SMS in Education White Paper

Exploring Education and Communication in a Digital Age

MessageMedia Industry Intelligence

Identifying Australian Educational Trends

“How can it be,” Stanford professor Larry Cuban once asked, “that so much school reform has taken place over the last century, yet schooling appears pretty much the same as it’s always been?”

A similar question might well be asked about the integration of new technologies into education. How can it be that so much has been invested in equipping and wiring schools, yet the potential of the digital era is only recently being realised in progressive educational institutions?

One of the major challenges facing schools is to remain relevant and central to a society where the requirements of knowledge and knowledge systems have begun to emerge as the new form of competitive  advantage [1].

One of the features of an electronic community is that it is constituted by people who are all connected through  information and communication based technologies such as the web, internet and mobile phones/tablets, and as such all have significant electronic capabilities (at a time when more than half of the world’s population has access to a phone) [2].

This electronic ‘capability’ will become the defining feature which separates  a post-industrial (information and service based) economy from an industrial (manufacturing based) economy-in the same way that being physically wired to electricity was the defining feature that separated an industrial, city based economy from an urban agrarian economy [3]. In fact, in its submission to the Australia 2020 Summit, the AEU identified this capability as one of the key policy issues challenging Australian schools in the decade ahead.

All students should be guaranteed access to a rigorous, rich and rewarding curriculum aimed at equipping them with the knowledge and skills required to be successful in the 21st century [4].

Bridging the Generation Gap in Communication


One of the robust characteristics of younger generations is their ease with information-based learning and e-communities. In Australia, a country that has historically relied deeply on primary production, services now account for more than two thirds of the economy. Instead of property and manufacturing assets being the basis of wealth, intangibles such as financial services, customer relationships and innovation have become the sources of prosperity, and unlike property, services cannot be accumulated or inherited (or if they are, they dissipate rapidly) [5].

Understanding the differences between generations is useful in communicating with people from different age cohorts. To explore generational differences, Grail Research [6] suggests the following basic comparisons between “Baby Boomers” (born 1946-1964), Generation X (born 1965-1979), Generation Y (born 1980-1994) and Generation Z (born 1995-2009):

Baby Boomers

Divided into ‘Hippies’ and ‘Yuppies’, they were raised by the ‘Builders’

  • Immediacy – SMS messages are near instantaneous, with 99.7% sent out within 30 seconds
  • Witnessed several important social changes – Women’s Movement, Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam Peace Movement, etc.
  • Increased prosperity led to growing consumerism
  • Characterised as idealistic and competitive

Generation X

Also known as ‘Latchkey Kids’, they were raised by the early Baby Boomers

  • Born into a world witnessing a strong trend toward divorce and economic uncertainty
  • Observed the popularity of the disco and hip- hop culture, and technologies such as cable TV and video games
  • Characterised as individualists and skeptical of authority

Generation Y

Also known as the ‘Millennial Generation’, they were raised by the late Baby Boomers

  • Born into a world marked by increasing inter-regional and inter-community conflicts
  • Witnessed emerging digital technologies like instant communication via email and text messaging (SMS)
  • Characterised as optimistic, tech-comfortable, style-conscious, and brand loyal

Generation Z

Also known as ‘Digital Natives’, they are being raised by Generation X

  • Born into a world facing challenges such as terrorism and environmental concerns
  • Witnessed widespread use of electronic gadgets and digital technologies like the Internet and social networking sites
  • Characterised as tech-savvy, globally connected (in the virtual world), flexible and smarter, and tolerant of diverse cultures


Bridging the Generation Gap in Communication

As illustrated in the previous diagram, the younger generations are strikingly different in terms of their information technology awareness. It’s also true that each generation has a different communication preference and interacts with technologies in varying ways.

In this digital age, real-time communication is what every generation is coming to accept as the social norm.

Given this, some of the biggest communication challenges schools are facing today are that teachers/ administrators do not have the ability to develop a real- time, transparent relationship with parents and students. For example when a student is absent, late or in need of permission slip from a parent/legal guardian, it is extremely difficult to achieve this in real time.

Schools, families, and communities must work together to establish the foundation for transparent and real time communication for incidents such as school attendance and should ensure the rules are enforced quickly and consistently. A seamless system, where the adults in a child’s life agree on expectations is a good starting point. Research [7] has identified some principles of such a system.

One principle is that each group of adults accountable for monitoring and enforcing school attendance rules need the necessary tools to do so. For example, parents must actually receive notification of children’s absences. A timely and cost effective way to provide this notification is with short message service (SMS) or text messages.

Lynton Oaten, principal of Hawthorn Secondary College, introduced an SMS service in late 2004, and said that since then, truancy rates were down by about 50 per cent. Schools in NSW and South Australia, where the system has been in operation since mid-2004, reported reductions of up to 80 per cent in unexplained  absences from class [8].

How SMS can achieve better results for your educational system

Schools that are embracing the power of SMS are reporting positive results. For truancy alerts, SMS is particularly effective because, as a communication tool, text messaging is personal, immediate and features a high ‘open rate’.

SMS can achieve terrific results for our educational system. While social media is the way of the future, with the likes of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc., SMS has a far greater reach and, as a two-way communication channel, enables conversation (see diagram below).

There are some great examples of how schools are using SMS for real-time communication beyond the obvious examples discussed previously. It was reported by in December 2012 that a primary school girl brought a World War II hand grenade to school for show and tell! The school has 450 students but many were yet to arrive for school when the alarm was raised. Police said the school activated its SMS system to alert parents about the situation, advising them to keep their children home.

Or consider the preschool that uses SMS to send out reminders, such as school closures, traffic congestion around the school, or parking problems – just about anything they can think of, to keep parents updated about what’s going on at the school.

Director, Mary Lakatos said, “For example, before we started using SMS for these alerts the phone would constantly ring in the morning during the winter months, and the same question would be asked, “Are we going outside today?” This would require the full attention of a staff member, which meant they would not be able to get the classroom ready for the day. So, to compensate, they would come in earlier, which means the business would have to pay an additional hour five days a week. Now the business no longer has to pay the additional five hours for the staff as we just send out an SMS message. This has been beneficial to our bottom line.”

The 3 i’s

SMS is a highly effective way of communicating with a target audience because of the three “I’s”: immediacy, intrusiveness and interactivity.


SMS messages are near instantaneous, with 99.7% sent out within 30 seconds


SMS messages get noticed with a more than 95% open rate


SMS messages allow for two-way conversations, which is paramount for communication and relationship development.


More People Use a Mobile Phone than any Other Medium

mobile usage

Facebook accounts: 11,677,680; Mobile Phones: 29,400,000;
Landline connections: 10.500.000; Internet Subscribers: 11,600,000 [9].

Top Uses of SMS in Education

MessageMedia works directly with many schools and other educational institutions. From our customer relationships and understanding of the sector, we have compiled a list of the top applications of SMS in education. This list encompasses commercial, educational and risk mitigation benefits achieved by schools and colleges.

Text message solutions can be put into practice quickly, with easy to use web interfaces and text message software that automates the process, making it simple to send an SMS text message from a computer. Critically, a tier 1 service will ensure virtually immediate message delivery, providing confidence for schools and peace of mind for parents and guardians.

Notifications can become a quick administrative function reducing the burden on teaching staff so they spend less time on roll call duties and more time on quality teaching. In the school office, SMS communication between the school and parents can be streamlined and existing costs significantly reduced. Another benefit is that this communication provides a stronger and tighter link between the home and the school.

To find out more about SMS solutions for your school contact MessageMedia today. We’re Australia’s leading provider of SMS solutions for business. We can get you started with a free trial service so that you can test what’s possible from the implementation of an SMS program at your school.

  • Absenteeism alerts
  • Emergency student/faculty/parent notifications
  • Sports/event weather alerts
  • Exam timetables & results
  • Class schedules & changes Admission test results
  • Interdepartmental notifications
  • Student reminders & alerts
  • Enrolment or fee payment reminders
  • Community notifications
  • Teacher/parent communications

What to Look for in an SMS Partner

Constant network monitoring and dynamic message re-route ensure your message gets through  on time, everytime;

  • Global coverage for the times you need to deliver messages outside Australia;
  • Ability to deliver to all Australian carriers directly, no offshore sending or third parties;
  • Unlimited users with no license fees;
  • Shared short codes, saving you time and money;
  • High message throughput;
  • Optional message delivery tracking;
  • 24-hour customer support

We Listen

With over 18,000 customers sending millions of messages a day around the globe, MessageMedia is a leading provider of SMS solutions for business. We’re committed to providing business grade SMS and have been delivering solutions for more than a decade. We listen to our customers, identifying the ideal solution for your needs or evaluating the outcomes from your campaign. We have integrated, easy-to-use reporting and management tools to track and measure the success of your SMS campaign, backed by a dedicated account management team, 24/7 support and a seamless billing process.

We Create

We are at the forefront of SMS messaging. We offer a complete suite of products with the flexibility and features to cater for every business application. We built our own system architecture, which is designed to offer full redundancy and handle extreme volumes of messages. Our multiple gateway network is supported by a sophisticated monitoring system which can dynamically reroute messages if any given route is compromised. This means we deliver a 99.95% service quality guarantee, ensuring your messages are sent out quickly and reliably every time.

We Deliver

Because we connect directly with carrier systems, we deliver messages faster and securely. Our service is based on reliability and security, not the cheapest connection, because we know it’s too important to compromise the integrity of your communication. We only focus on SMS for business customers, ranging from the largest global organisations, to small one-person businesses and everything in between. We understand every vertical market and application, while adhering to our deep understanding of regulatory requirements in all the markets we operate in.

1. ACEL National Conference Sydney “Creating and Connecting,” M.Hough and N. Bhindi
2. Ibid
3. Ibid
5. ACEL National Conference Sydney “Creating and Connecting,” M.Hough and N. Bhindi
6. Grail Research ‘Consumers of tomorrow. Insights and Observations about Generation Z.’ November 2011