Unmonitored students self-created WhatsApp groups in distance learning environments: A collaborative learning tool or cheating technique


Alghamdi, Emad A.*
King Abdulaziz University, Saudi Arabia (eaalghamdi@kau.edu.sa)

Rajab, Hussam
King Abdulaziz University, Saudi Arabia (hmrajab@kau.edu.sa)

Rashid Shah, Sayyed
King Abdulaziz University, Saudi Arabia (shakespeare.hamlet@yahoo.co.uk)


Recent advances of communication technology have brought a myriad of advantages to distance education. Students’ interactivity and connectedness are no longer a concern in distance education. Yet, with this comes the challenge of maintaining academic integrity. As online instructors, we noticed a tendency among our online students to opt out of using our courses’ formal discussion groups for their course communication, and instead, independently create a group in the social instant messaging app, WhatsApp, away from our direct observation. In this mixed method research, we first investigated what motivate our students (n= 64) to create the WhatsApp group and what types of interaction they engage in as a group. Then, we examined our online students’ perceptions of cheating in reference to their participations in the group. Our findings revealed that our online students perceived cheating differently and expressed their objection to the inclusion of the term ‘cheating’ in the distance-learning contexts, as they believed that distance learning is an open educational environment which permits collaboration and open discussion.

Keywords: distance education; academic dishonesty; cheating; collaborative learning; WhatsApp; student discussions


DOI: https://doi.org/10.5861/ijrset.2016.1604

*Corresponding Author