Background: In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, to palliate to the lockdown and cover academic programs, the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmaceutical Sciences of the University of Dschang (FMPS-UDs) in Cameroon has implemented e-learning using WhatsApp®. We aimed to describe the opinion of students and lecturers about it after its implementation at the FMPS-UDs.
Methods: We designed a uniform scheme to teach using WhatsApp® during the university lock-down, and both the students and the teaching staff of the FMPS-UDs received clear information on the implementation. At the end of the online-teaching period of two and a half months prior to the reopening of the university, we surveyed our students and teaching staff. Sociodemographic characteristics and opinions about e-learning were collected using a standard questionnaire.
Results: We enrolled 229 students and 40 lecturers of the FMPS-UDs. Students reported a poorer internet connection (p<0.001, p-homogeneity< 0.001) despite an increased expenditure related to internet use. Electronic devices were broadly used before the implementation of mobile learning. The use of course materials was more challenging among students because of the size/format of lecture notes and the internet connection/cost (all p<0.05). Perception of discipline compared to classroom-based lessons was similar in students and lecturers (all p>0.05). While lecturers were mainly [n(%)=16(40%)] more comfortable conveying the contents of their lectures, students tended to be less prone to actively participate [n(%)=137(59.8%)]. The motivation and satisfaction of the latter group toward e-learning were modest compared to classroom-based lectures while their feedback about the organization was positive.
Conclusion: E-learning using WhatsApp® could be an effective alternative to conventional classroom-based lessons in SSA. The use of a blended-learning program including classroom-based sessions could help improve its limitations.