Reflections on the Use of Telegram to Facilitate Learning

Enoch LIM Hao En
Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences (FASS)

In the second post on the use of Telegram as a teaching tool, Enoch talks about using Telegram both as a learner and as an undergraduate Research Assistant tasked to set quiz questions on the platform.

Image by Ümit Solmaz from Pixabay.

When I first took GET1050 “Computational Reasoning” under Mr Jonathan Sim, I did not know what to expect. It was a new module, teaching new content. With such uncertainties, the Telegram Helpline emerged as a much-needed source of support. As I did not know coding and was bad at math, I feared this module, thinking I would be disadvantaged. However, Mr Sim used the Helpline to assuage my fears, explaining that most of us were inexperienced, and assuring us it would not be detrimental to our learning. The sharing by our Teaching Assistants (TAs) on the Helpline also reinforced this sense that we were not competing with one another for grades, but working to learn together. Such posts helped to ease the tension, and the questions started coming. Though I was rather shy and rarely asked questions on the Helpline, I nonetheless benefitted greatly from my peers’ questions. My questions were similar to theirs; so when they posted them and received answers, I could access those answers and learn. Rather than feeling alone in my confusion, I felt empowered and supported by a community of fellow learners.

Nor was I the only one to benefit. My groupmates also found the Helpline an invaluable asset as we worked to submit our assignments. We could also seek clarification and see the questions from other groups. Like myself, they often felt confused and unsure when confronted by the content. However, they were not discouraged as the Helpline was available for us to clarify any doubts. As Mr Sim also used the Helpline to update us on important submission dates, it was convenient for my group to monitor our deadlines and ensure that we were always on track to submit our work on time. Most of us used Telegram regularly, and it was no hassle for us to check for pinned notifications. My peers and I were thus able to better allocate our time to complete and submit different assignments punctually.

That was my experience with the Helpline before I became a Research Assistant (RA) for GET1050. At the start of Semester 2 of AY2019/20, I joined GET1050’s teaching team. The Helpline was recreated for the new batch, but now I was on the other side as one of the helpers. However, where Mr Sim and some of the TAs were actively involved in using the Helpline to answer students’ questions, I used the Helpline for a different purpose. Part of my work included setting quiz questions and explaining them. As students struggled through the quizzes, they often posted related questions on the Helpline. As an RA, looking out for such questions helped me identify the problems students were facing and respond accordingly in the quiz explanations. When misconceptions were identified through these questions, we knew to devote more time to address those misconceptions as we explained the quiz answers. Mr Sim also used the questions gleaned from the Helpline to remind all RAs of the need to include more scaffolding questions in the quizzes. By guiding students through simpler questions, we could prepare them for more difficult ones. In all this, the Helpline enabled me to better help students to learn.

I have also been privileged to see the responses students gave to mid- and end-of-semester course surveys about their experiences with GET1050, in which they shared how through the Helpline, the teaching team communicated their care for students and desire to help them. In these surveys, many noted how the constant stream of replies on the Helpline showed them the effort the teaching team was putting in to help them learn. As one student said, “Your work ethics[sic] made me realise the kind of passion and dedication I want to put in for my future work.” Seeing the work put in to address their concerns on the Helpline, students in turn came to respect and admire their instructors’ passion and reciprocated with effort of their own. One student who admitted to struggling did not give up, but instead “sought help and put in extra time.”

From my experience as a student, and subsequently as an RA, I saw how guiding students in this manner encouraged them to seek help and be invested in their learning. This correlates to ideas discussed by Susan Ambrose et al. (2010) about how a supportive environment can increase students’ motivation to learn. Couple that with the sense of community built on a public Telegram channel. By the end of the semester, students were actively helping one another by answering their peers’ questions. Far from being individuals competing against one another for grades, we saw ourselves as part of the same team: we had learnt to learn together.

 

enochlim

Enoch LIM Hao En is currently an undergraduate studying History and Political Science in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS). He is also a Research Assistant (RA) for the module GET1050 “Computational Reasoning,” offered by the Department of Philosophy for FASS undergraduates. Academic interests aside, Enoch also has interests in finding effective teaching and learning methods.

Enoch can be reached at enoch_lim_haoen@u.nus.edu.

References

Ambrose, S. A., Bridges, M. W., DiPietro, M., Lovett, M. C., & Norman, M. K. (2010). How Learning Works: Seven Research-based Principles for Smart Teaching (1st Ed.). Jossey-Bass.