Thursday, 11 December 2008

txt msg 2 spprt...(*translated as text message to support)

During the graveyard stint of student surveys (one of the quietest days so far at IM Marsh according to the staff!) I managed to gatecrash a short meeting about the possibility of using text message technology to support learners within the Sport Development team in the Faculty of Education, Community and Leisure.

In previous studies it has been proven that text messages illicit a better response rate compared to email from students as it is their natural channel of communication; this has also been proven during the student surveys I have performed as part of the mobile technologies project. I have found so far that every student owns a mobile phone, carrying it with them almost 100% of their day-to-day life and when asked almost 100% of students preferred to be contacted via text as it is ‘instant’ – with email the students feel that they have to make a conscious effort to log on and check their inbox – and then they are faced with numerous blanket emails that they feel are totally irrelevant, important emails get lost in the midst.

So on the face of things, text message technology seems like a good move – but what about the logistics???

Well the key points to consider are:

· Students change their mobile numbers on quite a frequent basis – how will this be managed?
· Will the system be 1 way (only the lecturers can contact the students) or 2 way (the students can also contact the lecturers)?
· Cost – 4p per text is seen as an acceptable rate.
· Data protection.
· Would a package with Blackboard integration but is slightly more expensive (such as EDUTXT) be better than one that does not but is slightly cheaper (such as Janet TXT)?

From talking to the students I think text message technology is the right way forward as long as it is managed correctly. There is no point bombarding the students with the same amount of ‘irrelevant’ texts as they get emails as they will soon get fed up with them all and just end up deleting them before they have read them. Text message technology is a great way of ‘instant’ communication with the students and if it is exploited in the right ways, could seriously help the students feel supported in their learning and study.

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