Postgraduate students' views on the use of WhatsApp groups as an online communication tool to support teaching and learning during COVID-19
Keywords:Connectedness, COVID-19 pandemic, Isolation, Online communication social needs, Student support, WhatsApp groups
The purpose of this research was to identify students’ views on the use of WhatsApp in an online postgraduate course at a South African Open Distance eLearning institution during the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time, lecturers and students relied on their mobile devices to communicate using different tools, including WhatsApp. Although it is a trending communication tool in teaching and learning, little is known about students’ views on using WhatsApp to support teaching and learning in a time of crisis. Within an interpretative paradigm, the research followed a case study design and a qualitative approach. The study used questionnaires with open-ended questions to collect data. The sample consisted of 16 students enrolled for a Master’s in Education programme. Data were analysed using a thematic approach. The findings showed that WhatsApp groups provided students with immediate, fast, easy to use and affordable communication and connection, thus, creating a sense of belonging. However, a possible disadvantage was also observed. A WhatsApp group can defeat its purpose if students use it for non-academic chats and it can become a distraction. This study proposes that institutions of higher learning consider using WhatsApp groups to support learning communities as they can alleviate feelings of loneliness and isolation, specifically in times of crisis. Furthermore, the study recommends that the purpose of WhatsApp groups should be clearly outlined to students and that lecturers and students should agree upon some ground rules before they start using WhatsApp groups to support teaching and learning.
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Copyright (c) 2022 Geesje van den Berg, Patience Kelebogile Mudau
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