Open Access
Open Journal of Social Sciences, 2014, 2, 67-73
Published Online February 2014 in SciRes.
How to cite this paper Nasser, R. (2014) Using Mobile Device to Increase Student Academic Outcomes in Qatar. Open
Journal of Social Sciences, 2, 67-73.
Using Mobile Device to Increase Student
Academic Outcomes in Qatar
Ramzi Nasser
Department of Educational Sciences, Qatar University, Doha, Qatar
Received September 2013
The purpose of this study was to investigate the impact and use of mobile learning tools out of
school work. The study determined whether the school assignment prompts has improved student
outcome in a mathematics classroom. The general methodology is a quantitative-experimental
design; one group of students were administered a higher frequency mobile assignment prompt, a
control group was administered a low frequency mobile assignment prompt and a third assigned
homework in a traditional manner (in-class handouts). The three groups were matched based on
equal aptitude and hence were randomly assigned either in the control or experimental groups.
The findings showed that among the high frequency reminder group had increase of return rate
and math achievement scores compared to the low frequency and traditional group. We underline
the importance of classroom strategies in the improvement of student learning practices by en-
gaging teacher and students with appropriate technologies. The strategies suggested in this study
could be implemented in teacher daily school repertoire and could be generalizable to all schools
in Qatar.
Mobile Devices; School Assignment; Frequent Reminder; Qatar; Mathematics
1. Introduction
School assignment has been defined simply as a task assigned to students by school teachers that are meant to be
carried out after school hours [1]. Low assignment completion is when students fail to turn assignments required
of them [2]. The problem of low assignment completion appears to negatively impact student achievement.
While completion might be one problem, researchers have documented students’ difficulties in completion be-
cause of the lack of follow-up or teachers conveying the information in a roundabout way [2]. Students general-
ly lose interest in assignment in 10 minutes, some students claim that “homework” is dull, boring, and a waste of
time [3]. Others often are overburdened with outside school activities as work [4] or unstructured time in activi-
ties [5] and different forms of diversion as in new electronic media [6] feel the assignments are a great burden.
Research has also shown that there are a number of barriers that impedes assignment completion including ac-
curately recording them, remembering to take instructions, organizing necessary materials, post homework
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strategies as in following through and completing the work, and putting the work in a safe place [7].
Analysis of The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) survey data reported a
high-performing East Asian countries and Western countries in its relation with school assignments [8]. Singling
out Shanghai-China, Singapore and Japan, a positive relation was found between homework and achievement on
the TIMSS math test scores for first two years secondary school students [8]. Thus, in using these technologies
students will be more adept to gaining and analyzing information, taking advantage of the technological possi-
bilities to engage in communication and school interactivity.
The available school technologies include handheld devices, such as, tablet computers, personal digital assis-
tants, portable media players, and handheld game consoles. As mobile devices get more advanced with the de-
velopment of educational applications they generally restructure and juxtapose the learning environment [9]. A
general educational development worldwide has shown ways to provide the experiences through learning tasks
using portable tools [10]. Many of these are mobile devices that are characterized as small devices being com-
puters that allow students to access process information at the “palm of their hand,” and embark on the use of
tools at any time and any place [11]. The most significant aspect of these devices is that they are used for enter-
tainment and could provide a means to reach students in a way that they are accustomed to [12]. According to
Jonassen, Carr and Yuen [13] learning activities performed on mobile devices are flexible and interactive mak-
ing it so much enjoyable for students. While youth are different than adults, the mobile telephone, has youth
thrive on access and interaction [14]. One idea behind this activity is the ability to use these devices to entice
students in doing their homework.
While a great deal of investment has been made to improve teacher’s practices in Qatar, there have been few
programs that provide professional development for teachers to improve student academic practices. While
stress has been made on instructional practices, little has been invested in taking small steps to increase student
learning and basic educational skills through engaging them with the new technologies. This study is one at-
tempt to understand how engaging in mobile devices improves student study skills strategies.
2. Objectives
The contact of the researcher with teachers in preparatory and secondary schools informed the researcher that
students were not able to keep up with needed work in the classroom particularly in applying the knowledge to
specific problems and thus translate the information shared with them in class into a demonstrative learning ex-
perience. Therefore, we began conceptualizing ways new technologies can motivate students to advance organi-
zational techniques that address school assignments. Technologies as in mobile devices allow students to engage
in educational activities using what they are accustomed to, as in the smart phones to support or improve stu-
dents completion of school assignment. Thus the research question of this study: Does changing the format of
homework assignment through the use of smart phones improve student, mathematics academic outcomes
whether in completion or achievement?” The main hypothesis of this study is that “mobile devices can increase
the assignment completion rate and achievement of secondary school students.” This proposition is based on the
two main theories, the first is Bandura’s Social Learning Theory which suggests that the actions of a person is
strongly influenced by their consequences [15]. Namely, that students realize the effects of a performing a cer-
tain behavior, they associate the behaviors with specific and possible consequences which reinforces the source
behavior. The second perspective is drawn from the theory of effect originally developed by Thorndike [16]. The
theory of Law of Effect suggests that when choosing a course of action that experience gained has the least level
of struggle which then reinforces the behavior based upon the consequences. Thus, by engaging students in cer-
tain behavior as in school assignment through a positive reinforcement they will more likely to continue in that
behavior whereas the learner might be negatively reinforced where the interaction allows for the learner to try
out different actions and causes further motivation for the student to achieve a desired goal. Thus we see the en-
gagement of these devices as interactive and in real time have different consequences in reinforcement. Using
these technologies could support teachers and reinforce positively student learning behavior. The main objective
of this study is to investigate the effects of using smartphones applications to increase completion rates of as-
signment that could impact student achievement in mathematics.
3. Methodology
The study used the quantitative experimental design [17]. The study collected data to reach conclusions regard-
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ing the effective use of mobile devices in student school work. The study compares students who engage in mo-
bile technologies with those who use the traditional classroom methods. Two groups were assigned homework
through the mobile devices, the control group was assigned homework through a traditional approach.
The first steps of the study elicited information on the types of communication students used and identified
studentsphone devices. Specifically, the researcher surveyed whether students communicated through SMS
messaging, Whatsapp, Blackberry Messenger, Viper or any other apps available on the smartphones.
Students from three section taking mathematics were assessed on a mathematics diagnostic test. The test was
performed to control for any variations among student level. Once students were identified, the two groups of
students were randomly assigned to two control groups and one to an experimental group. One control group
known as the traditional group were given the assignment in form of handout, and a second group was informed
through messaging apps (one reminder known as low frequency group). The experimental group was sent three
reminders daily including weekends (known as the high frequency group). The control group was assigned
homework in class through regular handouts. No verbal announcements were made in class of the homework.
The students assigned to low frequency reminder control group was not assigned homework in the classroom
and told that it was sent to them through a messaging system.
The duration of the study lasted for five weeks. An automated text messaging software would prompt the low
and high frequency groups through SMS, a social networking systems as well as the school Learning Manage-
ment System. An assignment calendar reminder was also attached as a messenger to students to help students
know the current assignments, future assignments, and assignment due dates.
3.1. Sample
The sample included 58 secondary students recruited for this study. There were 18 students in the traditional
control group, 18 in the one reminder control group and 22 in the experimental group. Students were in grade 11;
the ages of the students were between 17-18 years. Students in all groups were taught by the same teacher. Stu-
dents who did not have a smartphone device or tablet were lending out for the duration of the study.
3.2. Research Site
The research setting took place in Qatar’s Independent Secondary School (public schools) that enrolls approx-
imately 450 secondary students. The majority of the student body is Qatari. The schools attendance rate is
85.7%. According to schools timetable, grade 11 has six advanced math lessons per week with 50 minutes per
lesson. The total number of students in grade 11 is about 150 students. The school has a friendly atmosphere
with high standards for students and staff. The researcher worked closely with the math teacher to develop the
structure and interventions i.e., reminders.
3.3. Measures and Analysis
Two main measures included the rate-of-return of homework and the grades students received on the homework.
Differences between the three groups: traditional, low frequency and high frequency reminder groups. Two
main analyses were performed in this study. The first analysis involved the rate-of-return on the assignments.
The second analysis involved student scores on the homework, the first analysis was descriptive and illustrative
using line graphs and trend predictive lines to analyze the differences between the three groups (traditional, low
frequency and high frequency). The second statistical analysis included and a Repeated Measure Analysis of
Variance—Split-Plot was performed to determine the interaction within each group over a five-week period.
4. Findings
The first analysis reflects the difference among the three groups in terms of the assignment rate-of-return. The
rate-of-return was calculated by adding the number of returns of all students in a group divided by the number of
students. Figure 1, illustrates the rate-of-return across the five weeks of the study among the three groups. The
short and long dashed lines are lines representing high frequency and low frequency groups respectively. The
straight line represents the traditional group. In both cases, the low frequency and high frequency groups rate-
of-returns had a positive and increasing levels of rate-of-return.
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Table 1 reports the mean and standard deviation of the homework achievement scores for each week. Figure
2 illustrates the mean across the five periods or five weeks. It is evident from the results that the highest means
appeared for those in the high frequency group. Particularly in the fifth week of the study, students in the high
frequency reminder group had scored the highest in addition to highest homework return rates.
Figure 1. Distribution of homework solutions against weeks.
Table 1. Marginal mean scores for each of the conditions: traditional.
Group Mean Std. Deviation N
Week 1
Traditional 2.06 3.506 18
Low Frequency 1.94 3.539 18
High Frequency 3.64 4.170 22
Total 2.62 3.801 58
Week 2
Traditional 2.44 3.634 18
Low Frequency 1.83 2.595 18
High Frequency 2.64 3.215 22
Total 2.33 3.142 58
Week 3
Traditional 2.06 3.506 18
Low Frequency 3.61 4.692 18
High Frequency 3.50 3.997 22
Total 3.09 4.075 58
Week 4
Traditional 1.33 3.087 18
Low Frequency 3.17 3.777 18
High Frequency 4.27 4.073 22
Total 3.02 3.837 58
Week 5
Traditional 2.94 4.952 18
Low Frequency 4.39 5.112 18
High Frequency 5.09 5.013 22
Total 4.21 5.018 58
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Figure 2. Marginal mean scores of homework by week.
The Repeated Measure Analysis of Variance “Split-Plot” analysis showed the three groups (traditional, low
frequency and high frequency) combined increased in their homework scores across time with an F(4, 220) =
5.42, p = 0.00. The most important analysis was interaction effects between the conditions and across the five
weeks. Our expectations were that the mean of the high frequency group would be significantly different than
the traditional group (control group) in the fifth week of the study. The finding showed a non-significant differ-
ence with an F(8, 220) = 1.58, p = 0.134. The tests between subject designs showed the difference between the
three groups traditional, low frequency and high frequency was not significant at F(2, 55) = 1.164 p = 0.00;
suggesting no difference on achievement.
5. Conclusion and Implications
Certainly common digital and smartphone devices offer a wide range of functionalities useful for teachers and
university faculty [18]. Many of these devices equipped with 3G/4G, touch screen, multimedia software and
Apps are carried by youth, generally replacing notebooks and pens and have similar functionalities as they take
important notes, reading and receiving homework assignments [19]. Furthermore, tablets and software and
communication capabilities are socially engaging in communication tool among young people [19]. The ability
for these devices to be mobile has offered new teaching and learning possibilities for teachers and students [20].
In this study we examined the trends of homework return rates through comparing the three approaches to the
delivery of school assignments using mobile devices. The findings showed an increase in the return rates of the
homework among those in the high frequency group with a high and positive trend compared to the other two
conditions in terms of rate-of-return. In terms of the achievement scores, students with high frequency reminders
had scored the highest compared to the low frequency and traditional groups. Although the differences were not
significant it was apparent that increasing scores with time (see fourth and fifth week). Simply getting students
to continue and persist in the homework draws to achieve higher on academic tasks.
While in this study we thought to address student outcomes using mobile devices we would see that in any
future research and follow-up study, a feedback application with assignment prompt through regular prompts
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should avail a richer application. The feedback to the homework will include solutions to previous homework
and most common mistakes. We would also see a need for the development of the applications in these devices.
Further note, this study was carried out in Qatar, results of students on mathematics and science, international
assessments outcomes have been reported to be as one of the lowest in the world and is based on the Program
for International Student Assessment (PISA) [21]. This raises questions about the Qatari reform, the quality of
education in Qatari schools and the role of mobile devices and mobile learning to improve the educational
processes. Further, we see the need for the development of Apps by presenting a logical unit in form of applica-
tions and homework exercises with feedback and solutions.
This publication was made possible by UREP grant # UREP 13-097-5-025 from the Qatar national research
fund (a member of Qatar foundation). The statements made herein are solely the responsibility of the author(s).
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