Benefits of backchannelling include:

  • Opportunities for real-time peer and teacher interaction and support
  • Increased task engagement
  • Improved facilitation of computer-mediated discourse
  • Heightened perceptions of cognitive, social, and teaching presence
  • Foster student-to-student reflection and discussion of the subject matter
  • Help learners move from surface understanding to more in-depth learning
  • Promote task engagement
  • Aid learner’s understanding of content

Downsides of backchannelling include:

  • Negative disorienting distraction to students
  • Increase of extraneous cognitive load – could hamper processing of to-be-learned material
  • No etiquette associated with backchannelling

Justin Hall writes on hackers causing disturbances to a presentation session. Here it is pointed out that when the backchannelling is occurring real time, it is unknown the types of information that may appear. With the lack of etiquette for back-channelling, the use of a synchronous back-channel could open the way for hackers to sabotage a presentation.

Harnessing the Hacker's HeckleBot

CMC Computer-mediated Communication can come in any of the following forms:

  • Public and private text-chat
  • Video or audio interfaces
  • Web browsers
  • Polling tools
  • Application sharing
  • Whiteboards

Backchannel is typically spelled any of the following;

Back Channel

Never officially found it used as a gerund (back channeling) however our language seems to allow us to 'morph' verbs into gerunds without much trouble as in 'growing the economy', etc.

Offers more opportunities for interaction, communication, and content sharing.

Interactions fall into any of the following categories of interactions:

  1. Process-oriented – steer main channel discourse
  2. Content-oriented – respond to the content in the main channel
  3. Participation-enabling – include assistance to participants
  4. Tangential – branch from a complicated main channel discussion
  5. Independent – private and unrelated to the main channel

Wikipedia provides an in-depth look at what it means to backchannel

Definition of Back-channeling

Backchannel is the practice of using networked computers to maintain a real-time online conversation alongside live spoken remarks. This term was coined in the fields of Linguistics to describe listeners’ behaviors during verbal communication, Victor Yngve 1970.

Doug Johnson gives a practical look at Backchannelling

Multi-tasking and the Backchannel: Powerful learning or more noise

Johnson brings up the thought that prior to advances in technology, many of us back channeled with ourselves. This done by processing information by thinking and taking notes. Asking and then answering questions by oneself. He also points out that the more engaging a speaker was, the less likely one is to back channel.

Educon 2.1

Keystones 2009 Summit

Back channel resources

Olivia Mitchel writes about the shift from classrooms of old when notes were passed around from one student to another to the days of laptops and technology. She provides valuable information on the benefits and pitfalls of ustilizing back-channelling. She also gives tips for presenting in a back-channelling world.

How to Present While People are Twittering
Three Stages of Presenting with Twitter

How to Present During Back-Channelling

  1. Survive the Experience
    1. Be prepared – use current examples, don’t overuse clichés, don’t use stories with unknown origins (urban legends), don’t try a sales pitch’

  1. Respond to the Audience’s Needs
    1. Monitor the back-channel – use a moderator to alert you of potential issues or items that you need to respond to
    2. Remain focused on what you are saying
    3. Connect with the audience
    4. Take breaks to monitor what was being discussed
i. Thank contributors
ii. Engage the audience deeper
iii. Make adjustments

  1. Engage your Audience
    1. Use tools that enhance your presentation

How To’s

Embedding a Google Docs Form into a webpage: Brief Tutorial

Google Docs tutorial

Google Docs

The Research

Jennifer Maddrell provides an accumulation of research in the area of Paralles Synchronous computer-mediated communication. She brings together various studies form Marshall & Novick, Coleman, Paternite, & Sherman, Shannon & Weaver, as well as others. In the Effect of Backchannel Interations on Cognitive Load, she elaborates on questions that the use of backchannelling brings to the foreground.

Examining Parallel Synchronous Computer-mediated Communication (CMC)
The Effect of Backchannel Interactions on Cognitive Load
The BackChannel Book

Cogdill, Kilborn, Fanderclai, and Williams analyzed private transcripts of meetings and class sessions held. They then identified five backchannel categories: Process-oriented, content-oriented, participation-enabling, tangential, and independent backchannel. Their goal is for software designers to utilize their results to understand how the backchannel should function.

Backchannel: Whispering in Digital Conversation

Sarita Yardi’s paper discusses the implications for education with the use of such technology. The goal of Yardi’s case study is to provide beneficial guidelines for the future implementations of chatrooms in the classroom. Described are the following types of learning: situated learning, peer-to-peer learning, and constructivist learning. The concerns of multi-tasking and cognitive overload are reviewed and the determination that since backchannelling is new to society, etiquette will need to be developed as we move forward.

The Role of the Backchannel in Collaborative Learning Environments

Dr. Lorene Pagcaliwagan-Davis states that back-channeling styles differ among social, cultural, and linguistic groups but pays special attention to the age and gender of the individual.

Back-channeling: A Study in Sociolinguistic Variation

Gender Differences in Back-channelling

Different types of statements: Imperative, Declarative, and Agreement

Imperative – include some kind of command and were considered the most intense (for example “Tell me about it”, Talk to me”, and “Continue”)

Declarative – considered to be of lesser intensity (“I hear you”, “That’s what I’m talking about”, or “I’m serious”).

Agreement – considered to be the least intense and typically one or two word phrases (“Yes”, “Mhmmm”, “I agree”).

Of the signals collected in Dr. Lorene Pagcaliwagan-Davis’s study, 53% were agreement statements, 45% were declarative, and 2% were imperative.

Men and women use language differently. This is reflected in their speech and use of language daily. There are differences in the patters of men and women when it comes to backchannelling.

Statement Type
Simple Agreement

One point to make, when a woman uses a simple agreement, it indicates that she means that she is listening. However, when a man uses a simple agreement it indicates that he is agreeing. Perhaps the main reason that male listeners use more intense forms of agreeing could mean their desire to express that they are not just listening, but are agreeing. Women, on the other hand, avoided the imperative form of agreeing and had a greater preference for simple less intense agreements. Could be attributed to the familiar role of encouraging others and being nurturing.