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Please note that the prices listed here are from 2013 and are therefore out of date. If you would like to use a system within your own department we recommend you consider JanetTxt (for which UCL has an account) and Frontline SMS, which is free. For both of these you will need to buy text credits.

Project Overview:

A 12 month pilot of the JanetText text messaging system was run to enable student feedback for the Master in Brain Science, which started in Otcober 2013. The course was run with up to 20 student and 2 lecturers. The aim of the pilot was to establish whether students responded positively to receving reminders for assessments and prompts for lecture feedback on a regular basis during term time.

In order to establish the number of outgoing text credits required it was determined that the staff would text students at least once per week (and up to 3 times per week) for up to 44 weeks of the year

- 44 weeks X 20 students X 3 texts = 2640 messages

Project Participants:

Lecturers: Andrew McQuillin and Jacquivan der Spuy

Evaluation assistance: Vicky Dale

Technical assistance: Jessica Gramp

Project Requirements:

  • Students can text their feedback to a central number
  • Student's answer anonymously
  • Tutors can prompt the students for their feedback (once per week)
  • Additional messages (such as cancelled lectures) may be sent using text as well - not too many though (needs a limit?! - perhaps 3 per week?)
  • Integrates with Moodle (a nice to have, but not essential)
  • Tutors can view the feedback (text responses) via a web/computer interface (not just on a mobile phone)
  • Students can opt not to provide a phone number and enter their responses on a smart phone, by email or a website instead (**This requires further investigation as the systems don't seem to currently support this functionality, so it may need to be implemented separately)

Questions to ask students before & after the pilot:

Nb. Change the questions to a scale grade in attitudinal survey to see changes over time.

  • Do you have a mobile phone? yes/no
  • Is it a smartphone? yes/no
  • Would be you happy to receive text messages from UCL for academic and administrative purposes? yes/no
  • Would you be willing to use your mobile phone to text course feedback and responses to UCL staff (via a centralised texting service)? yes/no
  • Would your current phone plan cover you sending an additional 20 text messages per month in order to communicate with UCL? yes/no, I would need to pay extra for this


First option:

JanetTxt was strongly recommend by Jessica Gramp in E-Learning Environments, who provided technical assistance during the planning and testing phase of the project. JanetTxt is JISC approved (hence we don't need to concern ourselves with data retention issues) and is a much cheaper when we look at rolling this out across UCL. It comes in slightly more expensive than TextWall for the trial, but by a minimal amount. JanetTxt have an email submission option (for those students who don't want to SMS), which is nicer than TextWall, because it pushes the email to them rather than students having to access the system independently.

Second option:

TextWall was another cost effective solution.TextWall allows students to use a web form as an alternative to texting, so ensures all students can contribute. The downside is that TextWall requires the student to go to the website themselves, so the reminder aspect would need to be done manually. JanetTxt lets you text and email in a single step/interface.

Other options:

Frontline SMS is a free text messaging platform that was in development at the time of this trial, and did not have all the necessary functionality to ensure students without access to a mobile phone were not disadvantaged. It is a very intuitive system that is worth revisiting in future as it matures. At the time of the trial it was discounted as it was important to provide an email (or other) alterrnative for students to recieve and respond to messages in the case of a student having temporary mobile phone access issues due to lack of text credit, a flat phone battery or a student deciding not to provide a mobile phone number.

If we want an online form/email option for the other systems (we need it to be inclusive, so yes we need this) I believe we would need to pay a developer to implement a system using the relevant API.

Software Options

2013 pricing based on - 20 students - sending 2-3 outgoing texts per week [NOW OUT OF DATE]

The recommended system for this project was Janet Txt and it met the requirements for this project. It is now available to other departments who can purchase text credits to use it locally

poll anywhere

It seems Poll Anywhere only receives incoming texts, which is not what we want, as we want to prompt students to send their feedback.

BlackBoard ConnectText

"2 way communication that's quick, to the person, to the point, secure and cost effective."

The pay for option from Blackboard:

Used to be called TxtTools


Application licence – use for 44 week pilot project
Use of SOAP and XML API’s and Middleware software
Set up and customised organisation interface
3,000 message credits
Dedicated number for inbound/outbound messaging
Unlimited use of all tools – Connecttxt, Moodletxt, phone Apps, Twitter and RSS to SMS service
Unlimited support – email/phone and live help
Survey, voting and polling facility within connecttxt
Set-up and User Training

some txtfacts ;-o

  • 2.5 times as many people use txt rather than email worldwide
  • 3 billion users worldwide
  • 98% of the UK population have a mobile phone capable of txt messaging

Source: http://www.txttools.co.uk/preloginjsp/

Janet txt - RECOMMENDED! (red star)

UCL now has a Janet Text account. Departments who would like to use it would need to set up a Master account (capable of creating child accounts) and purchase text credits to use the system.


More info here: https://community.ja.net/library/janet-services-documentation/janet-txt

Frontline sms




The phone numbers appear, but no names, so this is a good anonymous option. There is also the ability to submit feedback from a website for those with no credit/mobile phone etc.

  • UCL had an account with only 1 wall so we could have a look.
  • Text messages up to 160 characters (5p each)
  • Both tutors can use the same login to check the messages.
  • We can fill in the form at http://tinyurl.com/textwallform-online if we wish to go ahead with a trial.
  • Textwall across the organisation gives us discounts:  25 walls and unlimited walls options.
  • No Moodle plugin, but feeds can be included in a course via RSS feed.



The software is free (with 5 free text credits to test it out).

Text credits cost up to 7p per text: https://www.intellisoftware.co.uk/sms-gateway/help/PopupSMSCreditPrices.aspx?Service=2 (5000 texts will be 5.5p each) - based on the UKDirect high reliability service

A free text code has a monthly cost attached, plus we’d pay between 5-7p per text students send (if they opt to use the freetext option) - we'd need this to ensure the system was accessible to all.

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