Using backchannel technology to enhance large lectures


Presentation Given At: 2015 Symposium on Scholarly Teaching & Learning in Post-Secondary Education


Presenters: Dr. Derek Turner, Dr. Arthur “Gill” Green, Dr. Loch Brown


Date Presented: November 13, 2015





Despite the revolution in teaching practices in higher education over the past few decades, courses with large lectures remain bastions of traditional pedagogic practice. High enrollment and conventional infrastructure make it difficult to implement active learning in these courses. Backchannel platforms, such as Twitter and online live social networking, can complement existing lectures while providing a sense of community, interaction beyond the classroom and other situational learning opportunities (Yardi et al., 2006; Du et al., 2009). Critics suggest that these technologies create unwanted distractions (Hembrook and Gay, 2003; Phalen, 2003), but this ignores the reality that students are already multitasking in many modern classrooms (cf. Camplese and McDonald, 2010). Why not leverage these distractions to increase student engagement and understanding in lectures and outside of classroom? Initial work on the contribution of these interfaces to student learning shows increased student engagement and generally higher grades (Elavsky et al., 2011; Junco et al., 2011). Other benefits include faster and more organized instructor responses to questions, more transparency for group work contributions (Ebner et al., 2011) and the creation of more intimate lectures by giving all students a voice. There remain significant problems to implementing these technologies, primarily with privacy and eliminating inappropriate use (Schroeder et al., 2010). This research provides potential solutions to these problems and uses learning analytics and social network visualization to evaluate how and where students of different demographics are using these technologies, and what the pedagogical value of one such platform is in a large class at UBC.



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