Rwanda Journal of Medicine and Health Sciences

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Using WhatsApp Discussion Groups in Learning at Higher Education Institutions: The Experience with Level 1 University of Rwanda Medical Students in Anatomy

Julien Gashegu, Fabrice Ishimwe Mfashingabo, Alain Munezero Shingiro, Desire Mugisha, Nelson Nyauma Mokaya, Ahmed Kiswezi


Background: The e-learning practice is an interesting alternative to  traditional teaching approach and its use is expanding as the development of ICT in diverse activities is growing. The WhatsApp, as popular way of communication may also be a good tool for learning. Our study intended to demonstrate that WhatsApp can be an efficient tool in learning at Higher Education Institutions.
Methods: During the revision period of modules taught in second trimester 2017-2018, a WhatsApp Discussion group was initiated to allow students’ access to their lecturer for clarification of some topics of Gross Anatomy 1 module and share academic information. Messages were recovered and analyzed.
Results: 312 messages were exchanged during 2 days of online discussion through WhatsApp discussion group. Among those messages, 31.1% were about 1 out of 14 topics of the module of Gross Anatomy 1. This topic (spinal cord anatomy) being the most complex, the prominence of exchanged messages on that topic showed that those students’ chats were meaningful.
Conclusion: Our study showed that the online availability of the anatomy lecturer stimulates the online exchanges, and provides a fast opportunity for coordination of the whole class and an easy way of sharing illustrative diagrams related to the topic. To be more efficient we suggest the following simple rules for the WhatsApp Learning
Discussion Community: 1. Topics of discussion to be determined, 2. Online time of lecturer must be known by students, 3. Students to be focused on complex topics, 4. Messages to be concise and specific, 5. Online presence of the community to be short to avoid addiction.
Key words: WhatsApp, e-learning, anatomy, University of Rwanda,  alternative learning tool
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