The WhatsApp Effect: Can You Text Your Way to Better Grades?

The WhatsApp Effect: Can You Text Your Way to Better Grades?

In the digital age, mobile messaging apps have become integral to our daily lives. For university students, these tools are not just for social interaction but also for academic collaboration. While WhatsApp is often associated with socialising, these students spend a significant portion of their time on the platform for educational purposes.

The survey by Sunway University's Associate Professor Dr Catherine Lee Cheng Ean and colleagues reveals that 71.7% of students use WhatsApp for less than 5 hours weekly on academic-related activities. These activities include group discussions (33.3%), resource sharing (30.3%), informing educational agendas (20.2%), and conducting group studies (16.2%). The findings highlight WhatsApp's role in facilitating academic engagement among students, enabling them to collaborate and share knowledge efficiently.

Students' perceptions of WhatsApp's impact on academic performance were overwhelmingly positive. They agreed that WhatsApp helps pass information easily, allows academic engagement with peers and lecturers, and is a valuable platform for group projects. However, some concerns were noted, such as the app's potential to encourage lousy spelling and grammar and cause distractions during lectures.

In addition to the survey, focus group interviews with selected participants provided deeper insights. Participants discussed the frequency and purpose of WhatsApp usage, highlighting its ubiquity, accessibility, efficiency, inclusivity, and suitability for low-complexity communication. The app's features, such as group chats, emojis, read receipts, and quote messages, enhanced team collaboration.

Despite the positive feedback, some students reported challenges using WhatsApp for team collaboration. Issues such as message overload, lack of face-to-face interaction, and feelings of disassociation were mentioned. These challenges indicate that while WhatsApp is effective for communication, it may not always foster strong team cohesion.

The study concludes that WhatsApp is valuable for academic purposes and team collaboration among university students. Its distinctive features facilitate efficient communication and knowledge sharing, positively impacting academic performance. However, it also presents challenges that must be addressed to maximise its benefits in educational settings.

As educators and students continue to navigate the digital landscape, understanding the nuanced impact of tools like WhatsApp can help enhance learning experiences and collaborative efforts. This study provides a foundation for further research on integrating mobile messaging apps in higher education.

Associate Professor Dr Catherine Lee Cheng Ean
School of Arts
Email: @email

This article has been adapted from Cheng Ean Lee, Huei Huei Chern and Dzafran Adris Azmir (2023), WhatsApp Use in a Higher Education Learning Environment: Perspective of Students of a Malaysian Private University on Academic Performance and Team Effectiveness, DOI: 10.3390/educsci13030244