WhatsApp as a tool for Building a Learning Community
Keywords:COVID19 pandemic, Emergency remote teaching, blended learning, whatsapp, zoom, student engagement
WhatsApp groups are considered useful for creating and supporting virtual communities. This mixed method case study explores the patterns that emerged when we used WhatsApp to create a community of learning during the multimodal presentation of a postgraduate course in research proposal writing. Three questions drive the study: (1) What kinds of messages were sent? (2) Who participated and how? (3) How did the learners experience the use of WhatsApp in support of the community of learning? Data were collected during the presentation of a five-evening proposal writing workshop that was conducted using Zoom, WhatsApp, and YouTube as communication platforms. To answer the first question, all WhatsApp messages were analysed through both manual (individual) and automated (meta) content analysis. The third question was answered by analysing students’ responses to the end-of session online questionnaire that was administered via Google Forms. Results indicate that many messages were administrative in nature, while the most notable academic messages concerned a discussion of empirical research, research paradigms, and research design. The presenter and co-presenter together accounted for almost half of the messages sent, and the other messages were evenly distributed between members of the class, with five notably vocal students. Student responses indicated that they liked the high level of interactivity and the content, but that they disliked the time it took to form groups. The paper contributes to the literature by showing how this use of multiple WhatsApp groups was effective in creating a sense of community by facilitating access, relationships, vision, and function (West and Williams, 2017). More research is needed in determining the extent to which students might support one another with conversations outside of the main WhatsApp group.
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