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Backstage: A Digital Backchannel for Large Class Lectures

Time Period: Since 2009

In recent years, digital backchannels have gained great interest in the field of learning, especially large lecture classes and conferences. Providing non-disruptive communication complementary to the frontchannel, i.e. the presenter's discourse, listeners can engage in fast exchange of information and comments that may contribute to active and collaborative learning. Presenters may benefit from the backchannel discourse as a valuable feedback source during their talks. For example, the digital backchannel system may provide the lecturer with the information that the large part of students has problems to follow -- an insight the lecturer seldom gains from a passive audience without a digital backchannel in use.

    The rise of microblogging web platforms have stirred up the investigation of digital backchannels in learning settings. Microblogs are short messages (typically comprising less than 200 characters). Based on this active and rapid style of writing, microblogs are frequently used as digital backchannels. Available to the public, many participants are likely to already have gained experience upon these platforms. 

    The appropriate way of using backchannels to foster active participation of students is a question yet to answer. We argue that the technology that is currently being used only marginally provides the features necessary to fully leverage backchannels in learning settings. In consequence to our argumentation, the following objectives of this project emerge.

    • First, a microblogging based digital backchannel is carefully conceived to fulfill requirements imposed by educational sciences, e.g. guidance and triggering of reflective thinking. 
    • Second, we conceive and implement on this communication platform advanced backchannel services that provide rich student-student and audience-presenter interactions, e.g. audience-feedback specifically addressed to the presenter, aggregated and rendered in real-time.
    • Third, usability studies shall verify the advantages of our approach.
François Bry, Alexander Pohl

Students: Daniel Baumgart, Michal Bednar, Mislav Boras, Stefan Fassrainer, Daniel Fritsch, Marlene Gottstein, Julia Hadersberger, Marco Hoffmann, Werner Hoffmann, Max Kleucker, Johann Kratzer, Florian Nass, Barry Norman, Jeannette Schwarz, and Daniel Unverricht.

Publications related to this project: Several sicentific articles on, or related to, Backstage have been published – see publications page and a short informal presentation of Backstage

Usage: Backstage is used in lectures since 2012.