This paper reviews the use of mobile phones for delivering examination results via Short Messaging Service (SMS) in a university where student who have written examinations and are anxious to see their results need to get their grades in a convenient and accessible way, whether in the comfort of their homes, on the road, or while at work. At this time, a mobile phone is accessible to most students, and they take it almost everywhere with them. This technology can, therefore, be highly effective in bringing information to them quickly, easily, and while they are on the move. An SMS result checking system not only enables students to request their grades, the system can also deliver the grades to their phones as soon as the grades become available. This means that they can access their grades even in the remotest locations where Internet service might be unavailable, preventing them from accessing the school’s website.
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Computers with the power of the Internet have succeeded in aiding communication among people. The telephone system, which is the main communication system that was invented several years ago, has undergone a great improvement, so much that today we have fixed wireless phones, mobile phones, and the like. With the rapid development of mobile phones come several services, like the Short Messaging Service (SMS) and Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS), which are readily available and add to the usefulness of mobile phones. SMS in particular is widely used in communication and, more recently, has been leveraged to provide several services like airline ticketing, banking services, and commercial services such as share and sell where subscribers can easily share and/or sell airtime. SMS is a mobile technology that allows for sending and receiving text or even binary messages to and from a mobile phone. The relative ease of use of SMS makes it possible for a user to learn how to send SMS easily. More than 160 billion SMSs are exchanged each month in European countries (Mavrakis, 2004), and according to Resource Shelf (2006), 48.7 billion SMS messages were sent in the second half of 2005, which is up 50% from the six months before that. The major advantage of SMS is its cost effectiveness and availability, as most individuals own a phone.
In different parts of the world, several service providers offer mobile services that include SMS. Most times the cost attached to sending a SMS is relatively small, and most providers do not charge for receiving SMS. Sometimes, service providers give users a certain amount of free SMS per month, which allows customers send and receive unlimited number of SMS messages. It is possible to acquire a special dedicated line that uses a custom rate for messages sent to the number; it is also possible to have a number as toll free, making it free for users to send SMS to the number. All these contribute to what makes SMS a really cost effective means of disseminating information.
Till today, especially in the developing countries like Nigeria, there still exists the problem of checking examination results as students throng to notice boards in anxiety, although most universities, even those in the less developed countries, now make examination results available on their websites. The level of Internet availability in less developed countries is still low and quite expensive. Even in the developed countries, where most homes have Internet access, SMS is still a faster and cheaper means of disseminating examination results as well as other information. Pramsane and Sanjaya (2006) stated that universities could provide educational services based on SMS, such as grade release, enrollment information, university announcement, and internship opportunity. An advantage SMS offers is that students can receive valuable information on the fly without requesting it.
The result checking system not only allows student to request grades, it provides the result as soon as they as become available. This is done by pushing the result to the students (sending it to their phones) or working on a request sent from a student to produce the result (pulling). There are two methods of SMS widely used in applications; they are the PUSH & PULL. This application can either be used to push or pull messages.
A Push SMS application is one whereby a message is sent from the application to the user. It is a one-way message. In other words, it is the mobile application (in this case, the SMS result checking application) that initiates a message. An example could be a school that automatically sends examination results to the students and their parents/sponsors as soon as the grades become available. The users do not request the grades, do not take any action, and are not charged for receiving the SMS. The SMS would be delivered to them in a matter of seconds regardless of where they are, as long as their mobile phone is within their network operator’s coverage.
A Pull SMS application, on the other hand, is one whereby a user sends a request and obtains a reply from the application. This is a full duplex scenario. An example is when a student requests for his/her grades for a recently concluded semester.The proposed system offers both the PULL and PUSH functionality making it even more efficient and easier for speculating and anxious students
1.2 STATEMENT OF PROBLEMS
Due to the lack of proper mode of result dissemination in Nigerian universities students are facing challenges viewing their results after examination. They have to come to school and struggle in the notice board to view results which is eventually torn or gets missing, making the students that are not there on time to start looking for their results. Although most universities have online portals from which the students can check their result from, but considering the extremely slow and costly internet access can be a discouraging factor for student using this medium.
1.3 OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY
SMS based result dissemination increases the efficiency, convenience and cost effectiveness of student access to result. Some of the benefits of implementing this system are listed below:
- It will send and receive SMS from all kind of phones from all networks.
- It functions 24hrs a day, removing the restrictions as to when students can check result.
- Users are notified when they make an invalid request.
- It is relatively easy to customize.
- It provides more flexibility, by allowing many result checking options.
1.4 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
1.5 LIMITATIONS OF THE PROJECT
The limitations of SMS results dissemination system are the same with SMS applications in general.
- Unlike paper results, which are stamped, it is difficult to certify SMS results. However, mobile operators provide numbers that bear the name of company or institution. This way the user can be sure that the message originated from the right source.
- As a rule, length of a SMS message is 160 characters. This is a limitation in SMS technology. Therefore the messages are abbreviated depending on the availability of the space.
- The SMS technology (like email) does not guarantee set transmission times or guaranteed delivery of the message; therefore some messages may be delayed, blocked, or lost in transmission.
- The cost of the message might be transferred to the sender (although toll-free lines can be acquired) and this is network dependent. It is also possible to reimburse such cost and to operate volume based tariffs.
- Service operators might not have coverage in some areas, and some locations may be have mobile-phone jammers therefore preventing users from getting service signals.
- Not all students will have a mobile phone. This is negligible considering the amount of mobile phone owners; at least one person in a family will own a phone.
1.6 DEFINITION OF TERMS
SMS –stands for Short Message Service is a form of text messaging communication on phones and mobile phones.
SMS Gateway - allows a computer to send or receive Short Message Service (SMS) transmissions to or from a telecommunications network. Most messages are eventually routed into the mobile phone networks.
HTML– HyperText Markup Language (HTML) is the main markup language for creating web pages and other information that can be displayed in a web browser.
PHP - is a server-side scripting language designed for web development but also used as a general-purpose programming language.
CSS 4 - is a style sheet language used for describing the look and formatting of a document written in a markup language.
MYSQL - is an open-source relational database management system.