WhatsApp Messenger, or simply WhatsApp, is an internationally available freeware, cross-platform centralized instant messaging (IM) and voice-over-IP (VoIP) service owned by American company Meta Platforms.
It allows users to send text messages and voice messages make voice and video calls, and share images, documents, user locations, and other content.
WhatsApp’s client application runs on mobile devices but is also accessible from desktop computers.
The service requires a cellular mobile telephone number to sign up.
In January 2018, WhatsApp released a standalone business app targeted at small business owners, called WhatsApp Business, to allow companies to communicate with customers who use the standard WhatsApp client.
Instant messaging and voice-over-IP
In the post-COVID era, the world of education has undergone a drastic change. From March 2020, several schools, universities, and other learning institutes had to temporarily close their doors to meet the mandatory requirements related to national lockdowns and social distancing. According to UNESCO, in the first week of April 2020, the pandemic had negatively affected almost 1.3 billion learners worldwide. As of July 2021, around 31 million learners are still out of the classroom and lacking access to in-person instruction. These unprecedented trends increase the need for newer, more innovative, and “virtual” ways of learning.
Around the world, WhatsApp boasts approximately 2 billion active monthly users, eclipsing other popular apps like Facebook Messenger, Telegram, Twitter, and Snapchat. In April 2021 alone, WhatsApp was downloaded 13 million times. Available in 180 out of 195 countries and 60 languages, over 100 billion messages are sent via WhatsApp every single day. Best of all, WhatsApp is free to download and use.
Teachers can leverage WhatsApp for online teaching to deliver lectures in a virtual environment. To support their teaching objectives and enhance students’ learning and retention, they can provide videos, audio clips, PPTs, notes, assessments, and other resources to ensure that students continue to learn, even outside the physical boundaries of the traditional classroom.
WhatsApp supports free voice and video calls so teachers and students can stay in touch, even outside stipulated study periods. Teachers can also send timely reminders or notifications about exams, homework due dates, etc., to keep students engaged with the learning material and the subject.
As required, instructors can follow up with students one-on-one to maintain the pace of their educational progress. This can be especially beneficial for students who struggle to keep up with the rest of the class or are too shy or intimidated to open up about their struggles in a public setting like a school classroom.
Teachers can stay in touch with such students and even give them extra attention to boost their confidence and improve their learning outcomes.
More advantages of WhatsApp in education:
- Stimulates a dynamic learning environment.
- Facilitates rich interactions and 24×7 learning even outside the classroom.
- Encourages real-time communication between teachers and students, and teachers and parents.
- Fosters collaboration between students so they can learn better together.
- Share educational resources to match the learning styles and needs of different students.
- A familiar, comfortable interface that students love to use for learning.
It can be used for summative assessment or for formative assessment to stimulate reflection or critical thinking. This second option is the most interesting in terms of learning and soft skills development. Quizzes can be performed by students by themselves or during class: the tool automatically grades the performance.
The teacher can also prepare feedback (that is shown automatically by the tool) or discuss results in class together with students.
For instance in one of the cases analyzed the teacher gives students a question about a physics problem to be attempted individually. Then the teacher asks students to discuss among peers about their answers to the question in group of 2 or 3.
After few minutes he stops the discussion and he asks students to answer again individually. At the end the teacher shows the right answer.
This use of classroom response system has been undertaken in a large classroom (more than 200 students) to stimulate engagement, self reflection and discussion among peers.
Use cases/examples of usage: (tutorial)
- Used worldwide. Easy to use app to send photos, videos, documents instantly.
- Free to use tool for parents and schools.
- Great for two way communication.
- Get instant responses from parents.
- Can create multiple groups for schools.
- Can send unlimited messages in the group.
- Can send upcoming event information as text and image.
- Ability to share images, videos, documents to other group members.
- Free and hence has limitations. Schools cannot share class time table, daily reports, school report cards to parents.
- Lack of structure. Schools will have to read comments as a chat thread only. Parents will not be able to like, comment or share using separate threads for teachers to see and respond.
- Takes away a lot of productive time of teachers by constantly checking messages of not just the school group but other groups as well.
- Schools need a tool beyond chat. For example: Attendance marking or application of leave. Collection of online fee payment, tracking payments, sending fee reminders etc. cannot be done using a chat platform.
- Cannot un-send messages in chat. Cannot edit sent messages either.
- Cannot customize templates that are suitable for your school. Can only use school logo in the profile picture.
- Cannot get exact RSVP. Have to manually count the no of parents who has typed Yes/ No or other messages to keep track.
People opinion about the tool: https://www.softwareadvice.com/customer-communications-mngt/whatsapp-profile/reviews/
Similar Tool: Telegram; Signal; Viber; Threema; Spike.
Technical and operational requirements: A mobile/PC.