Evaluation of Freely Available Chat Systems for Student Social Interaction During the Covid-19 Pandemic

Muminah Koleoso, Cristina Alexandru

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Positive social interaction in Higher Education (HE) can improve students’ wellbeing and by extension their academic performance. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the transition to hybrid teaching and remove study have had a considerable impact on students’ social interaction, with snowballing effects on their settling into and benefitting from university life, integrating into the student community, and even mental health.

While not a complete solution, chat systems such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Slack have been a help to students under these circumstances. Also referred to as messaging apps or (mobile) instant messaging tools, they allow two or more people to communicate via the Internet or a network through sending and receiving messages, primarily via text, but with recent advancements also through graphics and audio. Unfortunately, the sheet number of existing chat systems makes it difficult to pick one, and their variability of features and designs may not always fully support students’ needs for social interaction.

This project aimed to provide a guide to educators and universities as to the chat systems and their features which they could use to facilitate student social interaction, and thus wellbeing, during online and hybrid courses and programmes of study. Moreover, it was meant to inform designers and developers of chat systems, such that they can deliver more useful such systems for students. To this end, the steps of the project were the following:

1 .Review background literature on HE student social interaction during the pandemic;

2. Conduct a) a study with students in the University of Edinburgh and b) systematic literature review of scientific literature to extract student experiences with using chat systems for social interaction during the pandemic, and a set of beneficial of chat systems. The latter became evaluation criteria for step 3.

3. Conduct a second systematic review to: identify all freely available, functional and recently updated chat systems; assess them in terms of including the beneficial features; conclude on the best overall chat systems, and the best for different features;

4. Make recommendations for the improved design of chat systems.
We will describe our project and share our findings on student experiences, the best chat systems, and how they could be improved for enhanced student social interaction.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 24 Mar 2023
EventUniversity of Edinburgh Learning and Teaching Conference 2023 - University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Duration: 27 Jun 202328 Jun 2023


ConferenceUniversity of Edinburgh Learning and Teaching Conference 2023
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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