Saturday, September 24, 2011

Answers to some of the questions on Zoraini's SMS use...

I finally had an opportunity to view the presentation by Dr. Zoraini Wati Abas (video below) for Week 2 of Change11. I must admit that having read the blog posts prior to viewing the presentation did influence how I viewed the presentation.  First I read Jaap's blog post, which lead me to Louise's blog. Both Jaap and Louise had some questions, and I viewed the presentation based on these questions.  Here are some thoughts (by the way, great to "see" you again Jaap!)

Do you use SMS for activating student academic behavior because it is cheap or because it is the best way to get results? - by Jaap
My feeling is that SMS it just ubiquitous. Given sufficient mobile phone penetration, and free incoming SMS (something that is NOT the case in the US), SMS was the cheapest and most universal way to get something done.

Do you trust the answers of the students where they tell you they are very pleased with the SMS? Are the students just being polite? - by Jaap
If answers are completely anonymous, I would trust them. If they were not anonymous, I'd have a doubt in the back of my mind.

Is it really m-learning or the use of a new resource to deliver blended-learning?  - by Silvia on Jaap's blog
Well, what is mLearning? If we take mLearning as
"an activity that allows individuals to be more productive when consuming, interacting with, or creating informations, mediated through a compact digital portable device that the individual carries on a regular basis, has reliable connectivity, and fits in a pocket of purse" (eLearning Guild 260 Mobile Learning Research Report 2007)
then does mLearning need to be discreetly its own thing?  It can be an addition to blended learning, online learning, asynchronous learning, informal learning, or situational learning. There are areas where things overlap, and I see mLearning overlapping (or helping with) all of these areas.

My first skepticism regarding the studies remains to be whether there are or will be more objective measures, other than student satisfaction, to demonstrate the effectiveness of the SMS technology. However, does the support system provided by the technology indeed
  • help students to improve their academic performance;
  • increase the amount of discussion board participation;
  • encourage persistence (lower dropout rates);
  • lead to a decrease in late assignments, etc?
- by Louisa
I think we might be getting into the trap of metrics.  Some things we can measure by the numbers, however you need to control certain variables to get believable and accurate figures (and I don't think we can control the variables).  If we could keep all else equal, then yes - a decrease in late assignments, lower drop out rates, increased participation on the discussion board, could all be valid measures - however things happen in the learner's personal lives that affect things like submitting assignments, the retention rate, and their academic performance.  As far as discussions go, unless the discussion board is sparsely utilized, there is a point of diminished returns on a discussion board - you can only really go so far in any given week on any given topic before you reach a point of diminished returns.

I further wonder whether the use of this technology will lose its appeal once the students find out that the messages that they receive are rather centralized and standardized (which are, perhaps, useful for the purpose of the study), the same way that urban legends passed along in email are usually directed to the junk box immediately. - by Louisa
I honestly don't think that students care whether a bot is sending them notifications or a live human being - it sort of like looking on my iPhone and getting a calendar or to-do notification that something is due.  I don't care that there isn't another human being there reminding me, all I care about is that I get a reminder of when a library book is due back, or when an assignment is due so I don't forget (and trust me, I do forget!)

further concern was regarding the nagging effect, though Zoraini commented that perhaps “holding the hands” of the distance learners may be necessary, especially when they are in their first semester, which is reasonable. - by Louisa

I know, people don't like to be nagged, but can people turn off notifications? If they can, it's up to them!  When I was testing out learning management systems to replace our BlackBoard Vista LMS, I came across an awesome LMS called Canvas (by Instructure). Students could setup their emails and phone number and they could get notifications of things happening in the course (assignment gradings, comment feedback, replies in discussions and so on). The learners had complete control with this LMS to get notification how and how often they wanted.  If the learner has control over how he receives (and where he receives) the information, I don't see the "nagging" being a problem :-)

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