mLearning: How educational institutions can best use SMS

Never before has the education system embraced a technology as fast as the mobile device. This rapid adoption has led to a new paradigm known as mLearning (mobile learning); a natural extension of the much better-known ‘eLearning’.

MobiLearn defines mLearning as: “Any sort of learning that happens when the learner is not at a fixed, predetermined location, or learning that happens when the learner takes advantage of the learning opportunities offered by mobile technologies.”

While mLearning can mean so much more than that, the definition provides the context needed to understand the potential of this new frontier.

The simplest things are often the most effective

Most minds will automatically race to the wonders of advanced mobile technology such as HD video streaming or augmented reality, but it is important to recognise that mLearning can be effective on much more basic levels.

While mobile device functionality differs wildly from device to device, there is one feature that is almost universal across all devices – the humble SMS.

Texts are among the most trusted and effective communication tools in history. They’ve had a profound impact on how people interacted at the turn of the 21st Century, and still do to this day. Whether it is the smartphones that dominate developed markets or the feature phones that continue to be popular in emerging markets, the SMS remains a cornerstone of wireless communication technology.

It should therefore come as no surprise that progressive educational establishments are looking for ways to integrate SMS technology into their mLearning programmes. The simplicity of text based communications can be used in a multitude of ways.

Some have used SMS in a similar function to that of a forum, by posing thought provoking questions to students. This allows the learner to respond at a time suitable to them without the needing to login to anything. They don’t require a PC or even an internet connection; just a phone and a GSM signal.

Support through mobile phone use: Learning to learn

As well as being used as a direct tool for mLearning, SMS can also be used for meta-learning, or learning to learn. All too often educational establishments neglect learning support strategies, which can be a key to the success of learners; especially to those identified as ‘at risk’.

Text messages can be used to aid time management, for example, sending reminders of assignments and classes. They can also be used to provide motivational support and can even provide a confidant form of communication for vulnerable students, in order to reach out to staff.

From a top level perspective, SMS can be used to communicate general messages to students and parents. As the holiday season approaches, SMS can be used to let students know about snow days, emergencies and other time-sensitive pieces of information.

mLearning and SMS as tools for the future

mLearning is beginning to make its impact felt across the world, giving learners access to tools like never before. From sophisticated tablets being used as a teaching aid to the most basic of feature phones enabling impoverished communities to access vital learning resources, mLearning is transforming the education landscape.

Within the mLearning sphere, SMS is enabling educational establishments to communicate with learners in a direct and effective fashion. Its native functionality enables it to transcend the boundaries of ‘smart’ devices and makes it an almost universally accessible form of communication.

For establishments that are looking for new and creative ways to engage with their students or simply to communicate time sensitive messages, mLearning and SMS should certainly be considered.

There are many ways that the education sector can use SMS. For more see our latest education SMS marketing case studies.