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Implications for learning experience

Chapter 6: Discussion

6.4 Participants’ Perceptions of the Usefulness of SMS as an Educational Tool

6.4.2. Implications for learning experience

improving connection to the class and instructor, and regulating study as important aspects of using SMS in education. These responses related to SMS educational content always being available and convenient, and to the information being brief. The benefit of SMS in allowing students to invest their small fragments of time and free time has been reported in other research. Zhang et al. (2011) found that university students reported the advantages of using SMS as an educational tool in terms of allowing them to use fragments of time such as while they are riding the subways or standing in queues.

Students also reported motivational benefits of using SMS as an educational tool.

Some reported that educational SMS made them wait for future educational content, which suggests some level of curiosity and a game-like element. This could be related to students being engaged in learning, in some capacity. Others believed that educational SMS

stimulated them read more, follow up on the messages and look for more information related to the course content. Some students reported that educational SMS made them think about the main points of their classes. All of these results point to students being motivated to engage in learning beyond the lecture or classroom. Some participants also believed that educational SMS should be phrased in a way that would attract the students’

attention. Therefore, besides indicating the importance of selecting appropriate educational content, this finding suggests students felt SMS should motivate students to pay attention to the educational content, such as starting with questions or indicating importance )e.g. “do you remember …”, “do you know …”, or “do not forget …”(. These are important

considerations, as students’ motivations play a critical part in their learning )Weiler, 2005).

Similar studies have found that university students believed that educational SMS had a stimulating effect on them as they reminded and motivated them to study (Moura &

Carvalho, 2010; Zhang et al., 2011; Lim et al., 2011).

Engagement with SMS and with learning outside of class was important to students.

Participants felt an improved connection to the class and to the instructor was an indirect benefit of the use of SMS as an educational tool. Improving students’ connections to their classes and improving their feelings of social connection to the instructor improved their learning. Analysis of students’ questionnaire responses regarding their use of SMS (Section 5.1.5) showed that the most popular use of SMS was for social purposes (e.g., to contact friends and family). In the second interviews, some participants identified an issue of using

educational SMS in terms of a lack of two-way communication between the teacher and the student. This has implications for receiving SMS from their instructor, students feeling they are close to their instructor and that they are socially connected to their instructor. Lim et al.

)2011( stated, “it [educational SMS] also enables the university to reach out to learners outside of conventional communication spaces, and it helps to keep learners connected to the university, their peers, and their tutors.”

Some students believed that SMS would regulate their academic study time. For instance, at the time of receiving SMS, the students would review the educational content and look for more information related to that content. Goh et al. (2012) found that SMS can improve students’ self-regulated learning strategies. In addition, Lim et al. (2011) reported that SMS could help university students in managing their studies better. Supporting students' self-regulated learning represents an important factor for improving students’

learning (Goh et al., 2012).

However, students believed that SMS should be used as a supplementary

educational tool rather than the main educational tool. They believed that the short format of SMS made it potentially difficult to deliver new educational content. In the current study SMS was used as a supplementary tool to support traditional face-to-face classes.

Therefore, this issue was not reported in the second interviews. Several applications of SMS in higher education have shown that SMS has been used as a complementary tool rather than as the main educational tool (Brett, 2011; Kert, 2011; Hayati, Jalilifar &

Mashhadi, 2013).

In the second interviews, and as a direct benefit from the use of SMS as an educational tool, students expanded their beliefs about use in learning to include

remembering and understanding educational content. Specifically, students felt SMS helped them to remember and understand the course materials, acquire high grades in exams and quizzes and solve homeworu problems. This finding does not mean students’ learning is directly affected, but does demonstrate a positive belief about the usefulness of SMS in learning. The positive effect of accessing educational content via SMS and the students’

learning and educational performance aligns with findings from other studies identifying possible learning gains (e.g., Lu, 2008; Cavus & Ibrahim, 2009; Zhang et al., 2011).

Some participants expressed concerns regarding the timing and frequency of the SMS messages sent. Participants reported that times when educational messages are sent should be selected carefully to avoid inappropriate times like too early in the morning or at night. In addition, they highlighted the potential problem of receiving too many SMS.

These issues may relate to beliefs about the convenience of SMS and concerns that one may spend too much time on SMS. These comments were from the first round of interviews and may have related to students’ lacu of experience in using SMS as an educational tool. The issues of timing and frequency have been noted in other research studies. Recommendations from other studies are to send one SMS a day between 10 am and 1pm (Kennedy & Levy, 2008). Cavus and Ibrahim (2009) found that the majority of participants preferred to receive SMS between nine in the morning and five in the

afternoon. Since the students did not complain about the timing and the frequency of SMS after its use for one semester, it is recommended to follow the timing and frequency adopted in the current study, which sent SMS in the afternoon at about 2 pm, with a frequency of one or two messages a week. After a semester of use, students made more specific comments about when it was useful to send SMS. They felt it was important that SMS messages were synchronised with lectures The students had difficulties in

understanding educational content received via SMS when the content had not previously been explained in their lectures. These findings suggest that, in the current study, students preferred the use of SMS as a motivating educational tool to support face-to-face

instruction and re-engage with educational content outside of lectures and classes.

Findings relating to student learning experiences have a number of implications for the use of SMS in higher education. On a very basic level, the use of SMS as an educational tool to help students to utilise their short periods of free time represents a significant

advantage of educational SMS, particularly as it is something students felt was an asset of SMS. In the current study, students received SMS every week. Participants found SMS helped them keep connected to the class, helped them to keep thinking about educational content, and kept them in touch with the class. Beliefs that SMS was motivating and improved learning are very positive perceptions of the usefulness of SMS. Institutions of higher education can take advantage of the motivational benefits of educational SMS to help students organise and manage their study time. This suggests that institutions of higher

education could usefully implement educational SMS to promote learning, as long as an appropriate number of messages was timed properly and was appropriately synchronised with lectures.

In addition, SMS can be used to improve other aspects students’ self-regulated learning strategies. SMS can be used to encourage students to attend lectures, tutorials and workshops, as well as to complete assignments. The findings suggest that to improve students’ academic study time during the semester, educational SMS should be sent over the whole semester regularly and at specific times in order to help students organise their study time. SMS could also be used to develop and maintain a feeling of connection throughout the academic semester, and to provide social and academic support to first year university students to improve their transition from school to university. In addition

educational SMS can be used to support students who might be at risk in certain classes.

6.4.3 Information type and learning. Students consistently identified the type of