Auckland University of Technology’s first-in-the-world mobile study-support service has proved so successful it is already almost self-funding.
Called StudyTXT, the service is a mobile phone-based, on-demand study support system. It is one of three services developed by the university.
StudyTXT works by texting a specific message code to the StudyTXT server; students can then order SMS text messages, with short information, about a chosen subject. These messages can then, in turn, be stored on the student’s cellphone and reviewed anytime, anywhere, creating a digital version of the traditional paper flash study cards. The service is available on both Vodafone’s and Telecom’s networks.
StudyTXT was set up with the aim of providing a national mLearning – mobile learning – service to New Zealand educational institutions and was the first of its kind in the world. The service is free to all tertiary- and secondary- education providers in New Zealand.
It’s a user-pays service. Students pay 30-50 cents per message download, but many students work around this cost by sharing messages in study groups, as well as by swapping messages during the telcos’ free-text weekends or when their “$10 for 500 texts” promotions are on.
Feedback from students and academic staff has been positive. The number of messages being downloaded is now close to the threshold needed for the project to be self-funding – it has been operational since last October.
The two other services developed by the univeristy are the UniCentral project and the Skills Exchange project.
UniCentral is a student portal that provides a single point of entry to a number of individualised services, as well as alerts. It allows students to access all their password-protected university web services using just one login.
The system also provides every student with a personalised homepage which alerts them to new email, books due or ready for pick-up, and library fines, as well as course-related messages.
The aim is to save students money and time, which, in the long run, should improve student completion rates and academic performance. Over 10,000 users now use the system every month.
The third project, Skills Exchange, is an online tool which can initiate, monitor and report on employee and student engagement with the community. It allows staff and students to quickly and easily source community projects, as part of their education or personal or professional development.
Launched in September 2005, Skills Exchange now has four employers registered, along with nearly 1600 employees and students, 80 community groups, and 60-plus projects. It was developed by AUT in collaboration with Vodafone and built by Datacom.