In a recent article on Lethbridge College Learning Connections we explored the concept of backchannels. Backchannels are essentially open lines of communication through the means of technology that allows for students to interact with the course content, communicate with each other, and provide feedback for the instructor/facilitator, all during a traditional instructional period.What to Look for in a Backchannel Tool?
Easy Access: Students will appreciate not only a tool that is free, but one that involves as little hassle as possible to create an account/login.
Ability to Monitor: The pedagogical focus of backchannel needs to be consistently reinforced in order to keep students on task. A chosen tool must be one that instructors can monitor, interact and facilitate using.
Archiving: While the main focus of backchannels is the live chat and instant response features, it is also important that a selected tool allow for the saving and archiving of the chat. Along with helping to keep students on task, this allows for backchannel to have a place as a study/review tool for students to use at a later date.
Based on the criteria above we have assembled a modest list of tools you may wish to further explore when looking to bring backchannels to your classroom.
Backchannel Chat: http://backchannelchat.com/
Blackboard Collaborate: http://www.blackboard.com/online-collaborative-learning/index.aspx
Adobe Connect: http://www.adobe.com/products/adobeconnect.html
Backchannels are a great way to bring another dimension to student learning. The biggest benefit is the student to student interaction that helps to foster a better overall learning experience. Before committing to a specific tool for backchannels make sure to test them out yourself to identify any tech issues that may arise. You may want to also seek out others at your institution with experience using backchannels and discover tools they use. If a tutorial of the chosen tool does not exist you may wish to create a brief, but informative guide for your students as to how to use the tool and the expectations that you have around its use for learning.
Check out our previous article - Backchannels: An Introduction
Do you know of a tool that would work well for backchannels? Share in the comments below.
References: *Thumbnail image (Jordan, 2007) Used under creative commons license