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Digital Education team blog


Ideas and reflections from UCL's Digital Education team


SMS for teaching and learning

By Jessica Gramp, on 14 September 2012

mobile_phone_in_handSMS doesn’t need to be limited to administrative tasks. It is being used by some teachers to motivate students to continue their studies out of the classroom and is having a positive effect on student retention. Clare Killen, Rob Englebright and Matt Smith spoke about the use of SMS in Further Education at ALT-C 2012. Read more about the session here: http://altc2012.alt.ac.uk/talks/28133

While some of the uses described here can still be classed as administrative they did have a positive affect on students’ study habits. SMS was used to communicate with students to:

  • deliver homework tasks
  • send maths questions – students text back their answers
  • send presentation date & time reminders
  • send assessment due date reminders


Some of the issues that students faced included:

  • they were out of phone credit and couldn’t respond immediately
  • phones were sometimes out of range or had weak signal strength so messages came through to different students at different times
  • some students were not comfortable with texting
  • some students didn’t want the lecturer to have their phone number

Students with privacy concerns, access issues or who were not comfortable texting were able to email their responses to their teacher instead.

The trial was conducted in two forms. One method involved using SMS technology within the classroom. The other involved texting the students outside of the classroom – once or twice per week. Students didn’t like in class texting as much as out of class texting.


In the classroom:

  • signal strength issues with different students on different networks delayed delivery to some students and not others
  • students found the lessons became disjointed


Out of the classroom:

  • students liked the contact
  • some looked forward to receiving the texts

Overall students reacted positively to being sent school related text messages a couple of times a week. They said it felt it helped them stay on task and also helped them to feel part of a community. Teaching staff noticed a marked improvement in student retention because students who received text messages felt they had been able to still contribute when they were absent from school. Teachers could send messages to absent students encouraging them to return to class, so they were less likely to feel like they were too far behind to return.

3 Responses to “SMS for teaching and learning”

  • 1
    CBL Learning wrote on 21 September 2012:

    I think that using SMS in education is an interesting idea but I do not understand why teachers would use sms inside the classroom? Seems a bit lazy, surely they cuold just talk to students face to face.

    However, using sms outside of school seems like a good idea. Better than communicating by email because some students do not check their emails everyday, whereas sms is instant.

  • 2
    Jessica Gramp wrote on 24 September 2012:

    I agree that using SMS inside the classroom doesn’t seem to hold much value – and this was confirmed by the project’s outcomes. While they didn’t like using SMS inside the classroom, the students involved were positive about receiving texts outside of class.

  • 3
    Tizazu Yizengaw wrote on 12 May 2017:

    Technology is fast growing and we can make use of it. Using SMS, part of the technology, is interesting idea. It has multipurpose. It is more important when the teacher is outside of the class, can reach out to absent students, can inform parents about education of the child, saves time and resource and can share ideas with other team members. the challenge it incurs cost for the teacher and internet access may not be good. Access to electric power will also be a challenge.

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