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Students benefit from Unisa WhatsApp course

Ethel Ndebele

In late 2020, Unisa’s Accelerated Online Postgraduate Support Programme in the College of Graduate Studies launched the WhatsApp Open Online Course (WOOC) for postgraduate students as part of a wider programme that supports all Unisa postgraduate students to develop their research and self-marketing skills.

The online course is a ground-breaking initiative aimed at ensuring that postgraduate students are successful in the business world, by helping and enabling them to secure or create that dream job. Ethel Ndebele, a master’s student in Marketing Management at Unisa, successfully completed the course and is now a certified Facebook Marketing Associate.

WOOC became an upskilling opportunity for Ndebele’s small business, Ejay Business Services (EBS), and it also offered an opportunity for her to commercialise her research studies. After being retrenched in July 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, what used to be a part-time business venture became a full-time job, which requires keeping abreast of the virtual way of doing business.

Asked about her WOOC experience and research study, Ndebele had many interesting things to say.

Who is Ethel Ndebele?

I am a mother of two girls, and I come from the small village of Nzwananzi, in Silobela, Zimbabwe. Having lived in Johannesburg since 2008, I am currently running a small business, EBS, that offers business consulting, business skills training and secretarial support services. This used to be a side-line venture, until I was retrenched in July 2020 due to Covid-19. I hold a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) and BCom Honours in Business Management (Marketing Specialisation) and am currently studying towards my Master of Commerce Degree in Marketing Management at Unisa.

Please share your WOOC experience with us

When I was given the opportunity to do the WOOC (thanks to Unisa, Digify Africa and Facebook Africa), I was excited as the course aligned with my field of study. I was also in the process of growing my business, as I had just been retrenched. It came at a time when we were embracing all things digital, because the course was presented when the strictest lockdowns were enforced in an effort to curb the spread of the novel Coronavirus.

This WhatsApp Open Online Course, as the name says, was fully on WhatsApp. That meant instead of reading message chains or viewing people’s status I could channel that time better, putting it to good use and completing one or two study units. It was so convenient for me, as I could study anywhere – all I needed was my phone.

The platform uses a learning bot called Naledi, who gives feedback instantly. You are forced to complete a study unit before moving on to the next, and somehow that helps to keep you focused. The course is structured in such a way that you don’t feel as if you are studying alone – it’s highly interactive and fun. There are some add-ons here and there, which add the human touch.

I personally acquired skills to grow as a marketing student and as a businessperson, and I am incorporating the skills I learnt, into efforts to grow my business.

Take us through your research focus

My research focuses on digital marketing. I am exploring the concept of permission-based mobile marketing among young consumers. Brands have taken advantage of the increased use of mobile devices, and now target potential customers via mobile marketing initiatives.

Mobile marketing has emerged as a cheaper and more personal way of reaching consumers. However, it also presents a number of challenges to both marketers and consumers. In my research I focus on young consumers, as they have been found to be the majority users of mobile devices in South Africa.

Through my research I hope to contribute to the body of knowledge on marketing, by inspiring marketers to revisit their digital marketing strategies. Hopefully other researchers will be motivated to probe the concept further, in future studies.

While Covid-19 presented many challenges for everyone, researchers were not spared. I had to accept that challenges can make life interesting – without them you will never learn new things or even know how much you can do. As challenging as it has been, there are other options, and luckily for me my focus is on digital marketing, so I had to position myself in that space and embrace all things digital. I am looking forward to conducting my research this year, to doing it online and getting that degree.

Compiled by: Mpho Moloele, PR and Communications Assistant, Department of Research, Innovation and Commercialisation






Publish date: 2021/04/29