Sms Based Information Student Information System

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Teaching Information Systems Development with SMS

Chris Wallace
Information Systems School
Faculty of Computing, Engineering and Mathematical Sciences
University of the West of England
Frenchay, Bristol BS16 1QY


‘Texting’ or SMS mobile phone messaging is rapidly increasing in business and community use. This paper discusses the inclusion of SMS technology in the teaching of Information Systems Development. It is argued that SMS has advantages in terms of simplicity of development, encouragement of good development practice and the breadth of information systems concerns exposed.

Key words

Texting, SMS, mobile communication, information systems development.

1. Introduction

The final year module Information Systems Development 3 (ISD3) is taken mainly by students on our Computing and Information Systems award. These students have had some exposure to Java in their first year and to Microsoft Access application development in their second year. In the final year we seek to broaden the range of application technologies by introducing 3-tier web-based applications. Typically these have a browser in the presentation layer, PL/SQL or PHP in the application layer and Oracle or MySQL in the persistence layer.

One difficulty with this module is to get a balance between the concerns and approaches to Information Systems Development on one hand and the narrower concerns of program and database development on the other. The goal here is not to develop great programming or software engineering ability but to develop awareness of information systems in their organisational, human and societal context, addressing issues of the role of information itself, its meaning, quality and value, human-human as well as human-machine communication and the design of business process.

Browser-fronted applications, as a technology to support information systems, are full of interest and possibilities but in the opinion of the author, they also present some pedagogic difficulties. These include the complexity of development, a limited range of communication possibilities and complex implementation for stateful interaction. This year we have turned to mobile phone applications in an experiment to increase the focus on information systems issues whilst continuing to engage the students’ attention.

2. Texting and its applications

‘Texting’ or SMS (Short Message Service) is pervasive and ubiquitous. Figures of the volume of text messages sent world wide and in the UK are staggering. A survey of students on this final year module show 100% mobile phone ownership of which 100% use their phones for texting. Among students, SMS is largely used for personal communication. More advanced technologies such as MMS and WAP are as yet little used and few can afford high end Smartphones.

As an application technology, SMS is increasingly incorporated into organisational information systems - for marketing and fund-raising, for communication among staff, clients and members of the wider organisation [Cheverest el (2003) ] as well as for on-demand information services. Within education, SMS is used for administrative support, for example to communicate alerts of closure to parents and exam results to students. SMS is also in use in direct support of learning through incorporation in e-learning systems [Soon and Sugden (2003), Attewell and Savill-Smith (2004)]. SMS in entertainment extends from voting on Pop Idol to public message displays in clubs.

We believe that the rapidly increasing use of SMS in information systems on the one hand and the relative simplicity with which SMS systems can be developed on the other, provide the opportunity to incorporate this technology into the Information Systems curriculum with benefits to the teaching of Information Systems concerns and to the student’s employability.

3. Overview of SMS Technology

SMS is a complex service within GSM....
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