WhatsApp has several quirks/drawbacks, but also some very useful features that will help you to manage your group. If you are mentoring on WhatsApp, here are some useful things to know which will make your life a lot easier.

First: Student-proof your phone

Don’t forget you can change notifications – different groups and even people can be given a different notification tone, if you want to.

Set your Do Not Disturb settings (this is a phone setting, not a WhatsApp setting).  Some students have had the urge to cook (and post) after midnight in the past!  They are not expecting a response, but they are just so excited and proud they can’t hold back.

Ways to Engage

Mentors have been very creative with how they engage with their WhatsApp groups.  There is no right or wrong way.  Here are some ideas beyond the standard text messages:

Whatsapp Voice Calls – sometimes this personal touch makes all the difference with a student that’s not responding in the group.

WhatsApp Side Chat – sometimes a private message is the way to go!  People may be embarrassed to talk about problems in a group.

WhatsApp video calls – you can try setting a time to have a chat with your whole group – great for social isolation. Check with your students if their data is limited though.

WhatsApp Tutorial: using the video chat feature, you could even do a demonstration or cook together

WhatsApp voice messages- if you’re worried about the literacy of a participant, you can record a voice message in the group, instead of sending a big amount of text

Things you need to know

  1. No-one can see anything, text, media or links, posted from before they joined.  All they get is the info/about section (which your coordinator should have populated).
    Before that it will be just one big blank.  So if someone joins your group late, then they need to have links etc re-posted.
  2. Even as admin, you cannot delete anyone else’s posts.  You can ask them politely to do it, but it’s not always possible even for them (it may work if they do it quickly, not sure why).  You can delete the post for you, so you don’t see it, and you may want to advise students to do this if there is something that’s upsetting.
  3. However, as Admin, you can remove someone from the group.
  4. Everyone can see everyone else’s phone numbers.  This is why we keep the groups small and private, to protect everyone.  Should there be any issues, don’t forget you can block people, for more details see https://www.whatsapp.com/safety
  5. You can get WhatsApp on your laptop!  This is really a godsend, no more typing things slowly into your phone, and cutting and pasting are a doddle!  However, you will still need to add contacts in your phone contacts before you can WhatsApp them
    To find out how, visit this WhatsApp page:
    https://web.whatsapp.com/

Super great tips

  1. As Admin, you can invite people to Whatsapp Groups using a group invite link from the info section (which can be texted to them).  This can be useful but not everyone knows how to use them, so some people will still need adding manually; they may also be wary of clicking on random links unless you tell them what it is.
  2. WhatsApp conversations are very linear and sometimes you may want to reply to a comment made several sentences ago.  This looks like this:
  3. To do this, hold your finger on the message and pull it right (in Android) or left (iPhone)
  4. It’s possible to see who has seen/read your messages, even within a group.  Hold your finger on the message to select it and then click on the Free clip art symbol in the header bar (Android), or pull the message right (iPhone).  This is very useful to see if someone hasn’t even read the messages, or has and isn’t responding.
  5. Take a look at the group media section of the group  (in the info).  There is a section with links.  This is particularly useful as sometimes those videos you posted get lost further back in the chat.  But students can access them very easily and quickly here, so if your chat is getting long, remind people of this fact (most people don’t know this).
  6. You can bold text by putting asterisks around it like this:
    *this text will become bold in whatsapp*

What to do if someone disappears

If someone isn’t responding, try addressing them directly.  Sometimes messages to a group are impersonal and it’s not clear who’s being asked.  You can address them directly by putting @ and then typing their name – this will tag them directly.  Alternatively, you can message them in a “side chat” – select “reply privately” to a message, or open another WhatsApp chat with them.  People may feel more comfortable about revealing problems in private.