2009 Canadian e-Learning Conference Program

The Use of Chat Backchannels in the Classroom

Session Title: The Use of Chat Backchannels in the Classroom

Time & Date: 2:00 P.M. – 2:55 P.M., Thursday, June 18, 2009

Location: Rm. 182, Irving K. Barber Learning Centre (IKBLC)

Session Description: The majority of current undergraduate students are digital natives who surround themselves with personal technologies such as laptops and mobile devices, and are offered campus-wide Internet connectivity. Many of these university learners seem to portray a proclivity towards distraction in the classroom, engaging in social networking sites, instant messaging, email and other online activities rather than fully participating in lectures. One possible approach to this issue is to offer students a classroom experience that includes a ‘public’ chat application for backchannel communication. Would this backchannel be conducive to the students’ learning experience, or would it just provide another avenue of distraction? How would students use the chat application? Would students who are less inclined to participate vocally in the lecture be more inclined to have a voice in this multimodal group discussion? Overall, is a public chat backchannel a positive addition to the classroom experience? This research was initiated in order to explore these questions. Over the course of two terms, first-year university students were offered the option of using a chat backchannel in weekly lectures. The chat application was displayed publicly so that real-time contributions to the chat were visible alongside customary presentation materials. Students were observed during these sessions, transcripts of the chat activity were recorded and analysed, and students completed a brief questionnaire focused on their experiences with the chat backchannel. In this paper, we describe student behaviour, possible benefits of a chat backchannel in the classroom, and reflect on student and instructional team experiences.

Conference Stream: Learning & Teaching

Session Format:
Paper Jam

Co-Presenter: Drew Paulin

Co-Presenter Bio: Drew Paulin is a Lecturer at Simon Fraser University. His research centers on leveraging online social environments in the classroom towards the aim of aiding student learning.

Co-Presenter: Janet McCracken

Co-Presenter Bio: Janet McCracken is an Assistant Professor at Simon Fraser University. Her research interests focus on articulating design methodologies for learning.

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