The purpose of my study was to explain how adult learners in distance education experienced short message service (SMS) technology as a learning support tool. The study focused on a single unit of analysis, namely a SMS for academic purposes that was implemented in the final module, Practical Experience, of the Advanced Certificate in Education: Special Needs Education. This course is one of three in-service teacher training programmes offered by the Unit for Distance Education at the University of Pretoria (UP). The theoretical framework and literature review were operationalised by the development of a questionnaire. A record of the text message response schedules, and telephonic interviews comprised the other two data collection instruments. These data were integrated to provide an explanation of how learners experienced SMS technology as a learning support tool. Participants who were able to utilise and access the SMS said that it seemed to: motivate them, help them focus on their work and set goals. They could check on their progress and found the creation of flexible learning environments an additional benefit. Interactive learning environments that enabled them to construct new knowledge by actively engaging in the learning process benefited the participants. Constructivist principles of teaching and learning are inherent in this. The SMS did not seem to facilitate the development of interactive learning environments characterised by two-way communication channels for all the participants, as it also establishes one-way communication channels focused on delivering course content. Although participants indicated that this was helpful in giving them more information, they also expressed a need for more contact with their lecturers and with other learners for learning support purposes. Barriers to communication included faulty cellular phones, the cost of the SMS, and the lateness of text messages in relation to the due dates for assignments and projects. An overriding barrier was the difficulty participants seemed to have in understanding the instructions in the text messages. Recommendations are therefore made to improve future short message services in order to overcome this.
Dissertation (MEd (Educational Psychology))--University of Pretoria, 2007.