Exploring the Use of Text and Instant Messaging in Higher Education Classrooms

By Lauricella, Sharon; Kay, Robin | Research in Learning Technology, January 1, 2013 | Go to article overview

Exploring the Use of Text and Instant Messaging in Higher Education Classrooms


Lauricella, Sharon, Kay, Robin, Research in Learning Technology


Overview

Text messaging and instant messaging are two types of mobile communication that are used extensively in college and university campuses. "Text messaging" or "texting" refers to the sending short, typed messages between mobile phones using short message service (SMS) (Kasesniemi and Rautiainen 2002, p. 170). Instant messaging involves sending brief, typed messages over the Internet, directly from one computer to another. The use of both kinds of messages by faculty and peers are analysed in this article.

Both text and instant messaging are used pervasively among students (Johnson 2007; Kennedy et al . 2008; Smith, Salaway, and Caruso 2009).

Furthermore, students are willing to use both text and instant messaging for educational purposes (Jeong 2007; Kennedy et al . 2008). Given the popularity of text and instant messaging, together with students' willingness to use such technologies for academic purposes, the opportunity exists for university instructors to incorporate such technologies into the teaching and learning environment. The purpose of this article is to assess students' attitudes towards the usefulness of text and instant messaging in facilitating education-based communication in higher education.

Literature review

Text and instant messaging in educational environments

Motiwalla (2007) suggests that the popularity and support of mobile devices within the student population is so great that, "it would be foolish to ignore them in any learning environment" (p. 584). Similarly, Litchfield et al . (2007) found that students are positive about using mobile devices in education and therefore suggest that researchers begin investigating how mobile learning can be best utilised in teaching and learning. Finally, Farmer (2003), who initially pitched caution in adopting this communication tool, later suggested that it was "ideal for educational and learning environments" (Farmer 2005).

The willingness to adopt text and instant messaging for educational purposes involves a shift in perception on the part of most students who use these platforms primarily for social purposes. Students' use of text and instant messaging for social purposes is well-documented (Contreras-Castillo, Perez-Fragoso, and Favela 2007; Harley et al . 2007; Reid and Reid 2004).

However, social interaction based on text and instant messaging can serve to build student-faculty and student-student relationships in educational settings. Rau, Gao, and Wu (2008) suggest that when students receive text messages from an instructor, they feel more bonded with and think more positively about the instructor and classroom activities. Jeong (2007) also found that using instant messaging facilitated a more intimate student-instructor relationship. Holley and Dobson (2008) added that students also bond; text messaging morphed groups that had been formed originally for academic purposes into longer lasting "friendship groups."

There is some evidence to suggest that students are willing to use text and instant messages for academic purposes including communicating with their tutors (Hill, Hill, and Sherman 2007) and asking questions on field placement (Young et al . 2010).

Faculty must also be willing to engage in either sending and/or receiving text and/or instant messages. However, this method of communication may not be as pervasive in the instructor's communication repertoire (Jones, Edwards, and Reid 2009) and consequently requires additional time commitments (Jeong 2007).

Benefits of using text and instant messaging

Immediate

Jones, Edwards, and Reid (2009) found that students check for text messages on their mobile phones frequently and always respond to the arrival tone. Therefore, a significant feature of text messaging is the immediate capture of the recipient's attention. Such attention-getting may lead to an improvement in students' focus and motivation (Martinez-Torres et al . …

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