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

Research By Sharon Lauricella and Robin Kay, Posted october 2, 2019

Here at Nectir, we believe that instant messaging tools can add immense value to the classroom by connecting students and faculty in an intuitive, easy to use method. While some instructors are apprehensive about adding tech tools to the classroom in fear that it may distract their students, there has been extensive research to dispel this worry. At the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, researchers Sharon Lauricella and Robin Holding Kay ran an in-depth study to examine how texting and instant messaging would affect higher education classrooms. Their findings are compiled below, and show that both text and instant messaging are useful and viable tools for increasing student/faculty communication and creating a more engaged classroom.

This article examined how higher education students used text and instant messaging for academic purposes with their peers and faculty. Specifically, comfort level, frequency of use, usefulness, reasons for messaging and differences between peer-to-peer and peer-to-instructor interactions were examined. Students noted that they were very comfortable with using both text and instant messaging. Text messaging was used weekly with instructors and daily with peers. Instant messaging was used rarely with instructors but weekly with peers. Students rated text messaging as very useful and instant messaging as moderately useful for academic purposes. Key reasons cited for using both text and instant messaging included saving time, resolving administrative issues, convenience and ease of use. Text messaging appears to be the preferred mode of communication for students with respect to communicating with both peers and instructors. It is concluded that both text and instant messaging are useful and viable tools for augmenting student’s communication among peers and faculty in higher education. [Lauricella, Sharon & Kay, Robin. (2013)]

Below we've listed the benefits of using text and instant messaging in the classroom, as stated by the researchers. For the full study, please check here.

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. 2007) and result in an enhanced learning experience. Allen, Witt, and Wheeless (2006) found that an immediate response from the instructor increased students’ motivation and the cognitive mastery of material. S. Lauricella and R. Kay 2 (page number not for citation purpose) Citation: Research in Learning Technology 2013; 21: 19061 - http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/rlt.v21i0.19061

Ubiquitous: Text messaging is also an advantage because mobile devices are nearly always turned on and owned by the majority of students (Shih and Mills 2007). On the other hand, instant messaging requires signing in (usually on a computer rather than a mobile phone) to engage in an online conversation. Students in Bullen, Morgan, and Qayyam’s (2011) student reported that if someone to whom they wish to send instant messages is not signed in, they would phone them and tell them to go online.
Better than email: It is notable that text messaging is perceived by students to be more ‘‘instant’’ than email and is the dominant mode of e-communication among students (Harley et al.2007). Given its role as a primary communication channel, text messaging has been identified as preferable to email in building both social and academic relationships. For example, Longmate and Baber (2002) found that text messaging helped to consolidate relationships among students, while email was rarely used for student.
Student communication: Rau, Gao, and Wu (2008) noted that students in email and online forums did not report feeling positively about or bonded with their instructor, though students using text messaging did report such phenomena. Naismith’s (2007) study suggested that text messaging is more beneficial than email because email requires access to computers, but students ‘‘look at their phones constantly’’ (p. 166). While the use of email is advantageous in higher education (Lauricella and Kay2010), increased immediacy and ubiquity of communication via text messaging and/or instant messaging may be even more beneficial.
Administration: Text messaging is helpful for supporting brief or time-sensitive administrative issues. For example, students can be reminded of upcoming due dates for library books (Anderson and Blackwood 2004) or to contact librarians for assistance with research (Hill, Hill, and Sherman 2007). Jeong (2007) adds that instant messaging can be used for virtual office hours, thus transcending geographical challenges on the part of both students and faculty. Text messaging can also be used for emergencies such as class cancellations (Brown, Vetter, and Saunders-White 2008; Smith, Salaway, and Caruso 2009).
Time management: Because of its immediacy and ubiquity, text messaging is particularly well suited to providing time-management assistance to students. Text messaging has been suggested as a means of reminding students of assignment or application due dates, and timetableor procedural changes (Keegan 2005; Naismith 2007), although administrative staff members have been slow to incorporate text messaging with students or colleagues (Pirani and Sheehan 2009). Jones, Edwards, and Reid (2009) suggest that text messaging reminders from faculty can help students to develop a time-management strategy. Similarly, Harley et al. (2007) found that text messaging reminders of when assignments are due can be of particular benefit to helping first-year students adjust to academic life. Finally, instant messaging is also used for receiving immediate responses to students’ questions or concerns, and facilitating a two-way conversation between students and faculty (Yao 2011). (Research in Learning Technology) Citation: Research in Learning Technology 2013; 21: 19061 - http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/rlt.v21i0.19061 3 (page number not for citation purpose).
Academic activities: While limited research has been conducted on the use of text and instant messaging for specific educational activities, some academic benefits have been observed including using text and instant messaging involving students who are not physically present in class (Muirhead 2005), engaging in simulations of decision-making scenarios (Cornelius and Marston 2009), collecting field data (Patten, Sanchez, and Tangney2006) or learning new vocabulary words in a learned language (Cavus and Ibrahim2009). Use of text and instant messaging can be further expanded to incorporate new social networking tools, which are increasingly used in higher education such as Facebook or Twitter (Grosseck and Holotescu 2008; Hosterman 2009).

This research study has been reposted from ResearchGate, and was originally compiled by Sharon Lauricella and Robin Holding Kay from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. Lauricella, Sharon & Kay, Robin. (2013). Exploring the Use of Text and Instant Messaging in Higher Education Classrooms. Research in Learning Technology. 21. 10.3402/rlt.v21i0.19061.

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