Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Content Types - Level 2: SMS Campaigns

Level 2: Interactive Messaging
NOTE: This is part 3 of 7 in a continuing series; please see earlier posts for more background information.

Level 2 mLearning content broadens the core messaging capabilities found at Level 1 and enables two-way messaging campaigns to support additional mobile use cases such as mobile testing and surveys, basic data collection and even mobile entertainment. 

Standard Level 2 Content Types and Methods

The most common use case for interactive messaging functionality in mlearning is the delivery of mobile surveys and tests via SMS.  A two-way campaign can either be launched via a direct call-to-action message (email or SMS) delivered directly to each registered mobile learner, or initiated by any mobile learner sending a predefined keyword to a server using a Common Short Code or Long Code (country and carrier-dependent); think of a Short Code or Long Code as a specialized and approved phone number that’s used as the delivery address for these messages. In either case, once the CellCast Server receives a texted keyword from a registered user account – specifically the user’s phone number as embedded in their SMS message – the interactive message campaign is automatically launched and sends the first question in the series to the recipient.  The server then awaits transmission of an expected response from that user which is recorded into the CellCast database when received, and then triggers the delivery of the next question in the series. This process continues until all defined questions have been delivered and responded to.  The supported question types for two-way interactive messaging campaigns include True/False, Choice/Single Answer, Likert/Scale, Numeric Response and Short Answer/Essay.

To clarify how the process works, consider the following interactive messaging Use Case:

Additional Considerations

All two-way messaging campaigns require a carrier-approved Long Code or Common Short Code ("CSC") as a fixed/known “address” to send and receive text messages. CSC's can be "rented" from various providers for a fee (transactional use or fixed price) and organizations can lease the own private CSC in the United States for a fee of US$500 to $1,000 per month.  Outside the US, different countries/carriers may provide support for either Long Codes or Common Short Codes depending on regulatory requirements. Long Codes tend to be much cheaper and far easier to attain than Common Short Codes. 

Once you’ve obtained access to the appropriate Code, every message managed as part of a two-way interaction is fee-based whether it is regarded as Mobile Terminated/MT (server sent to mobile) or Mobile Originated/MO (mobile sent back to server).  Associated transactional costs range in price from US$0.025 to US$0.05 depending on the country and the carrier.

Summary – Level 2

Two-way text messages are relatively easy to define, generate, deliver and track, although the administrator needs additional training (4-6 hours) and systems knowledge to learn how to design, assign and track messaging campaigns and assessments.  The marginal costs to send these messages are also a bit higher due to the fact that all Level 2 interactions use fee-based SMS messages and each question asked and answered requires two physical messages to be generated and handled inbound and outbound.

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