WhatsApp, Telegram emerge as efficient platforms for remote teaching
Monday Apr 27th, 2020
By Murniati Abu Karim
CARRYING out an online class is easier said than done. Students continue to grapple with capped data plans, slow internet connection as well as limited basic technology devices.
Realising the common challenges students face while studying at home, Universiti Sains Malaysia Centre for Development of Academic Excellence director Professor Abd Karim Alias has delivered lessons using low-data consumption messenger applications, such as WhatsApp and Telegram.
"What inspired me was the fact that not all students can readily access learning content or resources, such as videos due to poor internet speed in their areas. However, I believe most students are equipped with at least smartphones with WhatsApp and Telegram applications.
"So, it makes sense to deliver lessons using the tools students are familiar with and they should be able to receive the lessons even with poor internet connection.
Abd Karim shared a few tips to conduct an effective online lesson.
"First of all, know your student – get the information about their capability to participate in online class. Do they have internet connectivity? Do they have at least a smartphone? What's the connection speed or the bandwidth?"
"To start off a lesson, create a WhatsApp or Telegram group for a class. The lessons will then be carried out in the form of images and audio messages.
"Establish ground rules in the group and make it strictly for delivering lessons with questioning and answering sessions only."
He added that online lessons should not focus too much on content-centric approaches due to the short attention spans that students may face during the session.
"These online courses should be designed to be more interactive and engaging. Have a series of learning activities that would require students to engage in and think critically.
"Learning content should be delivered in bite-size or small chunks to make it easily digestible to the students. This is based on the concept of micro learning to address the issue of short attention span especially in the online learning environment."
Abd Karim added that WhatsApp lessons should also be short and compact for about five to ten minutes, suitable to cater to the low bandwidth requirements with teaching and learning material converted into smaller file sizes.
"If I were to present a Powerpoint slide, I need to convert the slides to images before sharing them in the class group. Following the image, include a short narration or explanation using the voice recording feature in the application.
"For instructors who wish to include videos in WhatsApp lessons, the videos must be short, from one to three minutes long. All videos can be compressed to make the size smaller and received even with poor internet connection.
"Share with students the short video and get them to think and engage with the content. After that, task a short assessment to gauge their understanding. Before the lesson ends, lecturers can share an additional reading material in PDF format with the students.
He said well-designed learning activities are important to get students to participate actively in online learning.
"Collaborative group work, for instance, will get everyone engaged in solving specific tasks or problems assigned to them by the course instructor," he continued.
"Advanced and careful planning of the online course is important. Keep the lesson design simple with clear instructions and learning outcomes", he concluded.