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A backchannel communication, in an educational context, is a secondary electronic conversation that takes place at or near the same time as a lecture, instructor-led learning activity, or conference session.


Instructors are finding that using a backchannel can increase student engagement because backchannels allow students to engage in a digital conversation alongside the activity. This is beneficial because a backchannel can provide introverted students with a place to ask questions or make comments without speaking up. Additionally, instructors can share supporting resources such as videos, links to websites and photos through a backchannel. Instructors can ask questions and watch the response of students to determine if they really understand the concepts being discussed. Students can search the backchannel for notes and resources without having to scribble personal notes on paper.

Instructors are using web 2.0 tools like Twitter, TodaysMeet, Socrative, and Padlet to facilitate backchannel communications.

If this blog post has piqued your interest, you can find additional information about backchannels at these links:

Photo Credit: Keyboard | CC0

by Janice Florent

millennials working together on a project

Many educators feel frustrated that millennials are especially difficult to reach and to motivate, yet motivation is one thing that can drive millennials to succeed. Student engagement is the key to academic motivation, persistence, and degree completion. Educators must find ways to get students' attention and get them actively engaged with the course material and with their peers.

In a recent Pulse Learning blog post, Christopher Pappas listed seven tips to get millennials excited and fully engaged in the learning process. Those tips are:

  1. Stress real-world applications – Millennials need to know why they are doing something and how it will serve the greater good.
  2. Empower them - Give millennials a way to share their opinions and insights so that they can feel as though they are making a difference.
  3. Track their progress - Millennial learners like to be able to track their progress as they go along. They must be able to immediately determine where they are at and what they still need to accomplish.
  4. Encourage collaboration - This generation of learners thrives in social environments. They enjoy sharing personal experiences and skills with their peers, as well as learning new things from other members in their group.
  5. Offer immediate feedback - Millennial learners crave feedback and recognition. They like to be congratulated on a job well done and praised for their achievements. You should offer feedback that is specific and that helps them learn.
  6. Focus on flexibility - Create a flexible schedule that allows learners to complete online projects and exercises when it’s most convenient for them.
  7. Offer mentoring or other online support services - The millennial generation likes to have control, but they also like to be able to see the direct path they need to take to achieve success. In other words, they require guidance from time to time. Educators should provide mentoring for student success.

If this has piqued your interest, you can read more in Christopher’s How To Motivate Millennials: 7 Tips For eLearning Professionals blog post.

image showing laptop with a twitter feed on the screen

Are you looking for new ways to engage more of your students? Do you want to provide more authentic learning opportunities for your students? Searching for some way to help students write concisely, critically examine arguments, or take notes? One strategy you might consider using is a “backchannel”

Dr. Michelle Rodems, program manager at the School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies (SIGS) and at the Delphi Center for Teaching and Learning suggests using a “backchannel” to give your students a secondary way to communicate with you or each other.

Want to know more? Read Dr. Rodems' article on "Using a Backchannel to Engage Students."