Using WhatsApp for teaching. A strange concept but also sounds intriguing. Is it possible? How will it work? These are a few of the questions most people ask when they hear of this concept.
This article aims at providing answers to these questions and more.
With the recent COVID-19 pandemic, educational institutions like many other businesses have been severely affected.
Teachers and learners all across the globe have had to adopt online learning as their primary means of content delivery.
The general idea for schools is to create an online course on a course marketplace or to leverage an existing learning management system to host your online courses on your own website.
Although online learning has been around for years, most educational institutions were yet to integrate this mode of learning into their curriculum.
This delay in integration meant that most teachers and learners were unprepared for the new online models they were introduced to.
Additionally, the workload on teachers increased tremendously as they needed to create content for their online platforms while also learning to use online learning tools.
Institutions had to decide on learning management systems to use and learners had to learn to use these platforms.
With most countries currently lifting their lockdown restrictions, educational institutions must decide on the way forward to better prepare teachers and learners for any such eventualities in the future.
This is where WhatsApp comes in. It is unthinkable that the most popular communication tool is currently overlooked in the field of online learning.
Most teachers and learners are active users of this platform which makes it an asset that can be leveraged to deliver bite-size content to learners.
This doesn’t need to be a stand-alone delivery platform but could be used in addition to the traditional classroom approach and the learning management system to facilitate learner engagement, understanding, and retention.
Can WhatsApp be used for online learning?
Yes. The main purpose of online learning is to facilitate the acquisition of knowledge through easier teacher-learner interaction.
With over 5 billion installs, WhatsApp is the best communication tool in the world, making it perfect for online learning.
That said, using WhatsApp for online learning comes with its merits as well as demerits.
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Advantages of using WhatsApp for online learning
WhatsApp is easy to use
Since most teachers and learners already use WhatsApp, learning to use it for their online lessons becomes easier.
WhatsApp is easy to access
The smartphone version for both android and iOS are available along with desktop applications for both Windows and macOS, making it easy to access.
WhatsApp is completely free
Unlike using the traditional learning management system for online learning, WhatsApp is free of charge for both the teacher and the learner.
Both visual and audio content can easily be accessed through WhatsApp.
Communication between teachers and learners irrespective of their location is easy. This means learners in remote locations can access lessons at any time.
Receive notifications on WhatsApp
Using WhatsApp means getting notifications for any chats. This means learners will receive notification of any content sent to groups or directly to them for easy access.
Meeting announcements, notices, and any form of information can easily be viewed by learners irrespective of their location.
When used properly, using WhatsApp for online learning can help learners easily consume shorter lessons in between tasks.
Teachers can easily give feedback to learners through a short message or audio and learners can also submit tasks to teachers via audio or other forms of multimedia attachments.
Teachers can easily create specific groups for learners with special needs or further explanations on specific topics.
WhatsApp supports multiple media files including images, videos, and audio. Teachers can easily share files with their students on the platform.
Disadvantages of using WhatsApp for online learning
Learning on WhatsApp means learners can easily get distracted. Without specific measures to mute all other messages, new notifications can serve as a form of distraction during lessons.
Additionally, sometimes, incoming phone calls can interrupt data connectivity, interfering with the lesson and learner concentration.
User behavior data necessary for educational institutions to make informed decisions are not present in WhatsApp.
Poor network connectivity
Network connectivity issues on the part of both the teacher and the learner can also disrupt an ongoing class.
Files, audio, or any other form of information that may have been assumed sent to learners could be delayed due to poor connectivity without the sender realizing this in some cases.
Power outage which leads to phone batteries running down can also interrupt an ongoing lesson. A teacher’s phone running empty means an ongoing class will be interrupted.
Lack of structure
Dedicated learning management systems are built with the needs of students in mind. Students know where to access video lessons, notes, and even quizzes without the need to scroll or search through unrelated information.
Administration, tracking, documenting, recording, and analytics features available in most learning management systems are not present in WhatsApp.
Online teaching through WhatsApp
Create a WhatsApp Group for your online class
Teaching through WhatsApp involves two key features of the application.
- WhatsApp Groups
- WhatsApp Broadcast Lists
The first step involves ensuring that all the contacts of your students are saved on your phone. These should be their respective WhatsApp contact numbers.
This may involve all your students writing down their respective phone numbers on a Google DOC or some other form of a notebook.
Alternatively, the school may already have the WhatsApp contacts of all students. This may require a confirmation from all students as some may have changed their respective contact numbers.
Once this is done, the next step would be to add them to a broadcast list and send them a message informing them you would be adding them to the WhatsApp Group appropriately titled “………”
Outline rules for your online WhatsApp class
The second step after creating the WhatsApp Group would be to post a chat in the group welcoming them to the group.
Additionally, an audio recording of the welcome message can be sent to the group to provide alternatives for learners who might prefer to hear the voice of their teacher.
This also includes rules about appropriate materials that can be shared with the group and when to ask a question during a class.
Send class schedule before class begins
Create a schedule for the week and send it before the week begins and also remember to send a reminder about 2 hours before class begins and possibly 30 minutes before class as well.
Provide learners with materials
Another way to make the class interactive is to equip learners with lesson content before the class.
This could be slides or a link to a video to provide learners with an overview of what to expect in the class.
Doing this ensures that learners have a basic understanding of the subject matter as well as questions prepared to help them better understand your lesson.
Lecture content can also be made available to learners after class.
Lecture content format for your WhatsApp class
To ensure that your learners enjoy the class, take screenshots of each lesson slide and post them on the group page once the lesson starts.
The Snipping Tool on windows can be used to easily create images of each slide which can then be organized in a folder.
Once an image is posted, record a short voice note explaining the content of the image in detail.
Questions and answers
To ensure structure in the class, learners can be allowed to post their respective questions on the group page after each slide or image has been explained in detail.
Alternatively, this can also be done after all the slides have been fully explained.
It is necessary to assure learners that each of their questions is important and that the class is a safe space to ask any questions you need answered on the subject matter.
Assignments can be put on the group page as a chat, broadcast, or document format for learners to easily access.
Learners can then present their assignments in written documents or if required, in audio format.
Feedback from assignments can be sent individually via message or audio format. Based on your assessment, learners having difficulty in class be added to a subgroup for further lessons.
Provide learners with resources that may include audio, video, slides, and reading materials on the group page to aid them in their personal studies.
To reduce the use of data, some video content can be converted to GIF to conserve data for your learners.
Platforms like EZGIF can be leveraged to convert some videos to GIFs for your learners.
It is necessary to ensure that the GIFs created from these videos are clear for learners to see.
Using WhatsApp for online courses should be encouraged by academic institutions. It is cost-effective and delivers content directly to learners through their most used application.
Whether the school has an already existing learning management system or not, leveraging WhatsApp in addition to their traditional classroom or learning management system will only increase the avenues through which their learners access lesson content.