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Short Message Service (SMS) User Interface System to Support University Portal Services
Moses O. Onyesolu, McChester O. Odoh and Obiajulu E. Ositanwosu
AbstractThe deployment of mobile technologies allow the possibility for mobile information applications. With these applications, information can be delivered and accessed via various types of mobile devices. SMS, the common application in mobile devices provides mobile users to communicate efficiently. It has come to be a handy tool in communication. The reduced time and cost of sending and receiving SMS has made it to be widely accepted as the cheapest and fastest means of communication. The researchers in this work took advantage of this by developing an SMS user interface to complement the services offered by the University portal. The system is client-server architecture deployed using a modified independent service. The SMS user interface was implemented using the Macromedia Dreamweaver API, JavaScript and PHP developing tools. The system transformed the way information was shared between the University and students; it improved students satisfaction by sending timely information such as examination results, examination schedules, and sitting arrangements among others. Index TermsSMS, communication, distribution, architecture.


ver the ages, man has continued to seek ways to create methods, develop techniques, and improve on these methods and techniques, in order to achieve the most flexible and easiest life for humanity [1]. The telephone system which was invented several years ago to aid man in communication has metamorphosed from wired communication to wireless communication. It has undergone a great improvement, so much that today we have fixed wireless phones, mobile phones and the likes. The last decade has seen an unprecedented growth of the development of information and communication technologies (ICT) infrastructure worldwide [2]. The trend exhibits a clear shift from landline toward mobile phones, whose subscription rates are three times greater than for landlines. The expansion has been most significant in the developing regions, where diffusion reached more than 40% of the population in 2007, thus connecting millions of previously unconnected people [3]. Developing countries not only have the majority of world mobile phone subscribers, but will also account for 80% of the new ones [4]. With the rapid development of mobile phones come several services like the Short Messaging Service (SMS), Multimedia Messaging Services (MMS) and others, 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, commercial services, and several others

[5]. The remainder of this paper is organized as follows. Section II presented the need for SMS user interface. Section III introduced the related works on how SMS has been leveraged to provide other services. The deployed methodologies and application program interface and tools were discussed in section IV. Section V, last section discussed the obtained results while Section VI concluded the paper.


Mobile telephones offer short message service (SMS), also known as text messaging. SMS is a communication protocol standardized in the Global System for Mobile communications allowing messages of 160 characters maximum to be interchanged from a mobile phone or a computer to one or many mobile phones simultaneously [6]. SMS can send information in near-real time to thousands of people as recipients of standardized, bulk messages or even personalized or tailored messages. SMS is available on all cellular phones, including cheap low-end handsets, through the Global System for Mobile communications network. Short messaging service (SMS) has come to be a handy tool in communication. The reduced time and cost of sending and receiving SMS has made it to be widely accepted as the cheapest and fastest means of communication. The fact that all cell phone operators provide support for SMS has made SMS even more reliable in information exchange. Of all the features embedded in mobile phones, SMS is practically the most outstanding and most M.O. Onyesoluis with the NnamdiAzikiwe University, Awka, Anambra used application. More than 160 billion SMS are exState, Nigeria, 420001. M.O. Odoh is with the NnamdiAzikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State, changed each month in European countries [7]. 48.7 bilNigeria, 420001. lion SMS messages were sent in the second half of 2005, O.E. Ositanwosu is with the NnamdiAzikiwe University, Awka, Anambra which is up 50% on the six months before that [8]. NowaState, Nigeria, 420001. days, with 45 million short messages sent in the U.K. alone every day, a mobile phone that has the easiest inter-

face for voice communication is likely to fail the user satisfaction test if it does not provide a reasonably good SMS interface [9]. 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. In different parts of the world, several service providers offer mobile services which include SMS. Most times the cost attached to sending an SMS is relatively small, and most providers do not charge when receiving SMS. Sometimes, service providers give users certain amount of free SMS per month, which allows customers to send and receive unlimited number of SMS messages. It is possible to acquire a dedicated line that uses a custom rate for messages sent to the number; it is also possible to acquire a special dedicated line that uses a custom rate for messages sent to number, it is also possible to have a number as toll free, making it free for users to send SMS to the numbers. All these contribute to what makes SMS a really cost effective means of disseminating information. 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 [10] stated that universities can provide educational services based on SMS such as grade release, enrollment information, university announcement and internship opportunities.


SMS has been applied in several areas of human endeavour; in banking, health, education, educational support services etc, Researchers in recent times have been using SMS to support different kinds of activities to provide certain services. Services such as SMS banking, SMS result checking, SMS collaboration, SMS marketing, SMS information and SMS learning among others. An SMS result checking system developed and implemented by [11] and [12]. This system uses a 2-tier level verification system involving the students surname. The SMS result checking system approached examination result checking from the point of social interaction between the students to improve the security to a certain level. The social interaction was based on surname of the individual involved in the checking system to request for the scores in addition to the password system. Lingo [13] demonstrated how SMS is used to get examination results at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore using NTU eXpress SMS (NeXS). To use NeXS, the user needs to be an undergraduate student of NTU and needs to register his/her mobile phone on the NeXS Portal. NeXS accepts numbers from three mobile providersSingtel, Starhub and M1. Once a mobile phone is registered, the student can use the phone to send SMS and access information. However, students can only use the mobile number that was registered. To get exam results via NeXS, users send the keyword NTU RESULT to 74000. The other services that can be accessed via SMS besides accessing exam results via NeXS are examination

seating arrangements, subject timetable, library account information, checking availability of sports facilities, booking sports facilities, canceling booking of sports facilities and NTU staff directory search. The strength of NeXS is that it offers a form of security by ensuring that only the registered mobile phone can request the result. Similarly, Orissa Board of Secondary Education makes HSC exam result available via SMS [14]. Candidates request for the examination result by sending the SMS Code: HSCR Roll-No (for regular/regular Correspondence Courses) and HSCX Roll-No (for Ex-regular/Exregular Correspondence Courses) to 56505. SMS banking is a mobile technology that allows client to request and receive banking information from his bank on his mobile phone via SMS. Rotimi, Awodele, and Bamidele [15] proposed an incrementally scalable, interactive SMS banking agent for banking operations. The system was an interactive SMS banking agent which receives the text messages from the clients, processes them and sends the output back to the users when applicable. They recommended that the system will solve all the problems identified in the traditional banking systems. Philip [16] studied and analyzed critically different perceptions of customers for using Mobile Banking services in Kuwait. The study found that convenience, accessing banking services at will, alerts to banks promotions on new products and services and control of account movements are the primary reasons customers use M-Banking. The study concluded that M-Banking service providers should understand the personal needs of their clients in order to provide value added services. Dglise, Suggs and Odermatt [3]examined the characteristics and outcomes of SMS interventions for disease prevention in developing countries and provided recommendation for future works. They performed a systematic search of peer-reviewed and gray literature for papers published in some languages before May 2011 that describe SMS applications for disease prevention in developing countries. They found out that a total of 34 SMS applications were described, among which reported 5 findings of an evaluation. The majority of SMS applications were pilot projects in various levels of sophistication; nearly all came from gray literature sources. Many applications were initiated by the project with modes of intervention varying between one-way or two-way communication, with or without incentives, and with educative games. Evaluated interventions were well accepted by the beneficiaries. The primary barriers identified were language, timing of messages, mobile network fluctuations, lack of financial incentives, data privacy, and mobile phone turnover.Sachpazidis, Fragou and Sakas [17] developed a Medication Adherence System using SMS technology. The systemis used to remind patients to take their tablets. The system sends SMS to patients on a specific time according to the medication timetable defined by their physician. Brett and Paul [18] presented an evaluation of students' experiences and engagement with SMS. They reported that SMS was used to support learning through engaging students in formative assessment objective

questions with feedback, as well as SMS-based collaborative learning tasks. Students' experiences and engagement were investigated through qualitative and quantitative data. Their findings showed experiences and engagement to be mixed, the quantitative data differing somewhat from the qualitative. Positive experiences were reported for administrative communications, learning support and suggested uses for student. Negative factors in students' experiences were: intrusion into personal time; the culture of immediacy in texting; costs; and lack of perceived pedagogic benefit. Begum [19] investigated the potentiality of cell phone use in the English for Learning (EFL) classroom of Bangladesh as an instructional tool, a case study on Jahangirnagar University of Bangladesh; some SMS based class tests were conducted in English department of the university where one hundred undergraduate EFL students participated as subjects. Before the tests, some EFL teachers sent mobile SMS to students as a means of instruction for teaching appropriate use of preposition for one week. After one week, the teachers took some class tests where the test questions were delivered via SMS and the students also answered the test questions by mobile SMS. Data collected through students questionnaires, and teachers interview records and classroom observation reports demonstrated that cell phone has great potential as an instructional tool. Zhang, Song and Burston [20] examined the effectiveness of vocabulary learning via mobile phones. Seventy-Eight students from two intact classes of sophomores at a Chinese university were assigned to two groups: the SMS group (the experimental group) and the paper group (the control group). These two groups were administered a pretest to identify the level of their prior vocabulary knowledge. The results revealed that there was no significant difference between the SMS group and the paper group. Next, they were put into two intervention conditions. The SMS group studied a selected list of vocabulary via mobile phone SMS text messages while the paper group worked on the same list of vocabulary through paper material in a self-regulated manner. The results showed that there was a significant difference in the posttests but not in the delayed tests between the two groups. The study concluded that vocabulary learning through these two methods is effective in their own way and that a blended approach to vocabulary learning may better help increase the effectiveness from the perspective of sustained retention rates.

the Push and Pull SMS applications. The Push SMS application is one whereby information is sent to a user without requesting for it. The Pull SMS application on the other hand is one where a user sends a request and obtains a reply from the application. The SMS information distribution and retrieval system works using client-server architecture and can be either implemented as a dependent service or independent service. We deployed a modified independent service; this implies that the server (with the SMS application) has a phone with a standard SIM card connected to it. This in turn is connected to the Universitys portal server (Fig. 1). The SMS server receives SMS messages from the users and processes the message by connecting to the database that holds information such as examination results and grades, examination timetable schedule etc. The SMS server receives all SMS via the GSM terminal connected to the computer, it then connects to the database to authenticate the user and query for information. A hybrid methodology derived from the combination of the prototyping methodology and Structured System Analysis and Design Methodology (SSADM) was adopted in this research work. The investigative phase of the SSADM was deployed as the paradigm for systematic study in order to obtain information on the current trends in the research area of SMS information distribution systems. The information obtained necessitated the definition of a high-level model (HLM) for SMS information distribution and retrieval suitable for a NnamdiAzikiwe University, Nigeria (Figure 2). This HLM was tested by the design of an SMS information distribution and retrieval system incorporated in the Universitys portal. The choice of the SSADM was hinged on its high availability for system study and preliminary design and implementation. The design of the SMS information distribution and retrieval system was hinged on the HLM defined earlier (Figure 2) and it aimed at transforming the way information is shared between the University and students efficiently so as to improve students satisfaction and help them to face obstacles, save time and efforts. The SMS user interface was implemented using the Macromedia Dreamweaver API, JavaScript and PHP. Macromedia Dreamweaver was used to create the passive client-side web pages and generate the HTML tags. The dynamic and server sides of the application were developed in JavaScript and PHP. The AT commands used in the work are shown in Table 1. TABLE 1 AT COMMANDS USED IN SMS USER INTERFACE
Command AT AT+CMGF AT+CMGW AT+CMSS Description Calls the modem attention Sets modem to call/message format Writes message to modems memory Sends message from modems memory


This work looks into SMS information distribution and retrieval through a University Portal. We deployed both

SMS Server Query through SMS

University Portal Server Sends Receives Request

Response through SMS

University Database

Fig. 1. Architecture of SMS information distribution and retrieval system.

SMS Information Distribution and Retrieval System

Admin User Account Academic Year Courses Load Results Send Results

Display Admin Panel Results

Student Information

Student Information

Information Examination Timetable Sitting Arrangements Other Notifications

Fig. 2. HLM of SMS information distribution and retrieval system.


Fig. 3. GUI of SMS user interface.

Architecture presented by [11] was modified and presented in this work (Fig. 1). A high-level model (HLM) for SMS user interface suitable for a tertiary institution to complement a portal service was defined in this work (Fig. 2). The model is a hierarchy of design entities; each entity representing a module. The HLM defined earlier gave rise to a prototype SMS user interface system which consisted of various modules. The SMS user interface system adopted the top-down approach, in which the main program was defined first, followed by the specification of the sub-systems. Here, the program design progressed from the general to the particular, each program unit (module) being progressively refined, designed and listed separately. The modules were integrated together in a way that a program could branch to another module, executes the program there and returns to the main (calling) program after execution. The software is a SMS user interface that provided supports for students by providing timely information. With this, information is shared between the University and students efficiently and effec-

tively. This has improved students satisfaction and helped them to face obstacles, save time and efforts irrespective of their geographical locations. The system consisted of graphical user interfaces; GUIs-based forms which integrated all distribution and retrieval activities into a robust SMS user interface system. A number of pop-up and push-down menus were introduced in the implementation for ease of use; command buttons and hyperlinks enabled the navigation through the web of pages that make up the entire package (Fig. 3).

SMS User Interface System is widely available means of communication for most students. The use of this medium enhances easy access to academic services through cell phone. The work modified dependent service as presented by [11] and [12] by connecting the SMS server to the Universitys web server that houses the Universitys database. The system improved students satisfaction by sending timely information such as examination results, examination schedules, and sitting arrangements among others to the students whenever such information are available.

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10. S. Pramsane and R. Sanjaya, Mobile Education Services Based on SMS and their Architecture Comparison, Proc. Third International Conf. on eLearning for Knowledge-Based Society, pp. 41.141.8, 2006. 11. O. Awodele, E. Adagunodo, A. Akinwale, M. Agbaje and S. Idowu, An Improved SMS User Interface, Interdisciplinary J. Information, Knowledge, and Management, vol. 4, pp. 51-62, 2009. 12. E.R. Adagunodo, O. Awodele and O. Idowu, SMS User Interface Result Checking System,.Issues in Informing Science and Information Technology, vol.6, pp. 163-177, 2009 13. K. Lingo, SMS to Get Your Exam Results. Singapore: Nanyang Technological University (NTU), may2005/smsresult.html. 2005. 14. Desi, S. (2008). Check Orissa HSC Exam Results 2008 / Board of Secondary Education. Orissa: The Council of Higher Secondary Education. Retrieved July 22, 2010, from 15. E. Rotimi, O. Awodele and O. Bamidele, SMS Banking Servi ces: A 21st Century Innovation in Banking Technology, Issues in Informing Science and Information Technology, vol. 4, pp. 227-234, 2007. 16. L. Philip, Mobile Banking in Kuwait and Customers Perceptions Regarding Usage of Mobile Banking Services, MSc Thesis, Nicosia: Cyprus, 2006. 17. I. Sachpazidis, S. Fragou, and G. Sakas, Medication Adherence System Using SMS Technology,Proc. Intelligent Sensors, Sensor Networks and Information Processing Conference, pp. 571-575, 2004. 18. P. Brett, Students Experiences and Engagement with SMS for Learning in Higher Education, Innovations in Education and Teaching International, vol.48, pp. 137-147, 2011. 19. R. Begum, Prospect for Cell Phones as Instructional Tools in the EFL Classroom: A Case Study of Jahangirnagar University, Bangladesh, English Language Teaching, vol. 4, pp. 105-115, 2011. 20. H. Zhang, W.Song, and J. Burston, Reexamining the Effectiveness of Vocabulary Learning via Mobile Phones, The Turkish Online J. Educational Technology, vol. 10, pp. 203-214, 2011. Moses O. Onyesolu has a Ph.D. (Virtual Reality), M.Sc. (Internet Computing), B.Sc. (Computer Science) from NnamdiAzikiwe University, Nigeria where he works as a lecturer and researcher. His research interest spans various areas of computer science and applied computing. He has published widely especially in computer modeling and simulation, virtual reality/technologies and queueing system/theory. McChester O. Odoh(B.Sc. St. Leo University. Florida, 1996, M.Sc. Nova Southern University., Florida, 1997, PhD. Nova Southern Univ., Florida, 2003) is a lecturer and researcher at the NnamdiAzikiwe University, Awka. He has published widely in international journals. Obiajulu E. Ositanwosuhas a BSc (Computer Science) from NnamdiAzikiwe University, Nigeria. He is presently a graduate student of Department of Computer science, NnamdiAzikiweUnivesity, Awka.His areas include e-learning and modeling/simulation.



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