Text Messaging

New Service Puts Texting Back in the Classroom

A new free service is turning students' mobile phones into interactive study tools using text and instant messaging.

A new free service is turning students' mobile phones into interactive study tools using text and instant messaging. Since it's not a downloadable app, nearly every mobile phone can take advantage.

The service, StudyBoost, recently launched officially, concluding a lengthy run in beta mode where it gained a small following, mostly among curious teachers.

Founder Raphael Hickling's light bulb moment came when he was out with his brother and a friend who was having difficulty carrying his books around while studying for the GMAT. Hickling noticed his brother text messaging throughout the evening, and wondered if there was some way of combining text messaging and learning.

The resulting service allows students and teachers to create batches of questions and answers online, which can be used individually or shared with the whole class. Students add StudyBoost to their instant messaging client or as a contact in their phone and can then receive questions individually and provide answers using full words.

After submitting an answer, a response is sent indicating whether or not the question was answered correctly. Questions can also be made with answers that are multiple choice, true/false, fill-in, and even essay answers.

Since its beta launch in January, students and teachers have sent and received more than 200,000 text messages, far outpacing the volume from instant messaging clients, which Hickling attributes to the popularity of unlimited texting plans and the fact that students carry their phones with them everywhere. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Facebook's chat client ranks as StudyBoost's second most popular medium. 

In August, the service was officially released with a handful of new features, including a statistics page, and the ability to embed an IM-style chat box within Moodle and other educational websites, allowing students to tap into the service from programs they're already familiar with.

Hickling hopes to keep the service free at a basic level, although he's expressed interest in creating a premium service with new features at some point. 

Ultimately, he sees his mobile study aids as more of an adjunct to traditional study methods than a standalone solution. "My goal for StudyBoost was to be an enhancement, or a sidekick that can help students study," Hickling said. "As it stands now, it's not a central study tool. It's like an assistant."

About the Author

Stephen Noonoo is an education technology journalist based in Los Angeles. He is on Twitter @stephenoonoo.