We’re Ningqin Wu and Amy Chen, both coordinators at AFDI – the Asia-Pacific Finance and Development Institute (AFDI) in Shanghai, China. AFDI is a member of the CLEAR Initiative (Centers for Learning on Evaluation and Results) and hosts the East Asia CLEAR Center. CLEAR promotes evaluation capacity building in regional centers across the globe. This week’s blogs are by CLEAR members.
Much of the work at our center involves training, with participants coming from across the globe, but especially in China and other parts of Asia. We’d been looking for an easy way to stay in touch with participants before, during and after courses. We turned to a popular instant messaging service – in our case WeChat – to serve as our main connecting tool with course participants. Below we share more about how we use it.
WeChat – like many other similar apps – is a powerful mobile communication tool to connect the users across the globe. It supports sending voice, video, photo and text messages. We can chat in Chinese with our Chinese participants, and in English with our international participants. We mainly use it to build “mobile learning communities” with members of each of our courses, such as our annual course, SHIPDET – the Shanghai International Program for Development Evaluation Training.
- Before courses, we send detailed instructions on how to install the app and invite participants to join. We send logistics details and reminders on deadlines. If participants have any questions, they are able to connect to us directly – and the group can see responses which can be helpful for all to read.
- During the class, we and the instructors share files and other relevant information in our groups. This supports their learning after the training is over. The participants use it to plan social outings and share community info. We also share end-of-course evaluation links through the app so participants can complete course surveys.
- After the courses and when participants return to work, we use WeChat to stay connected and promote upcoming courses among those alumni. We share resources – such as links to new publications or conferences – with the participants. We’ve found that if instructors are active users, the groups will tend to stay more connected.
- Remember that not everyone has a smartphone or feels comfortable connecting in a group. So make provisions – such as sending information via email – to those who wish not to participate through instant messaging.
- Different apps are more popular in some regions than others. So explore what people in your region might be using such as WhatsApp, iMessage and others.
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