Among other things, I learned that WeChat is by far the most popular social media form in China, according to our guests. WeChat, available in iTunes, is an app for iPhone and iPad (as well as Android, Blackberry and so on), which suits Chinese users who appreciate the mobile convenience. According to iTunes, WeChat is free, enables free txts, voice and video calls, group chats with up to 500 people, along with gaming and language support.
With half a billion users, WeChat has a blog and a series of Facebook pages.
What is very clear is that WeChat has global appeal and is extraordinarily popular in the Asia Pacific region but does not yet have a significant profile in New Zealand. There are indications that it may be taking hold as a marketing tool for engaging Chinese stakeholders.
How do our guests from ZUCC and HEBUST use WeChat?
The app is designed for micro-messaging, so users exchange quick pieces of information - for example, the directions to a meeting room on campus. The visiting academics also told us that they use WeChat to alert students when their assignments have been marked, directing them back to the LMS to pick up their grades. Others use WeChat to share examples of online content, for example in Design, so that students can follow designers. Teachers of English as a foreign language use WeChat to coordinate debates between teams of students who must message each other in English and use the voice-messaging facilities in WeChat.
WeChat is seen as very casual and for recreation rather than learning by some of the visiting academics. Others are already exploring the learning potential and some may contribute to our special issue in ELDM.
Of course it is difficult for Chinese academics to compare the likes of Twitter and WeChat when access to Twitter is blocked in China. Nevertheless, there is the potential for travellers to try out a wider range of tools while abroad, or to access via VPN at home.
On downloading WeChat it is immediately apparent that I can link it to my Twitter and Google accounts, functionality that goes beyond what is conventionally possible in China.
Having a few problems adding contacts, but will persevere and update.