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Students’ Perceptions of SMS as an Educational Tool

Chapter 2: Review of Literature

2.3 SMS Technology Applications in Higher Education

2.3.1 Students’ Perceptions of SMS as an Educational Tool

success of SMS integration in higher education. Students’ reactions to the use of SMS as an

educational tool could inform the way it is used in higher education. Margaryan et al.

(2011) recommend that, in order to inform policy and practice regarding technology

integration, higher education practitioners should examine what technologies students have access to and what their preferences are, as well as the educational values of these

technologies.

Some studies have examined the effect of the use of SMS as an educational tool on students’ learning as well as students’ perceptions and attitudes toward the use of SMS technology in their education. For instance, Levy and Kennedy (2005) described a project in which SMS was used to teach Italian words in an Australian university. The project involved sending SMS messages that contained new Italian words, with definitions and examples of the words used in sentences, to 18 students. The SMS messages were sent throughout the course at suitable intervals. At the end of the project, students' reactions were canvassed using a questionnaire and a focus group interview. Seventeen out of the 18 students reported that they enjoyed receiving the SMS messages. The interview showed that the students liked the SMS messages since they kept them connected with the classes and reminded them to study. The students reported that they liked to receive SMS messages in the morning at 9 am or 10 am. Most of the students believed that two to three messages a day would be acceptable. The findings show that SMS has been accepted as an educational tool for learning foreign languages in the last decade. They also show that students have very specific beliefs about how, when and how frequently SMS should be used to support their learning. This has implications for integration in other contexts, such as Kuwaiti higher education. However, this study (Levy & Kennedy, 2005) is eleven years old and its findings might or might not apply to the students in the current time.

A second study demonstrating students’ beliefs about SMS use was Cavus and Ibrahim (2009) study, which involved using the mobile learning tool (MOLT) to send educational SMS that contained new technical English language words. Using a quasi-experimental design and survey questionnaire, the effect of using educational SMS on students’ success was examined. In addition, the questionnaires were used to assess students’ opinions about the use of SMS as an educational tool. The study was carried out with 45 first-year volunteer students. The students’ levels of word unowledge were measured at the beginning and the end of the study. Sixteen messages were sent daily

during the eight-hour operating time. The same 16 message were sent over three separate days. In total 48 messages were received by each participant. The results showed higher levels of knowledge at the end of the experiment (t = 32.29, p< 0.05). The study indicated that educational SMS contributed to students’ success in learning new English words.

However, the validity of the results was affected by the lack of a comparison group using a different tool for teaching the English words such as a paper-based tool.

The results of the questionnaire survey showed that the students agreed that the SMS experiment was enjoyable and useful for learning and memorising new English words. In addition, the students believed that SMS played a role in motivating them to study and learn new words in their leisure time. The participants reported positive intentions to use educational SMS in the future. The majority of participants (88.9%) reported that they would like to receive summaries of lecture notes through SMS.

Regarding the timing of SMS, the majority (42.2%) preferred to receive SMS between nine in the morning and five in the afternoon. The study concluded that educational SMS had positive effects on students’ performance in learning new English words; the participants had positive reactions to the use of SMS as an educational tool and felt that other lecturers should also use mobile phone-based teaching to support the main teaching activities in the classroom. However, the participants agreed that SMS would be more effective when used for two-way communication. About two-thirds of the participants (75.4%) preferred to receive administrative and non-educational material such as advertisements and exam results through their mobile phones. The study took place over short period of time (only three days(; students’ opinions about the use of SMS as an educational tool might be more informative after the use of SMS for longer period of time.

In another study that showed the effectiveness of using SMS as an educational tool Zhang et al. (2011) used an experimental design in which students from two classes at a Chinese university were assigned to two groups, the SMS group (n=32) and the paper group (n=30(. The results of the analysis of the students’ pre-test scores showed that there was no significant difference between the SMS group and the paper group. The SMS group studied a selected list of vocabulary words via mobile phone SMS technology, while the paper group worked on the same list through paper material in a self-regulated manner.

Post-tests were administered at the end of the experiment that lasted for three weeks. The

results of the post-tests showed that there was a significant difference (t=2.45, p<.05) in the two groups’ scores. Experimental designs are more valid than quasi-experimental designs for assessing the effects of the use of SMS as an educational tool. The researchers

concluded that a blended approach to vocabulary learning may be best for increasing the effectiveness of students’ acquisition of unowledge from the viewpoint of sustained retention rates. The SMS group submitted written reports regarding their experiences of vocabulary learning with mobile phones.

The results showed that the students reported advantages and disadvantages of vocabulary learning via mobile phones. The reported advantages included taking advantage of fragments of time such as while they are riding in the subway or standing in queues.

Convenience was the second advantage of vocabulary learning via mobile phones. The students valued the opportunity to learn vocabulary anytime and anywhere via SMS. The third reported advantage was motivation. The participants believed that educational SMS had a stimulating effect on them as the SMS reminded and motivated them. The last reported advantage was efficiency. The participants reported that using educational SMS made them able to memorise target words within a given period of time. Regarding the efficiency of using SMS for teaching vocabulary, the authors stated that “a huge learning task has been divided into multiple mini-tasks, which makes it psychologically less overwhelming to deal with learning tasus” )p. 209(.

One of the reported negative aspects of the use of SMS for vocabulary learning was related to the restricted capability of mobile devices. For instance, some participants

complained about limited storage and the limited number of characters that could be sent in one SMS message. The authors stated that “unliue computer RAM, mobile phone memory is normally not large enough to store all the words received. Information storage for a learner becomes problematic, especially when vocabulary items are received beyond what can be stored in a phone’s memory” )p. 209(. Another reported limitation of the use of SMS as an educational tool was the time consumed in locating previous messages. The authors recommended that SMS should be used only to support traditional vocabulary learning, and that students should be involved in determining the delivery schedule of the SMS.

The findings suggest that the use of SMS as an educational tool would be useful for students’ learning and students had positive attitudes toward the use of SMS as an

educational tool. The findings suggest that SMS should be used support traditional learning rather than as the main tool for the delivery of the educational content. The mixed results regarding the positive and negative aspects of the use of SMS as an educational tool indicate that there was no consensus among students regarding the usefulness of SMS in education.

Similar research studies have been conducted in language teaching at the high school level. Lu (2008) carried out a study that examined the effectiveness of SMS vocabulary lessons using mobile phones. The study lasted for two weeks. The researcher used an experimental design in which Taiwanese students (n=30) from one class were equally distributed into two groups, an SMS group and a print material group. In the first week, the SMS group learned 14 words via SMS, while the print material group learned the same 14 words via paper-based materials. In the second week, the two groups switched their media and they learned another 14 words. The researcher used a pre-test, an

immediate post-test, and a delayed post-test to assess students’ learning of English words.

The results showed that the mobile phone groups had significantly greater vocabulary gains than their paper-group counterparts in the immediate post-tests (t= 2.62, p < 0.05).

Furthermore, the researcher used a questionnaire to examine students’ perspectives on the use of SMS to learn English words. The students reported that the use of SMS as an educational tool was useful because it was convenient and interesting, and it was easy to memorise words using SMS. The participants reported other advantages of SMS that included: SMS allowed for effective time management, SMS involved receiving manageable amounts of content, and SMS was helpful for study. The brevity of SMS messages made the students believe that SMS would allow them to take advantage of short intervals of time to easily study small amount of educational content. In addition, receiving educational SMS regularly and at scheduled times made the students believe that SMS helped them to learn better. However, the students pointed to some drawbacks of the use of SMS as an educational tool. The reported disadvantages of the use of SMS as an education tool were grouped into four categories that included: troublesome in use, insufficient content, technical problems, and difficult for study. The difficulties in using SMS were related to clicking on their mobile phones and opening SMS one by one. The brevity of SMS made the students point to the lack of detail and examples in the SMS. The technical

disadvantages of receiving educational SMS were related to the small memory of students’

mobile phones and consequent difficulties in saving the received messages. The students complained about using SMS to study in terms of locating old messages on their mobile phones and the difficulty of concentrating when learning on the move.

The above studies show that students perceived SMS to have advantages and that SMS helped them to improve their learning. The participants reported that the advantages of educational SMS included: taking advantage of fragments of time to learn educational content, the convenience of learning via SMS through an easy to access medium, increased motivation to study, the ability to study short and manageable amounts of educational content, and regulating study through receiving educational content regularly and at scheduled times. The studies showed that students perceived SMS to have more positive aspects than negative ones as a tool to support teaching and learning. The reported disadvantages included: limited mobile storage, the time required to locate previous messages, difficulties in clicking on mobile phones, difficulties in opening SMS one by one, lack of examples and details in the received SMS, lack of two-way communication, and the difficulty of concentrating when learning on the move. The results of the studies indicated that the participants had overall optimistic perceptions of the use of SMS as an educational tool.

The integration of ICT in higher education has several advantages that include:

enhancing students’ learning, improving instruction )Dahlstrom & Bichsel, 2014), providing students with the ICT skills that are necessary to cope with the current era of technology (Poelmans et al., 2012), coping with increasing competition in the higher education market (Urbanovič & Wiluins, 2013(, increased access to education and recruiting more non-traditional students, such as distance education students (Andrew, 2012; Muianga et al., 2013) and contributing to the development of the life-long learning process (Ranieri, Manca & Fini, 2012).

SMS technology is a type of ICT that is easy-to-use, cheap and popular among university students. It uses a readily available technology, and is an effective learning tool.

Research has found that the use of SMS as an educational tool had some advantages that included: improving students’ learning, tauing advantage of fragments of time to learn educational content, convenience in learning through an easy-to-access medium, motivating

students to study, enabling students to study short and manageable amounts of educational content, and regulating students’ study by sending them educational content regularly and at scheduled times (Lu, 2008; Cavus & Ibrahim, 2009; Kert, 2011).

However, not all countries are able to fully use new ICT in higher education.

Many developing countries still have several barriers to the use of ICT in their educational systems (Khan, Hasan & Clement, 2012). Examples of these barriers include the lack of the required infrastructure and issues related to the awareness of, and attitude toward, ICTs (Sife et al., 2007; Alturise & Alojaiman, 2013). Developing countries may not have the resources for other forms of ICT but they do have mobiles phones.

Institutions of higher education in developing countries can take advantage of the use of SMS technology to support teaching and learning. SMS has been found to support educational purposes in developing countries, including African countries (Traxler &

Dearden, 2005; Kaleebu et al, 2013). The following section discusses ICT integration in higher education, focusing on developing countries and the status of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.

2.4 ICT Integration in Higher Education: The Case of Developing Countries