As the Covid-19 pandemic bite deeper into the Nigerian system, many educational stakeholders including government, university management, teachers, students, parents/guardians/sponsors, etc. are now expressing concerns over the academic well-being of their students in the university community now at home.
These concerns have been necessitated owing to the total shutdown of universities in the country. From thence on, many responsive, vibrant and foresighted management have seen the need to overcome the social distancing order by utilizing internet/electronic sources to reach out to their students. One of the cheapest and most dependable identified avenues for internet/electronic classes is WhatsApp.
WhatsApp Messenger, or simply WhatsApp, is an American freeware, cross-platform messaging and Voice over IP service owned by Facebook, Inc. It allows users to send text messages and voice messages, make voice and video calls, and share images, documents, user locations, and other media.
WhatsApp was originally owned by Brian Acton and Jan Koum, a Ukrainian American entrepreneur and computer programmer. He is the co-founder and CEO of WhatsApp before it was acquired by Facebook Inc. in February 2014 for US$19.3 billion.
WhatsApp says it serves more than 2 billion people in over 180 countries, with over 500 million daily active users. WhatsApp Messenger is now the leading mobile messaging app in 112 countries while Messenger is the leading app in 57 countries. WhatsApp represents more reliability to users and senders depending on the level of privacy of their conversa-tions which is much better than other social media platforms such as Facebook or Twitter (Lambro-poulus & Culwin, 2010; Lenhart & Madden, 2007; Reid & Reid, 2005).
The reach, the easy user end experience, the cheap data use, free voice and video calls all makes WhatsApp a good target by educators to utilize in this period of social distance.
Currently, Kogi State University, Federal Polytechnic, Nekede, Lagos State University are among Nigerian universities that are using various e-learning platforms to organize classes. While Kogi State University has been seen using WhatsApp and Zoom, Lagos State University has created personalized platform for their online learning purpose.
Using WhatsApp For Online Classes
Robles, Guerrero, Llinás and Montero (2019), conducted a study on “online teacher-students interactions using WhatsApp in a law course”. The author found that by making a global analysis of the number of interactions per year, the intervention count shows that year after year there has been a significant increase in WhatsApp class interactions. In the case of students, it can be observed that in 2015, 73% of interventions were evident among them, compared to 27% on the teacher´s column, who at that time were observed guiding the activity.
It is clear that those who assume the most important role through this strategy are the students who enrich the chat with their participation. The following year, 2016, the teacher presence dropped to 19% while the students´ participation increased to 81%, reflecting a greater commitment and intervention on the part of the latter, which coincides with the study by Joo, Lim, and Kim (2011).
Again, the analysis of WhatsApp classes represented in chats in 2016 shows some interesting changes in the trend that shaped the conversations to become closer to the model of what was expected. The expectations were based on the roles students assumed in the WhatsApp interaction: plaintiff, judges and defendants. While in 2015, the prevalent social presence was the social, in 2016 the cognitive presence gained greater strength through its indicators. In other words, the indicator corresponding to the positive interdependence that alludes to the students’ organization and their responsibility towards the activity to be developed continues to have had an important place. On this occasion this indicator was present in 47% of the conversations accompanied by the construction of knowledge that in 2016 reached 38%. When adding these two indicators, positive interdependence and knowledge construction, it is observed that cognitive presence was the most important trend in the conversations of the year in question, obtaining 85% visibility. Meanwhile the social presence in 2016 was lower at 15%, it could be concluded that in that year, the students assumed with greater commitment the use of the tool and it was used more for the purpose that was intended by the teacher.
Benefits of WhatsApp Classes
While there has been numerous benefits of WhatsApp usability, research however, has shown very little demerits of the App. The following are therefore the benefits of using WhatsApp for a class.
1. WhatsApp represents a private kind of interaction much better than other social media platforms such as Facebook or Twitter (Madden, Lenhart, Cortesi, & Gasser, 2010).
2. “Texters”, as they have been defined by Reid and Reid (2005), consider that this tool is better than a phone call or face-to face interaction since nobody interrupts them when texting, it has no cost, it is quick and easy to use, they can get to the point and afford a slower, more open ended form of communication (Rettie, 2009).
3. Ngaleka and Uys (2013) stated that through WhatsApp, students increase collaborative work outside the classroom without the influence of the instructor.
4. Active and collaborative practices are new branches of learning sciences which purpose is to give further explanation about how people work together with the help of technological devices (Pinheiro & Simoes, 2012).
5. The technology gives students, of any ages, the opportunity to engage in collaborative interaction (Romero & Barberá, 2012).
6. In online discussions, collaborative practices play an important role since the participants try, by working together, different strategies to build knowledge as a group.
7. In WhatsApp classes, students personalize their learning environment and take responsibility of what is learnt on themselves.
8. Parents have to long yearning desire to put an eye on their children to ensure they are learning.
9. Lessons are always available for students anytime they login unlike the physical class that a class is gone once you miss it. Extra efforts would be needed by students to get contents of classes back in physical classes they missed.
10. Strengthens teacher-students´ interaction as a result of the high level privacy involved.
11. Could encourage follow up by teachers.
12. Encourages more contacts with peers which facilitate peer academic discussions.
13. WhatsApp classes is not bound by time and space. Each group could contain 256 students and where the need arise, more groups can be created to accommodate more students.
14. The approach and interaction of the teacher with the students in WhatsApp classes favor a suitable climate for learning. The use of this tool, even without the warmth that can be implied face-to-face, seems to encourage conditions for extra-classroom communication between teachers and students that, in turn enhances the learning environment of the classroom.
Disadvantages of Using WhatsApp
1. Some text cannot be represented in the app like mathematical signs, etc. (Recommendation: Write all the signs out and snap them and upload for the class.
2. Laboratory test experience cannot be conducted physically. (Recommendation: Create a video of the test and upload. This can be done with mere mobile phones and uploaded.)
3. Educators’ typing speed/Teachers’ technical knowhow: This is one of the greatest challenges teachers may face. WhatsApp class will require a lot of teachers’ typing speed experience or the class may be boring. (Recommendation: For typing speed can be attained by practicing. Well meaning educators will attain this in the long run. No other approach can solve this challenge. On the technical knowhow, I realized that many educators’ challenge using WhatsApp class is merely fear. Once they attempt, such fear could be overcome in no time. WhatsApp have an easy user end experience that it will be very important to use).
4. If classes are becoming boring as a result of slow typing, use voice over/recordings to send contents. It is very easy. The kids in the house can help with this if any is having challenges with voice over recordings.
5. Data Usage: Many students have raised concerns over data usage. However, in academics, finance is compulsory. Hence, it is not seen as a challenge. Just as a student provides for food, accommodation, transportation, etc. during classes, all those expenses can be channeled into data purchase.
6. Not all students have access to phones that can power WhatsApp: While this is correct, education as a system may not be able to wait for those set of students. In normal academic circumstance, there are individuals who wanted to be in the universities but are at home because of lack of funds. Some even gained admission but voluntarily forfeited it because of finance related issues. So, we cannot hold academics to allow them have money first before we go on. The educational institution will move on, then they will strive to meet up. Halting academics because of those who may not be able to afford is like a punishment to those who can afford.
Technology in any part of our lives is the way forward – the classroom not excluded. Despite challenges may occur along the way, policies would be established to ameliorate these challenges. The covid-19 period is a test on management across Nigerian institutions to show their sagacity and responsiveness to circumstances surrounding administration.
Joo, Y. J., Lim, K. Y., & Kim, E. K. (2011). Online university students’ satisfaction and persistence: Examining perceived level of presence, usefulness and ease of use as predictors in a structural model. Computers & Education, 57(2), 1654-1664.
Lambropoulos, N., & Culwin, F. (2010). Group awareness in online work, learning & games. In Proceedings of the 24th HCI Conference, 2010 (pp. 7-9). Dundee, Scotland. LSBU.
Lenhart, A., & Madden, M. (2007). Social networking websites and teens. Pew Research Center: Internet & Technology. Retrieved May 2nd, 2020 from https://www.pewinternet.org/2007/01/07/social-networking-websites-and-teens/
Madden, M., Lenhart, A., Cortesi, S., & Gasser, U. (2010). Pew Internet and American life project. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center. Retrieved May 2nd, 2020 from https://www.pewinternet.org/
Ngaleka, A., & Uys, W. (2013). M-learning with WhatsApp: A conversation analysis. Proceedings of the International Conference on e-Learning (pp. 282- 291). Kidmore End: Academic Conferences International Limited.
Pinheiro, M. M., & Simões, D. (2012). Constructing knowledge: An experience of active and collaborative learning in ICT classrooms. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 64, 392-401.
Reid, D., & Reid, F. J. (2005). Textmates and text circles: Insights into the social ecology of SMS text messaging. In L. Hamill, A. Lasen, & Diaper D. (Eds.) Mobile World (pp. 105-108). Computer Supported Cooperative Work. Springer, London.
Rettie, R. (2009). Mobile phone communication: Extending Goffman to mediated interaction. Sociology, 43(3), 421-438.
Robles, H., Guerrero, J., Llinás, H.,& Montero, P. (2019). Online teacher-students interactions using WhatsApp in a law course. Journal of Information Technology Education: Research, 18, 231-252.
Romero, M., & Barberà, P. H. (2012). Creativity in collaborative learning across the life span. Creative Education, 3(4), 422-429.