WhatsApp platform as pedagogical intervention: Experiences of Masters in Education (Languages) students under Covid-19 at a selected state university in Zimbabwe
Keywords: Affordances, Covid-19, m-learning, pedagogical intervention, WhatsApp
AbstractWith the Covid-19 pandemic wreaking havoc globally, the world locked itself down, creating an apparent standstill. Zimbabwe closed all her universities and other learning institutions on 24 March, 2020. However, despite the apparent standstill of certain activities, life itself did not stop. This qualitative study reports on the experiences of 11 Masters in Education (M.Ed. Languages) students at a selected state university on their use of WhatsApp as a pedagogical platform during the Covid-19 lockdown period that coincided with their March to August 2020 semester. A case study was decided as the most useful design. All the 11 students taking the two English modules by one of the researchers were conveniently and purposively selected as the sample but focus was delimitated to only one module. Since there were sensitive ethical issues surrounding a study of this nature, due diligence to ethical considerations was followed. Data were collected through semi-structured WhatsApp interview questions. Questions covered participants’ experiences with the platform, including possible challenges and solutions. Researchers also had the opportunity to analyse some of the WhatsApp chats for the particular group of students. The major findings of the study showed that students acknowledge that despite being a social media platform, WhatsApp could be conveniently used as a learning platform with great opportunities. They identified its potential to enhance active and self-directed learning off-campus, and even in remote areas. They however noted that WhatsApp presented technical, viability and credibility challenges that compromised the platform as one that could promote critical thinking. The positive and negative payoffs from WhatsApp as a pedagogical intervention platform invite further research, not dismissal of the platform as an alternative to teaching/learning platform. The study thus recommends the meaningful combination of WhatsApp platform with other e-learning modes and with on-campus face-to-face learning approaches.