher education arena. Some common uses of SMS in education include:
• Appointment reminders
• Room changes
• Course cancellations
• Deadline reminders
• Confidential counselling
• Exam results
• Voting for Student Union activities
• Marketing by the Student Union e.g. promotions at the SU bar
• Students informing teachers of their absence
SMS solution providers, such as M:Science, now have many educational establishments amongst their clients. Managing Director of M:Science, Dan Hobson explains “SMS is an ideal way for students and teachers to interact.It’s a highly practical method of communication for academic establishments, which often have tight administrative budgets. Members of pre-defined groups, such as classes, can be sent the same message with just one click, making the distribution of important information to the relevant individuals rapid and cost effective. Also, the nature of higher education establishments means that students are often off site, making it difficult to communicate ‘last minute information’ to them. With SMS, students can be reached in any location almost instantaneously, which has proven to reduce absences and increase student retention.”
Other advantages that have been noticed by faculty members come from less tangible benefits. Some institutions have used SMS to improve student-teacher relationships in what is often an impersonal environment, by texting students congratulatory or commiserative messages, regarding work. Also, as it is a relatively new mode of contact, using SMS adds variety and interest to learning, meaning that students are more likely to respond to and retain information.
For more information on how it works, and case studies about the use of SMS in education, please visit M:Science's website.