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Participants’ Perceptions of SMS Ease of Use

Chapter 6: Discussion

6.2 Participants’ Perceptions of SMS Ease of Use

touch screen keyboards that show all the letters at once (Henze, Rukzio & Boll, 2012). The questionnaire results showed that most participants owned smartphones. Typing SMS over touch-screen smartphones is easier than typing SMS over regular mobile phones (Kim &

Sundar, 2014). Therefore, this may be an issue that becomes less common as ownership of smartphones approaches 100%. That said, participants with less experience still

encountered difficulties using SMS on new phones because of different mobile keyboard sizes. The arrangements of the characters on phones screen followed international standards )Curran et al., 2006(; therefore, all the phones’ ueyboards are basically similar. A little practice can overcome the difficulties associated with typing SMS on new phones.

The issue of typing text using old mobile phones or new mobile phones is related to sending SMS rather than receiving SMS. The students tended to perceive receiving SMS to be easier than sending SMS, as receiving SMS does not require typing text. This provides some guidance for institutions of higher education, in that receiving information was perceived as easier. They can take advantage of this by integrating SMS in a way that enables students to receive various types of information like educational content.

6.2.2. The limited number of characters than can be sent in one SMS. The other reported technical limitation of SMS was the limited number of characters than can be sent in one SMS. SMS is used to send messages of up to 160 characters (Kennedy & Levy, 2008). In the first and second interviews, participants reported some difficulties

understanding the received SMS. In some cases, this resulted from the number of characters that can be sent in one SMS. This limitation may cause some people to not elaborate in their communication or to use abbreviations. As a result, participants sometimes had difficulty understanding the received SMS. Furthermore, due to the shortness of SMS, the interview participants complained about understanding and expressing feelings via SMS.

The difficulty of understanding SMS has also been reported in similar research studies. For example, Grinter and Eldridge (2001) found that difficulties in determining the sender’s intent from the content of SMS was one of three problems related to the use of SMS.

Another consequence of the limited number of characters that can be sent in one SMS was that some of the interviewed students reported difficulties related to using SMS in long conversations. They felt other approaches, such as an email or phone calls, were better

suited for this. Similar findings regarding this issue were reported in a similar study (Horstmanshof & Power, 2005). Lan and Sie (2010) found that other communication tools such as e-mails are better than SMS in terms of content richness and so may be applied for extensive information delivery.

The issue of the limited number of characters that can be sent in one SMS and the results suggest that integration of SMS for educational purposes should consider the nature of the courses in which SMS can be used to support teaching and learning. The educational content in these courses should suit the limitations of SMS communication, as in some courses many aspects could be reduced to small messages (e.g. one programming statement) that could stand alone and retain meaning. The educational content of SMS should be short, so that it can fit in one message, yet remain clear and understandable.

Examples of this are found in the current study, where courses included foreign language and programming language courses. A foreign language tip or a code statement and an explanation of it were sent in single SMS messages. The results showed that students were able to easily use these pieces of information in their study as memorisation and study aids, and to support their motivation. This suggests that carefully selected educational SMS content were accepted and adopted by students. The educational content of SMS should not be used to interpret feelings or emotions.

6.2.3. The use of Arabizi. It is common for Arab people to text each other using Arabic, but with English letters. However, since the number of English letters does not match the number of the Arabic ones, the SMS user often applies Arabic numerals to substitute for Arabic letters. SMS users have to be familiar with the meanings of the Arabic numerals to understand SMS using Arabizi. One participant reported having difficulty using SMS because of the use of Arabizi. Participants in the second interview did not mention the difficulties of using Arabizi. This may result from the fact that educational SMS used in the courses did not include Arabizi. The difficulties in understanding Arabizi have been documented in other studies (Farrag, 2012; Bies, et al, 2014). The findings suggest that institutions of higher education intending to use SMS as an educational tool should avoid using the Arabizi alphabet, as not all the students are familiar with SMS abbreviations. Arabizi language popular and may seem appropriate for engaging students

by using an informal language, but it cannot be assumed that all students are able to understand it. If there is a need to use such abbreviations in the educational content, the participants should be trained in such languages.

These three main issues relating to students’ perceptions of SMS ease of use contributed to their attitudes toward use of SMS as an educational tool, and they are strongly related to students’ perceptions of the usefulness of SMS as an educational tool.

These strong associations suggest that institutions of higher education would be able to take advantage of these positive perceptions to employ SMS as an educational tool. The SMS technology does not need familiarisation or training for most university students to use it regularly. However, in the use of SMS as an educational tool it is necessary to consider issues of typing text, understanding content in very brief messages, and difficulties with emotion and language. These issues may obstruct the use of SMS and negatively impact on students’ perceptions and attitudes toward the use of SMS as an educational tool.

6.3. Participants’ Perceptions of the Usefulness of SMS as a Communication Tool