Learning via WhatsApp is what’s up!

On: September 10, 2013
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About Jonne-Marie Bouman
New media and Digital Culture MA student with a background in new media at the University of Amsterdam


WhatsApp: cross platform smartphone messenger (source:http://n4bb.com/whatsapp-available-blackberry-q10/)

WhatsApp is a free smartphone application that is available on iPhone, Nokia, Blackberry, Symbian and Windows smartphones and gives users the possibility to send text messages, voice clips, photos, videos, locations and contacts. This all can be done in a one-on-one conversation as well as in a group conversation, in which users can talk to up to 50 people at the same time. To stay in touch via the WhatsApp application, people need each others numbers and must have downloaded the app on their smartphones.

One of the main reasons i’m writing this blogpost is bumping into a blogpost by Akhmad Riyanto, ‘English Language Learning Using WhatsApp Application'(2013). In his online article, Riyanto claims that WhatsApp can be used not only to socialize with friends, but also to study and even learn a new language. He uses the example of English by stating non-English students are able to learn English faster, better and more fun by joining a WhatsApp group with fellow students and teachers. The teachers then are able to post small assignments and ask students to complete them by using one of the possibilities WhatsApp offers. In this way, students are able to read English and are obliged to answer in English, which improves their English language skills. Because WhatsApp is free, everyone using a smartphone will be able to participate (Riyanto, n. pag.).

In an article agreeing with Riyanto’s, WhatsApp was found innovative and practical by most of the students involved in the research. In ‘Improving readers’learning skills through instant short messages: a sample study using WhatsApp'(2013) by Gutierrez-Colon Plana, Escofet, Gimeno et al, the authors investigated the possibility to learn English by using whatsApp and found 90,63 percent out of 95 students figured using WhatsApp as a space for e-learning helped them engage in studying and got them extra motivated to learn English. One problem the authors noticed was the unregularity in which the contact between teacher and student took place. There was no time schedule given for posting questions or assignments which made it hard for students to reply on specific times (82 Gutierrez-Colon Plana, Escofet, Gimeno et al.).

Another positive outtake on e-learning by Whatsapp is given by Rambe and Chipunza who do research on WhatsApp instant messaging at a South-African University. Their research shows WhatsApp supports knowledge sharing bewteen students, and between students and teachers. By a student in their research, WhatsApp is called ‘[…] a communication, transnational platform'(334 Rambe & Chipunza). The researchers state: ‘Blogs comments also showed that students felt that WhatsApp gave them the possibility to express themselves freely in a non-restricted environment thus removing the low participation constraints characteristic of lectures’ (334). Also their research showed students learned technical skills by sharing and searching information on WhatsApp they could also use on other study-related platforms like the Blackboard environment (335).

According to the research above, you could conclude WhatsApp can be a good environment to support (e-)learning. My personal outtake on this is that it seems an intrusion on my personal life. I would like to follow my own schedule without the anxiety of never knowing when my teacher will put another assignment on WhatsApp. On the other hand, having a WhatsApp group consisting of about fifteen people following the same subject in school can come in handy for asking each other questions and meeting up to study together, I’m just not really excited about involving teachers. One thing WhatsApp has to offer that other media don’t, is the combination of almost every medium in one. Sharing videos and pictures can also be done by Facebook, but Facebook users usually set their own language settings and use Facebook in their native language. Sharing voice messages can be done by a telephone call (YES, you can even call somebody using your smartphone!) and sharing your location can be done by sending a text message (only WhatsApp shows a map and possibly even directions if you want it to). One plus on having an English WhatsApp study group is students being obliged to read and answer in English. Whatsapp is always with you on your smartphone and offers television, Facebook, navigation, chatting and calling in one.  Learning via WhatsApp, that’s what’s up!


Rambe, Patient & Crispen Chipunza. ” Using mobile devices to leverage student access to collaboratively-generated resources: A case of WhatsApp instant messaging at a South African university”. International Conference on Advanced Information and Technology for Education, 2013.

Rambe, Patient & Crispen Chipunza. ” Using mobile devices to leverage student access to collaboratively-generated resources: A case of WhatsApp instant messaging at a South African university”. International Conference on Advanced Information and Technology for Education. South Africa, 2013.

Riyanto, Akhmad. ” English Language Learning Using WhatsApp Application”. Akhmad Rianto, Love for All, Hatred for None. WordPress, the Splendio Theme. 21 July 2013. <http://akhmadriyantoblog.wordpress.com/2013/07/21/english-language-learning-using-whatsapp-application/>

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