A home away from home: building an organic online support community for Chinese students using WeChat





organic, student support system, community, WeChat


Traditional university support structures have generally been predicated on a ‘one size fits all’ approach that stresses a mechanistic, bureaucratic approach. Support is transactional in nature with students accessing it only when needed. Support focuses on both individual tutorial and centralised mechanisms which have proved effective for only some students. This paper proposes an organic student support system that is based around five features: agility in the environment, a tutor-student partnership, informal two-way communication, a student-led community, the inclusion of a knowledge-hub. The student support system in this article is based around Chinese students at a large UK university who felt disenfranchised by the current support mechanisms, so an alternative model was set up using the group-based instant-messaging social media platform, WeChat. The findings of surveys and interviews with Chinese students demonstrated that the featured organic student support system proved extremely successful and is something that could be replicated with other groups of students in the future in UK higher education.

Author Biographies

Xue Zhou, Queen Mary University of London

Xue Zhou is an Associate Professor in the School of Business and Management, Queen Mary University of London. She is also QM Academy Fellow, leading various innovative pedagogical projects. Her major research interests lie in the area of digital education, cross-cultural adjustment and innovative teaching.

Peter Wolstencroft, Liverpool Business School

Peter Wolstencroft works at Liverpool Business School, Liverpool John Moores University, where he combines researching educational leadership with being part of the SLT of a thriving School. Peter has co-authored a bestselling textbook for new teachers as well as books and articles about a wide range of education-related topics.


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How to Cite

Zhou, X. and Wolstencroft, P. . (2022) “ A home away from home: building an organic online support community for Chinese students using WeChat”, Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education, (24). doi: 10.47408/jldhe.vi24.853.