Journal of Indian Association of Public Health Dentistry

: 2017  |  Volume : 15  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 373--377

Is smartphone a tool for learning purpose? - A survey among students of a dental college in Telangana state

Pavithra Bikumalla, KVNR Pratap, T Madhavi Padma, V Siva Kalyan, P Vineela, L Surya Chandra Varma 
 Department of Public Health Dentistry, Mamata Dental College, Khammam, Telangana, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Pavithra Bikumalla
Department of Public Health Dentistry, Mamata Dental College, Khammam, Telangana


Introduction: Smartphone and mobile internet service usage by students has increased in the recent years and therefore presents a significant potential as learning tools. Aim: The aim of this study is to assess the usage of smartphones for learning purposes among dental students. Materials and Methods: A cross-sectional questionnaire-based study was conducted at a teaching health-care institution in Telangana among dental undergraduate students. Data were collected about their smartphones and connections, general use of smartphones, smartphones for learning purposes, and their attitude toward smartphones for learning purposes. Descriptive statistics were calculated. Results: Out of the 300 dental students, 259 students owned smartphones and 248 students had access to internet services. Most popular devices were Androids and iPhones. A total of 86% students used their smartphones to take photos and record their work. Majority (80%) of them used smartphones to obtain study material. Out of all the participants, 53% had apps related to dental education. Most of the students preferred their smartphones to library to access information and study materials. The attitude of the students was positive toward mobile learning, and majority of them expressed that smartphone usage for educational purposes should be encouraged by the college and staff. Conclusion: Majority of students use smartphones for educational purposes. It was observed that students prefer to access information from online resources to library. Therefore, this might present an opportunity for educators to design suitable teaching interventions and develop diverse learning approaches.

How to cite this article:
Bikumalla P, Pratap K, Padma T M, Kalyan V S, Vineela P, Chandra Varma L S. Is smartphone a tool for learning purpose? - A survey among students of a dental college in Telangana state.J Indian Assoc Public Health Dent 2017;15:373-377

How to cite this URL:
Bikumalla P, Pratap K, Padma T M, Kalyan V S, Vineela P, Chandra Varma L S. Is smartphone a tool for learning purpose? - A survey among students of a dental college in Telangana state. J Indian Assoc Public Health Dent [serial online] 2017 [cited 2021 Apr 14 ];15:373-377
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Full Text


Technology has become a fundamental aspect in our lives and cannot neglect its contribution in the welfare of human beings. Technological developments were drawn on a path of continuous inventions. Such progressive development describes the evolution from phones to mobile phones and finally smartphones that have become a fundamental aspect in our lives and cannot neglect its contribution. A smartphone is a cellular telephone with a capability to operate advanced applications and browse the Internet.[1] Smartphones have become ubiquitous among general public. Advanced mobile communications and portable computations are now combined in a handheld device called as “smartphone.”[2] The number of smartphone users in India for the year 2016 is 292 million which is expected to reach 340 million by 2017.[3] Although 83% of adults between ages 18 and 29 own a smartphone, mobile device ownership among college students is higher.[4]

Educational methods must be dynamic and continuously adapt to an ever-changing social environment.[5] Mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, are personal, portable, and being increasingly used to assist students' learning.[6] Smartphones no longer a tool of communication but have become a powerful instrument in academic life.[7] Mobile learning (or m-learning), which means learning through mobile devices, allows students to study anywhere and at any time.[6]

Students as learners are the drivers of using new technology for their learning needs, and this is always evolving, especially with the introduction of mobile devices.[8] Smartphones have been used in educational activities to access course content, acquire information related to students' performance, and to encourage discussion and sharing between students and teachers. It is therefore apparent that mobile devices such as smartphones can have significant contributions to modern health-care education.[5] There are lacunae in research with regard to usage of smartphones by students for learning purposes. Thus, the present study was done with an aim to assess the usage of smartphone for learning purposes among dental students. The objectives of the study were usage of smartphone across the years of study and their attitude toward smartphone usage for learning purposes.

 Materials and Methods

This cross-sectional, questionnaire-based study was conducted on dental students over a period of 1 month (February 2017) after obtaining permission from the Ethical Review Board of the institution.

The questionnaire was tested for both face and content validity by a panel of experts to ensure comprehensive ability of dental students to be surveyed, and no modifications were suggested. The reliability of the questionnaire was assessed by conducting pilot study and it was found to be good (Cronbach's alpha = 0.9845). The questionnaire consisted of 20 items which included types of smartphones and connection used by the students, use of smartphones for general purposes or learning purposes, and assessment of student attitude toward smartphones for learning purposes.

A convenient sampling method was used to select the participants as it was conducted in single dental institution. Those students who are willing to participate and present on the day of study were included in the study. The questionnaire was distributed among dental students from 1st year to final year after explaining in detail about the study. Students from all academic years were invited to complete the questionnaire in their classrooms after lectures. Participation in the study was voluntary. Each participant had taken a time of 5–10 min to fill the questionnaire.

The survey being descriptive data were summarized as the number and percentage. The data collected were then subjected to descriptive statistics, Chi-square tests, and P values were calculated. P < 0.05 was considered as significant.


A total of 300 dental students participated in this study out of which majority were female students (70.67%) with mean age of 20 ± 1.69 years. Furthermore, most of the students were from 1st year (30%) followed by 3rd year [Table 1]. The percentage of the students owning a smartphone was found to be highest among the 3rd- and 4th-year students, and it was statistically significant (P = 0.00000004) [Table 2]. The study results revealed that the 3rd- and 4th-year students used smartphones for social media (3rd year - 65%, 4th year - 66%) and for purposes such as online transactions (3rd year - 58%, 4th year - 53%) to maximum when compared to their counterparts [Table 3].{Table 1}{Table 2}{Table 3}

The results of the study revealed that the 3rd-year (59%) and 4th-year (60%) students utilized smartphones in excess to browse the internet to access the study material and also to capture pictures of their work which was statistically significant (P = 0.000002). On the contrary, the 1st- (36%) and 2nd-year (40%) students reported having applications (apps) related to dentistry or education on their smartphones. All the students in our study preferred using smartphones for study purposes as they were more convenient when compared to library (P = 0.0243) [Table 4]. Majority of the students (66.33%) agreed that smartphone usage for study purposes should be encouraged and utilized by both staff and students [Table 5].{Table 4}{Table 5}


Smartphones have become an integral part of every student's life. A survey indicated that ownership of mobile devices continues to grow and more students are using smartphones for learning (i.e., 19% increase).[4] The results of this study showed that most students regardless of age or gender were owners of smartphones and were able users in both general and learning areas. About 86% of the students were owners of smartphones which were similar to other recent studies.[5],[9]

Most medical and dental students use health-care apps for knowledge purposes. In this study, about 53% of the respondents had course-related apps compared to 37.3% in a study conducted in 2014.[5] However, it was quite less when compared to a study where medical students have multiple educational applications perhaps reflecting that there are more medical apps than dental apps.[9]

A significant number of students who accessed social media with their smartphones found it of value for learning. A previous study conducted showed that many students belonged to one or more course-related Facebook groups set up by fellow students and used these groups actively.[10] These studies also showed that students were seeking out additional study material to supplement the course material. Many of these were taken from sites such as YouTube and Google. This study revealed that majority (232 students out of 300) were active users of social media (P = 0.0036) similar to a study.[10] This study revealed that students believed that social media helped them to collaborate by sharing notes and tips and helped them stay informed. It is observed that educational use of smartphones started in preclinical years and continued through their clinical years. From our study, we see that final- and 3rd-year students are more active users of smartphones for educational purposes.

This study also showed that most students (74%) preferred to use their smartphones for study and research activities rather than to use the library, stating reasons such as its more convenient and faster. These results were similar to a study conducted on medical students.[9]

The results of the study revealed that the participants had a positive attitude toward using mobile phones for educational purposes as they agreed that smartphone usage for educational purposes should be encouraged by the university and staff. The accelerated rate of impact that technology is having on both, students and educators, and requires faculty to be more knowledgeable and responsive to the modern effective means of delivering quality education. Thus, dental educators should implement this technology as an instrument for delivering quality academic instruction.

The limitations of the present study include smaller sample size, and it was conducted in a single dental institution; hence, generalization should be done with caution.


Majority of students used smartphones and social media for learning purposes, and they agreed that that smartphone usage for educational purposes encouraged by university and staff. This therefore may prove to be an opportunity for teaching staff to intervene and use of smartphones to impart and share knowledge with their students in new way and without constraints of time and location.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


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