Welcome to Day Sixteen of Digital January. Today's featured digital tool is WhatsApp. This is rapidly becoming one of the most popular apps for smartphones, and is highly favoured by students. In early 2016, WhatsApp reportedly had over one billion users and it's also claimed that there are more text messages sent via WhatsApp per day than by SMS, which makes it one of the most important apps around at present.
If there's one new tool which Digital January recommends you should know something about, it's WhatsApp.
If you've got a moment and you're enjoying Digital January - and lots of people are, according to our statistics - why not give us some feedback on our Padlet (and see Day Three for an introduction to Padlet).
What does it do?
WhatsApp is a text messaging, video and voice call service, and can also be used for exchanging images, video and audio files. It therefore replicates the key standard features of a smartphone, but it has two main advantages;
- It rolls all these features into a single app
- It doesn't charge per message as it uses the Internet rather than 3G/4G phone and data networks
You can communicate with anyone who has set up an account on WhatsApp - the app imports all contacts from your phone and can tell you if they have registered with the service.
You can then use your contacts to set up either a broadcast list to whom you can send messages or other content - everyone on a broadcast list receives everything you send to it. Users who have received a broadcast don't know who else is on the broadcast list, so it serves as a kind of 'blind copy' feature (like the Bcc function on email).
Alternatively you can set up a group which allows up to 256 people to chat to each other in real time. A Group Admin manages the membership of the Group, adding and removing members as necessary.
When would you use it?
WhatsApp has proved popular among students who wish to set up informal channels to keep in touch with each other. It works faster than email and therefore encourages 'conference call'-style interaction. Its use is particularly high in developing countries, which means that distance learners may see it as their 'first choice' tool when communicating with others in their cohort, or with their teachers.
Teachers can use WhatsApp to communicate with a distributed class, particularly one for whom other forms of instant messaging doesn't work - perhaps because of connectivity issues.
Here is a short article from NosCura on use of WhatsApp in Higher Education...
...and an article from UEA on their use of WhatsApp as a tool to aid recruitment and engagement with potential students.
A recent article from the Guardian examines the WhatsApp phenomenon and shows its role and value in society, giving instances of when and how it has been used.
For an in-depth tutorial (1hr 27m), try this one from lynda.com (you'll need to login with your University details).
How do you access it?
You can access WhatsApp on the Internet - and it's free!
You can also access it as an App for Android and Apple smart devices, and for Windows phone.
Where can you get help to use it?
There is a good FAQ on the WhatsApp site and there are also many short videos on specific features such as Broadcast lists and Group chats available on YouTube like this one.
What Digital Literacy skills will WhatsApp help you to develop?
The University of Dundee has a Digital Literacies Framework which sets out what sort of digital skills you should have, whether you're a student or a staff member. It's unlikely you'll have all the skills contained in the Framework (yet!), but this project can help you get started in developing some new ones. To see the Framework click here and click on Digital Literacies Framework at Dundee University to download a copy.
Using a messaging tool to discuss and collaborate is an aspect of DIMENSION 1 - Understand and engage in Digital practices and DIMENSION 5 - Collaborate and share digital content as outlined in the Framework.
COME BACK TOMORROW AND THROUGHOUT JANUARY TO LEARN MORE ABOUT GOING DIGITAL