The use of messaging service applications as an educational support tool in higher education institutions

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Matli, Walter
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The Green Paper for Post-School Education and Training states that higher education and training institutions are faced with the challenge of teaching underprepared students. Vaal University of Technology (VUT) Ekurhuleni has experienced an increase in the number of underprepared first year students from basic education to higher education, similar to other higher education institutions (HEIs) and training centres, and most of these students are familiar with messaging service applications. The purpose of this research is to determine if messaging service applications have a constructive role to play in supporting tertiary education. A variety of journals, books and other online materials were reviewed to learn and confirm the current information on messaging service applications and electronic communication interaction in higher education. A mixed methods research methodology has been adopted comprising of both qualitative and quantitative research. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews as well as questionnaires with structured questions to address the objectives of the study. A total of 250 questionnaires were distributed to students and the sample (N=212) resulted in a response rate of 84.8%. Interviews were conducted targeting students doing a bridging course in Information Technology. In addition, data was collected from one of the messaging service applications, Whatsapp, for one semester with one class. For the analysis of the data, two theories—Social Presence Theory and Context Awareness Theory—were adopted. This research found that students who partook in the study displayed a positive perception of using messaging service applications in an educational environment. Furthermore, the textual interaction analysis indicates that students were able to successfully interact and use messaging services as educational supporting tool outside the classroom. From the findings a model has been developed which demonstrates how student learning outside the formal classroom learning environment can be supported through the use of messaging service applications. The research contributes to a better understanding of using of messaging service applications as an educational supporting tool in higher education. Messaging service applications enable students to forget about gender and cultural differences; it encourages them to work together as an online community. This research furthermore provides a basis for HEIs and academic leaders to initiate the discussion and consider the possibility of introducing messaging service applications as educational supporting tool outside the classroom.
M.. Tech. (Information Technology, Faculty of Applied and Computer Sciences), Vaal University of Technology)
Post-school education and training, Underprepared students, Messaging service applications, Tertiary education, Electronic communication interaction, Social presence theory, Context awarenes theory, Educational supporting tool