A Tale of Two Backchannels
Digital backchannels are online interaction spaces that run parallel to spoken, live remarks. These communication channels potentially create unique opportunities for participation that can help develop student communication skills, enrich discussion with the diverse contributions of the entire class, and provide educators with timely feedback on their teaching. However, incorporating backchannels into instruction can also present challenges associated with access, student distraction, the quality of discourse, and teachers’ capacities to manage multiple conversation channels. This qualitative study presents the experiences and perceptions of backchanneling of two instructors and their university students (N=45). While in one case the backchannel was generally seen as a useful supplement to other modes of discussion and communication, in the other case the backchannel was more commonly perceived as unnecessary and even distracting.