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Findings from the second round of interviews

Chapter 5: Results

5.6. Findings from Interviews

5.6.2 Findings from the second round of interviews

In the first round of interviews, the participants reported their beliefs regarding the

usefulness of SMS as an educational tool based on little experience. At the time of the first interviews, the participants had only received one or two educational messages. The second interview took place after one semester of using SMS as an educational tool. Over the semester the students received a total of 3,356 SMS messages. The second interviews were conducted with the same participants. In total, 12 students participated in the second interview. The following sections discuss their perceptions and attitudes toward SMS.

5.6.2.1 Participants’ perceptions of SMS ease of use. Similar to their responses in the first interviews, all the participants reported that SMS was easy-to-use due to its simplicity since it required few steps to send or open messages. The participants continued to compare the use of SMS with common electronic communication tools such as emails:

SMS is easier than any other electronic texting service; there is no need for a user name or password to log in. – Masri

SMS was faster and easier than email. – Noorhan

While they felt SMS was easy-to-use, participants continued to report problems that limited the effectiveness of SMS use. These most commonly related to specific

communication related issues of typing text using old mobile phones or new mobile phones and the limited number of characters that can be sent in one SMS. However, they also reported issues related to interpreting message content such as understanding the received SMS, use of SMS for long conversations and understanding the feelings of the sender of the SMS. Participants expressed these issues in different ways:

It was difficult to write SMS on old phones, which forced me to press the button more than once to get the character that I wanted. – Horea

It is just useful for question and answer there was no way to make conversation using SMS. – Horea

It was hard to express my feeling via SMS, the receivers of SMS could not know if I was tired or sad from the reading the SMS. – Mo

Due to the limited number of characters that can be sent in one SMS, participants continued to feel SMS was difficult to use to express feelings and it was difficult to understand the intentions of the sender, or to maintain long conversations. They strongly believed that SMS was appropriate for exchanging short messages. In the second interview, the content-related issue of understanding Arabizi in SMS was not mentioned.

All the participants continued to believe that SMS was easy-to-use and that it was simple. The students continued to report some communication-related issues, but they did not mention difficulties related to the use of Arabizi. A possible reason for this might be that the language used in the educational SMS was English.

All the participants had previous experience of using SMS as a communication tool before its use as an educational tool. Students’ use of SMS as an educational tool did not differ to its use as a communication tool. Overall, the use of SMS as an educational tool for one semester did not change their perceptions of SMS ease of use. The findings suggest that using educational SMS is easy for university students, as they do not need familiarisation and training. The high levels of familiarity suggest SMS is an ICT that could be easily implemented in higher education. However, communication issues related to the limited number of characters and understanding feelings associated with short messages could have an effect on students’ perceptions and attitudes toward the use of SMS as an education tool.

5.6.2.2 Participants’ perceptions of the usefulness of SMS as a communication tool. In the two rounds of interviews, the participants repeated similar responses related to their positive perceptions of the usefulness of SMS as a communication tool. These reasons underpinning positive perceptions of the usefulness of SMS as a communication tool where SMS supported or enhanced communication. Consistent positive responses included: SMS is inexpensive, it is always easily available, it is convenient for the sender and receiver, it is

quiet and private, it provides straight-to-the-point information and it can be used for sending one-to-many messages. However, in the second interview, new reasons for

students’ positive perceptions of the usefulness of SMS as a communication tool were also identified. These included the belief that the brevity of SMS can save time and effort, SMS can be useful for informal learning, and SMS can help address some cultural

communication issues.

Participants continued to believe that SMS was a useful and low-cost communication tool. The participants reported that SMS was cheaper than other

communication tools such as phone calls or internet-based communication tools. Tamer stated, “I needed to send information to a friend and I did not have enough money to call so I sent a short message to him.” As discussed previously, it is free to receive SMS in

Kuwait. Kuwaiti service providers often offer mobile plans that include free unlimited SMS, and they often charge more for regular phone calls than for SMS (Zain, 2014a;

Ooredoo, 2014a; Viva, 2014a Zain, 2014b; Ooredoo, 2014b; Viva, 2014b).

The participants also continued to report that SMS was more readily available than other means of communication. For example when the internet was down, they could not access other means of communication:

I used SMS to communicate with my sister only when there was no internet connection in the parking lot. – Masri

One time, I was travelling and I could not communicate with my mother to tell her that I arrived to a certain place so I sent her a short message. It was very useful. – Abd

I used it to send international messages to relatives outside Kuwait. In addition, it was very useful when there was no internet signal. – Alian

These comments demonstrate that students’ positive perceptions of the availability of SMS were consistent. Participants also continued to appreciate the convenience of using SMS at any time and anywhere, and the capacity to access messages at any time. This was

specifically related to communicating important information:

If I wanted to tell someone about something without disturbing him, because he might be sleeping I would send him a short message and he could read it when he wanted to. – Asmhan

When I send an SMS to a person, he understands that it is an important matter so he will answer me immediately; when a person does not answer my phone I send him an SMS so he will call me. – Faiez

I used it as a reminder for necessary things such the things that I need to buy from the market. – Masri

I can always go back to my mobile messages since they are saved on my phone. – Amon

However, participants believed SMS was not useful when the sender was in an emergency.

For instance, Bshra believed that sending a short SMS might cause people to panic in an emergency, as SMS cannot be used to send details related to the emergency. Bshra stated:

I had a car accident and I did not have enough money to call so I sent a short message, but its impact was so bad on my family as they felt very scared because it was short and did not explain what really happened.

The perception of convenience also related to the privacy and quietness of communication.

The participants continued to perceive SMS as a quiet and private communication tool:

When I was in a meeting I could not answer the calls, but I still could read messages. – Tamer

SMS is useful if I want to tell someone about a special thing and I do not want anyone to hear me. SMS is good for privacy. – Asmhan

While most participants felt the use of SMS on a mobile is private and secure, Amon saw some risk in SMS being opened by anyone who could access her phone.

Participants continued to believe that SMS was useful because it allowed for straight-to-the-point communication, as well as a communication with groups of people. For instance, Horea stated, “SMS is straight to the point, no extra details.” Alian stated, “I used SMS to send holiday greetings to relatives.” The straight-to-the-point communication via SMS is related to the brevity of an SMS and limitations in understanding the sender’s meaning.

This belief reinforces the idea that the purpose and content of an SMS need to be carefully considered when communicating different types of information. Overall, the comments illustrate that beliefs about the convenience of SMS were consistent over the semester.

New beliefs about usefulness were also identified in the second round of interviews.

Participants said that some types of SMS content can save time and effort, SMS can be useful for informal learning, and SMS can be used to overcome some cultural

communication issues. Beliefs about saving time and effort included:

SMS is useful for requesting bank account information. It saves the time and effort of going to the bank. – Faiez

I used SMS to reserve a seat in the soccer stadium. –Abd

Participants believed SMS was useful for saving time and effort when performing daily administrative tasks. These tasks would otherwise have required going to a location or making phone calls. Mobile banking has been reported in other research studies. For instance, Thulani, Kosmas, Collins and Lloyd (2011) reported that the benefits of SMS banking included convenience, availability, accessibility, reduced costs, reduced labour, wider customer reach and better security.

SMS was also identified as useful for informal (non-university) learning. Some participants used SMS to receive religious quotes or nutrition tips. For instance, Aya stated,

“I found it easy to learn some things through SMS, such as the information that we were receiving through SMS or through the subscriptions for certain services such as sayings of the prophet or information about diets.” It is possible that students’ use of SMS as an educational tool for one semester and participation in the research made them aware of other benefits and uses of SMS for other types of learning. The previously reported uses of SMS can be listed as information-related as they all relate to accessing information. A final use was related to convenience within the culture of Kuwait:

I used SMS to contact men because it enabled me to avoid embarrassment. – Bshra

I preferred SMS to phone calls because there was no direct contact with the receiver of the message. – Amon

Female participants believed that communication through SMS would help them avoid the embarrassment that might come from phone calls, mainly between females and males, due to cultural issues. This could be classified as a social advantage of the use of SMS, where it primarily addresses contact between genders.

The findings show that interview participants continued to have strong positive perceptions of the usefulness of SMS as a communication tool. These findings suggest several ways that institutions of higher education could draw on university students’

positive perceptions of SMS as a communication tool to incorporate SMS in higher

education settings. Institutions of higher education could take advantage of the privacy that SMS offers through sending students information they might not like to share with other people, such as exam results or absentee rates. Students’ positive perceptions of the

usefulness of SMS for conveying straight-to-the-point information suggests that institutions of higher education could use SMS to send clear and short messages and educational content )e.g., students’ uey dates for registration and the main concepts from lectures(.

Similar to the findings in the first interview, the participants continued to appreciate that SMS can be sent to large group of people at once. Some participants reported using SMS to send greetings to several relatives at once.

5.6.2.3 Participants’ attitudes toward the use of SMS as a communication tool. In the second interview, all the participants continued to express positive attitudes toward the use of SMS as a communication tool. Similar to their responses in the first interview, participants had positive experiences of using SMS as a communication tool for different purposes. For instance, some participants liked SMS because of the ease and convenience of receiving information such as religious information and banking information. Faiez had positive feelings regarding SMS because he could use it for “receiving reminders to fast on certain days in addition to banuing information.” In addition, Masri continued to liue SMS because it kept him in touch with relatives and friends. The findings continued to reflect students’ positive attitudes towards the use of SMS resulting from using SMS for different purposes.

In addition to the positive experience of using SMS, participants continued to attribute their positive attitude toward the use of SMS as a communication tool to their positive perceptions of SMS ease of use and usefulness as a communication tool:

It was easy to read since I have my phone with me all the time. – Asmhan [I like SMS because] of the ability to communicate at any time and anywhere, even in conferences. – Tamer

[I like] the simplicity and ease of use. SMS is straight to the point. – Horea Messages are saved on my phone, it acts as reference, it does not need the internet. – Masri

These comments reflect the associations between students’ attitudes towards the use of SMS as a communication tool and their perceptions of the usefulness of SMS as a communication tool. The participants liked SMS because it is always easily available, convenient for the sender and receiver, quiet and private, and straight to the point. While positive perceptions were consistent, the issues identified with using SMS were also consistent. Participants continued to report negative feelings about the limited number of characters allowed in an SMS and difficulties in understanding feelings and intentions in some types of messages. A new issue was receiving advertisements via SMS. Abd stated,

“Some messages were advertisements and I did not want to receive them.” In addition, Faiez complained about receiving the same advertisement several times. They did not feel these messages were useful and therefore did not like receiving them on their mobiles.

Overall, the findings showed that there were no major changes in students’ attitudes toward the use of SMS as a communication tool after its use as an educational tool for one semester. Similarly, students’ answers to the questionnaires and interviews showed that there were no significant changes in students’ perceptions of SMS regarding its ease of use and usefulness as a communication tool. As the previous findings showed, and as TAM’s (Davis, 1986( assumptions suggest, students’ perceptions of the ease of use and usefulness of SMS as a communication tool were strongly related to their attitudes toward the use of SMS as a communication tool. However, the focus of the current study was on students’

acceptance of the use of SMS as an educational tool and this is explored in the following sections.

5.6.2.4 Participants’ perceptions of the usefulness of SMS as an educational tool.

After using SMS to support teaching for one semester, the majority of interview

participants continued to believe SMS was useful as an educational tool. The 10 students who reported positive perceptions of the usefulness of SMS as an educational tool in the first round of interviews continued to express the same beliefs. The other two participants continued to have the same negative perceptions. These findings are reflected in the

questionnaire results (see Section 5.5) showing that there were no significant changes in students’ overall perceptions of the usefulness of SMS as an educational tool after use over one semester. The reasons for students’ positive perceptions of SMS as an educational tool in the first and second interviews have been grouped into three categories: i) access to educational content; ii) implications for learning experience, (e.g. allowing the students to use short periods of free time for study, reminding and motivating the students to study, improving their connection to the class and instructor and regulating their study); and iii) information type and learning, (e.g. allowing the students to receive key points of the lectures).

In the second interview, perceptions of the usefulness of SMS as an educational tool were as follows:

Educational SMS was useful for my learning. – Asmhan It [educational SMS] was helpful. – Horea

It [educational SMS] was useful. – Mo

Beliefs about the usefulness of SMS in education continued to be positive. However, after one semester of use students were also able to elaborate on those beliefs:

SMS was with me all the time; I would never forget my phone while I might forget my books. – Asmhan

I read the messages before sleeping; the phone was in my hands all the time.

– Abd

I read the received educational messages more than once. The information sent by SMS was stuck in my mind. – Mo

I could access SMS anytime, and since all the messages were arranged one after the other I could review them all at once. – Asmhan

Participants were able to discuss how the use of SMS as an educational tool specifically made their access to educational content easy and convenient. In particular they believed access to educational content at anytime and anywhere was useful, since they always carried their phones with them. Since the received SMS were usually saved on their phones unless the user deleted them, smartphones sort SMS based on the senders. The students appreciated the convenience of reviewing all the received educational SMS at once.

In the context of the implications of SMS for learning experiences, the participants continued to believe that educational SMS were useful in allowing them to take advantage of small fragments of time:

I could review the received SMS on my way to the class; I carried my phone all the time. – Asmhan

I might receive the SMS at any time so I could take advantage of my spare time. – Horea

The reported usefulness of educational SMS in allowing the students to take advantage of small fragments of time to review educational content is related to the previously

mentioned advantage of educational SMS in terms of allowing the participants to access to educational content easily and conveniently. One particular aspect of this was receiving SMS at fixed times and frequencies. They felt this helped in organising their academic study time. Masri stated, “It [SMS] contributed to regulating my study”. However, there was a concern about the rigidity in phrasing the educational SMS:

The thing I liked least about the educational SMS was the absence of fun or attraction. The type of SMS was important, like phrasing the SMS content in a way that attracts attention. – Horea

Overall, students felt positive about the SMS message format. In particular this was a result of participants carrying their smartphones with them all the time, meaning they could read the received SMS whenever they had short periods of free time.

The participants continued to believe that SMS had an important role in motivating them to study. Educational SMS motivated students in different ways. The educational messages motivated students to think about the main points of their classes. In addition, they motivated the students to look for more information related to the information received via SMS:

When I received the information through short messages, I found simple pieces of information without any explanation, which meant I was motivated to ask the teacher questions. So I found it good and useful. The SMS gave the educational principle; they will motivate students to look for more information. – Abd