Is Moodle or WhatsApp the preferred e-learning platform at a South African university? First-year students’ experiences


First-year students are compelled by South African universities to use the Moodle e-learning management platform. Recent studies outline that this creates challenges during the learning process, since students struggle to use Moodle owing to their disadvantaged school background; however, they are familiar with and good at using the WhatsApp social media platform. While these studies have attempted to provide possible solutions, there is a need for an alternative option. This qualitative case study proposes alternatives and the possible use of WhatsApp to supplement Moodle, depending on the personal needs of the student. Twenty five first-year students doing Physical science education modules were purposively and conveniently sampled, and the data generated from semi-structured interviews, focus group discussion, and emailed reflective activities were thematically coded to produce a theory of e-learning platforms. Technological, Pedagogical, and Content Knowledge (TPACK) theory was used to direct the study and make sense of the data. The findings revealed that a personal e-learning platform which has been neglected in the past could be used to improve e-learning. It also revealed that while students only had the option of using a formal e-learning platform (Moodle), they would prefer to use their more familiar informal e-learning platform (WhatsApp). The study concludes that without considering the use of a personal e-learning platform that blends both Moodle and WhatsApp, the problem might be further escalated.

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Data availability

The datasets used and/or analyzed during the current study are available from the authors on reasonable request.


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I want to thank Prof. Simon Bheki Khoza for his supervision in to construct this article from a PhD research project. Mrs. L. Gething for language editing. Furthermore, I want to thank in advance the anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments and valuable suggestions that will be made.


This work was supported by the National Research Fund (NRF) within the framework of the Research and innovation, support and advancement. The funding was granted the author to complete the PhD research project and it was not involved in study design; in the collection, analysis and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; and in the decision to submit the article for publication.

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I was the main author of this article and was involved in conceptualizing the article. I have read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Cedric Bheki Mpungose.

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Mpungose, C.B. Is Moodle or WhatsApp the preferred e-learning platform at a South African university? First-year students’ experiences. Educ Inf Technol 25, 927–941 (2020).

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  • Curriculum
  • Experiences
  • E-learning
  • Moodle
  • Physical science education
  • WhatsApp