FrontlineSMS let users send, receive and manage SMS over a mobile network.

Recently I shared some ideas w/Josh & Ken about a potential module for FrontlineSMS that would focus on application in education & training settings. I threw out the name "FrontlineSMS:Learn," inspired by the FrontlineSMS:Medic & FrontlineSMS:Credit monikers. Here is some of the functionality that, based on my experience, I thought might be useful:

Short term:
- Quizzes/Assessments
- Polling w/chart visualization (for real-time use in the classroom)
- Learning reinforcement messages (scheduled or real-time)
- Virtual study groups (think discussion group or bulletin board)
- Event notifications/reminders (exams, holidays, conferences, etc)

Integration w/LMS (e.g. Moodle)

What do folks think? Would this be useful functionality for an education &/or training setting? What would you remove from the list? What would you modify? What would you add?

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Replies to This Discussion

thanks Nicola, there's a lot of us our there in mobile learning these day!

In recent conversations with Tim Unwin about my concern to connect the leading activists in e-learning (rather than letting the proponents of institutional/industrial dominate the argument) with activists in m4d, Tim's prescription was that we must listen to Africans.

That is very appealing but I worry that listening isn't neutral - who you listen to, how you listen to them, why you're listening are all complex and socially constructed situations. So I find it very tricky knowing how to help with an 'authentic' way to develop 'appropriate' solutions - but I'm not giving up!
Hi John, I am about as far removed as I can get from 'mobile learning' these days :-) And I'm not an ethnographer :-) More than happy to leave to people who are doing a lot of it all the time.

The way I see it, most of the mobile innovation will evolve from Africa anyway, or maybe that should be continue to - with a whole continent connecting in ways - say like I experienced when I was living in Turkey and mobiles appeared from nowhere and grew explosively, but this is on a much bigger scale. Still with FLSMS all over the planet, it could be multiple sparks of innovation from inspiring people such as the 900+ from all the different countries here in this Ning.

However this is like a final thing for me as I'm moving on - I started to look at SMS as an output of - reflection I guess from connectivism - cck09 and thinking about connections with SMS and internet is what led me to Kiwanja a couple of years ago and I've never had the opportunity to sit down and really think more about it since then. Everything that I have seen about FLSMS is that the technology was there and its up to people to use how they can, anything that can increase the options by developing it in ways that are best for them.

I realised that having blogged a bit then entering this discussion that I was already at prescribing and thought it better to take a step back. I don't know how best to help or even if I can but possibly in small ways even if its just connecting people to this discussion at some point later.

I think there is still some difference between FLSMS:learn and FLSMS: education which is what Moodle 'could' be in that it is a learning management - system so is different conceptually to say something like Elgg, or something else - one thing I was going to look at but haven't been able to yet is Stephen Downes grsshopper - another interesting open source alternative.
Hi James, and apologies to all for not reading all the comments before responding.
We've just completed an ml4d ( - mobile learning for development) workshop in Lagos, Nigeria. FrontlineSMS was a major hit here - two out of three design scenarios developed by our participants were based on it:

One theme that came out across the board was the potential for integrating FL-SMS & Moodle /
The clearest requirement was to use moodle for learning activities and FL-SMS for administration (e.g. notifying students when a new task is posted on moodle).
Also, some very interesting challenges came up, with some clever solutions. e.g. how to randomly schedule quizzes sent by SMS to reduce cheating.

If you're looking for a coding project - I think you have your work cut out for you here.
I was wondering if one could not just stick to moodle, use smart phones to access the site and bypass sms?
Yishay, thanks for sharing these designs! It looks like many of us are envisioning similar applications of FrontlineSMS to education & training. And that's a good thing :)

Just yesterday I found myself thinking more about FLSMS/Moodle integration. In particular, I was thinking about assessment. And I was wondering: would it be better to link FLSMS to an special assessment module in Moodle? That way administration of content could occur in one place - Moodle, as you point out - & FLSMS would serve as the SMS gateway (which it does so well!).

The only challenge there is that there may be cases where Moodle would want to trigger actions in FLSMS (e.g. send out new assessment sets/items) & I don't currently know of a way to do something like that. From my minimal experimentation w/External Commands, actions are usually trigger by FLSMS & then handed off to other applications (which means an incoming SMS of some sort would be required to launch a new assessment). But maybe some of the FLSMS coders around here could help us out w/that!
Wilfred, that would definitely work in places where mobile data access is available & affordable. But FLSMS is often being implemented in places where this is not the case. So the questions is: how do we leverage this simple set of technologies - mobile phones & SMS - to support & strengthen education & training?
Josh, James, et al., Looking forward to helping, and seeing what happens in this regard. I met some great folks at MacArthur's Digital Media and Learning at UCSD last week and who were exploring how SMS/MMS could be used to aid ed/learning goals.
Awesome! Exactly what we'll need. Look forward to playing with it :) BTW, could probably help with beta testing when it's ready...
One surprise we had here in Nigeria was to learn that for many purposes data is cheaper than SMS.

Wilfred - SMS is not appropriate for accessing content. But it is very useful for coordinating activities. That's where I see the potential for integration.
how do we move forward?
I don't mind helping with the quiz bit. For my sins, I am one of the founders of the African Virtual School ( and we have a bank of maths questions, some of which could be used for testin


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