Skip to main content

Improving educational outcomes & reducing absenteeism at remote villages with mobile technology and WhatsAPP: Findings from rural India


Reduction of teacher and student absenteeism, together with consistent teacher support and training, are critical factors in improving the quality of education in rural India. As part of an ongoing project involving schools and educational centers in rural areas spread across 21 Indian states, this study investigated how implementation of two simple, accessible technologies could not only reduce absenteeism but also increase teachers’ effectiveness and improve student performance. In addition to students and teachers, key stakeholders included educational coordinators who provided support and monitoring regarding use of WhatsApp and two additional apps designed specifically to support simple educational improvements. In our study we coded and analyzed nine months of messages (n = 8968), both photographs and texts, posted by 26 participants. The number of text messages related to attendance was strongly positively correlated with frequency of interactions between coordinators and teachers. Our approach resulted in increased teacher and student attendance, as well as improvements in lessons and other planned educational activities. This model functions well in rural settings where there is poor internet connectivity and lack of supporting infrastructure. Remote schools can easily adopt this tablet-based model to reduce teacher absenteeism, improve teaching techniques, improve educational resources, and increase student performance.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7


  1. Banerjee, A., & Duflo, E. (2006). Addressing absence. The Journal of Economic Perspectives, 20(1), 117–132.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Chaudhury, N., Hammer, J., Kremer, M., Muralidharan, K., & Rogers, F. H. (2006). Missing in action: teacher and health worker absence in developing countries. The Journal of Economic Perspectives, 20(1), 91–116.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Chen, D., Glewwe, P., Kremer, M. &, Moulin, S. (2001). Interim report on a preschool intervention program in kenya. Mimeo, Harvard University.

  4. Church, K., & de Oliveira, R. (2013). What’s up with whatsapp?: comparing mobile instant messaging behaviors with traditional SMS. In Proceedings of the 15th international conference on Human-computer interaction with mobile devices and services (pp. 352–361). ACM.

  5. Clotfelter, C. T., Ladd, H. F., & Vigdor, J. L. (2007). Are teacher absences worth worrying about in the US? (No. w13648). National Bureau of Economic Research.

  6. Creswell, J. W. (2007). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches (2nd edn.). Thousand Oaks: Sage.

  7. Devlin, M., & McKay, J. (2016). Teaching students using technology: facilitating success for students from low socioeconomic status backgrounds in Australian Universities. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology

  8. Diwan, R. (2012). Indian small schools: A review of issues and related concerns. NUEPA Occasional Paper 40. National University of Educational Planning and Administration [Internet], 51(3).

  9. ​Dreze, J., & Kingdon, G. G. (2001). School participation in rural India. Review of Development Economics, 5(1), 1–24.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Duflo, E., & Hanna, R. (2005). Monitoring works: Getting teachers to come to school (No. w11880). National Bureau of Economic Research.

  11. Duflo, E., Hanna, R., & Ryan, S. (2012). Incentives work: getting teachers to come to school. American Economic Review, 102(4), 1241–1278.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Govinda, R., & Bandyopadhyay, M. (2008). Access to elementary education in India. Country analytical review. New Delhi: National University of Educational Planning.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Howley, A., Wood, L., Hough, B. (2011). Rural elementary school teachers’ technology integration. Journal of Research in Rural Education

  14. Kabilan, M. K. (2016). Using Facebook as an e-portfolio in enhancing pre-service teachers’ professional development. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 32(1).

  15. Kozinets, R. V. (1998). On netnography: initial reflections on consumer research investigations of cyberculture. Advances in Consumer Research, 25, 366–371.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Kremer, M., Chaudhury, N., Rogers, F. H., Muralidharan, K., & Hammer, J. (2005). Teacher absence in India: a snapshot. Journal of the European Economic Association, 3(2‐3), 658–667.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Kulavuz-Onal, G., & Vásquez, C. (2013). Reconceptualising fieldwork in a netnography of an online community of English language teachers.

  18. Markham, A. N. (1998). Life online: Researching real experience in virtual space, ethnographic alternatives. Walnut Creek: AltaMira.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Megalingam, R. K., Rajendran, A. P., Solamon, A. T., & Dileep, D. (2012). EduPad—A tablet based educational system for improving adult literacy in rural India. In Technology Enhanced Education (ICTEE), 2012 I.E. International Conference on (pp. 1–5). IEEE.

  20. Mudliar, P., & Rangaswamy, N. (2015). Offline strangers, online friends: Bridging classroom gender segregation with whatsapp. In Proceedings of the 33rd Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 3799–3808). ACM.

  21. Muralidharan, K., & Sundararaman, V. (2008). Teacher performance pay: experimental evidence from India. UC San Diego and the World Bank.

  22. Nedungadi, P., Jayakumar, A., & Raman, R. (2014). Low cost tablet enhanced pedagogy for early grade reading: Indian context. In Humanitarian Technology Conference (R10-HTC), 2014 I.E. Region 10 (pp. 35–39). IEEE.

  23. Nedungadi, P., Raman, R., Menon, R., & Mulki, M. (2017). AmritaRITE: a holistic model for inclusive education in Rural India, children and sustainable development. Ecological Education in a Globalized World. (Springer chapter).

  24. O’Hara, K. P., Massimi, M., Harper, R., Rubens, S., & Morris, J. (2014). Everyday dwelling with WhatsApp. In Proceedings of the 17th ACM conference on Computer supported cooperative work & social computing (pp. 1131–1143). ACM.

  25. Pratichi (India) Trust (Kolkata) (2009). The Pratichi Education report II: Primary Education in West Bengal Changes and Challenges.

  26. Ramachandran, V., Pal, M., Jain, S., Shekar, S., & Sharma, J. (2005).Teacher motivation in India. Discussion Paper, (Azim Premji Foundation, Bangalore, 2005).

  27. Vegas, E., & Umansky, I. (2005). Improving teaching and learning through effective incentives: What can we learn from education reforms in Latin America. Washington, DC: World Bank.

    Book  Google Scholar 

Download references


This work derives inspiration from the Chancellor of Amrita University, Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi. We are grateful for the support from the AmritaCREATE and AmritaRITE teams at Amrita University.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Prema Nedungadi.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Nedungadi, P., Mulki, K. & Raman, R. Improving educational outcomes & reducing absenteeism at remote villages with mobile technology and WhatsAPP: Findings from rural India. Educ Inf Technol 23, 113–127 (2018).

Download citation


  • Tele-education
  • WhatsApp
  • Rural education
  • School education
  • Teacher monitoring
  • Teacher absence
  • ICT
  • Monitoring