“WhatsApp” as a learner support tool for distance education: implications for policy and practice at university of Zambia.

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Ndhlovu, Daniel
Simui, Francis
Mwewa, Godfrey
Chota, Amos
Kakana, Fabian
Mundende, Kasonde
Thompson, Lukali
Mwanza, Peggy
Namangala, Boniface
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Zambia ICT Journal
- One of the norms of distance education is that learners are the drivers of their learning and teachers merely facilitate the learning process. To this effect, learners are expected to be fully engaged in their studies throughout for them to perform well in their studies. However, the ‘distance’ factor inherent in distance education has been identified as one of the major challenges for learners studying in this mode. The geographical isolation significantly detracts from the need for social interactions that are usually afforded by face-to-face situations. Consequently, the void leads to isolation, confusion, stress and ultimately contributing to high failure rate and drop-outs from the academic programmes. In this study, we document the use of “WhatsApp” as a tool for learner support among postgraduate students on the distance learning mode within the University of Zambia. The study, through “WhatsApp”, follows students where they are found and learns from them without disrupting their privacy and culture to inform Open Distance Learning policy and practice. It is now clear that the University should be proactive to encourage the creation of self-generated social networks to mitigate vexing emergent issues students face on the distance learning mode.
WhatsApp. , Social media. , Learner support. , Distance education. , Ethnographic. , University of Zambia.