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Case study: Thomson Foundation

The Thomson Foundation rapidly trained 1,200 journalists — entirely via WhatsApp.


The Thomson Foundation was an early leader in online learning.

They specialize in training journalists all over the world, even in countries with restricted freedom of the press. But in Sudan, ranked 175th in the 2019 World Press Freedom Index, and a territory where Thomson has been on the ground since 2012, online learning had made little headway. Why?

"In Sudan, it's very hard to find people who are not on WhatsApp 24/7 — that's where they get their news and shop. Everybody opens it compulsively and they already know how to use it."


Hosam's Belief

When Hosam — the Director of Learning at the Thomson Foundation — found Arist, he was excited at the potential of using instant messaging as another experiment in mobile training. For the past 5 years, WhatsApp has been filling the information and free media gap in Sudan.

He knew that the problem was not that learners were disinterested in online education, but that the power cuts and lack of consistent WiFi made online and video-based learning inaccessible.

"It went viral, because they have a huge appetite and no means to access the information with the power cuts, the internet connection...but somehow everyone has a phone."


Opportunity Struck

As COVID-19 cases were rising and a health crisis became apparent, the Sudanese government needed citizens needed to receive accurate and reliable information, and learn how to avoid spreading misinformation. UK AID provided funding in partnership with the British Council and Sudan's Ministry of Information to develop and share a course on How to Cover COVID-19 for all media in Sudan.

So Hosam and his team set out to build a WhatsApp-based course on Arist. In just a few days, they created a curriculum of scenarios and interactive questions.

"Arist is a rapidly evolving tool that has unleashed the potential of engaging with users where they are...literally. And as a creator you can just immediately pick it up and go, it’s so easy to set up."


The metrics blew Thomson's expectations out of the water

Hosam credits this both to the medium and also to using multiple-choice questions, "getting to the heart of issues through learners interacting with questions rather than just answers."

Within 1 week of the course being launched, 71% of the first 1,450 participants chose the WhatsApp option over their online and in-app LMS curriculum.

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"Arist is, by far and away, the best tool we've used in the past year."

Global Learning Lead, Takeda