Advent Calendar Day 12: Create a backchannel for student questions

In a series: ADEPT Teaching and Learning Advent Calendar 2016
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In Day 12 of the ADEPT Teaching and Learning Advent Calendar, Anamika Basu suggests a backchannel for student questions.

This is the Day 12 post of ADEPT’s Teaching and Learning Advent Calendar, sent as an email on December 12th 2016.


Photograph shows a black bulldog puppy in the snow facing the camera, raising its right front paw.

Create a Backchannel for Student Questions

Anamika Basu suggests creating a backchannel whereby students can ask questions without having to stand up in front of the whole class. This is a great idea: it means that less confident students have the chance to participate, and it can also mean that the channel is open for questions outside the boundaries of class time. This means that students have a chance to engage before and after class as well as during the session.

There are several ways to create this backchannel. You could set up a class hashtag on Twitter, for example, and even have it feed to your Moodle or Blackboard VLE page. You could have a message board on that VLE page where students can post questions. An even simpler way, however, is just to tell students that they can message you questions about the topic. You could set particular hours for this, or you could say that they can message you at any time but you’ll read out and answer the questions during class (saving you from having to respond at any time).

It may take a little while to get going, but all you need is one or two questions to spark a discussion – and to show students that they really can contribute to class and get their queries answered.

Want to read more about the innovative use of a backchannel? Watch this ADEPT video on Professor Warren Boutcher’s intriguing methods to integrate student feedback into his course.

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