iSchool Capstone

BackChat: Enhancing the Classroom Experience Through Moderated Chat

Project tags:

information behavior & user research

software development

ux & interaction design

Project poster

Our research aimed to improve student experience in large university lectures. Specifically, we examined the use of backchannels (a moderated chat alongside lecture) and the effectiveness thereof with respect to students’ grades, level of participation, and overall satisfaction. We began with a survey of 149 responding students, and focused further with interviews. The survey reached two academic quarters of students from an introductory informatics course. Respondents self-categorized into three groups based upon their interaction with the backchannel: contributors, observers, and non-users. This split developed into our personas to interview. Our findings revealed significant supporting evidence of greater interest in lecture and higher participation with backchannel involvement. Further qualitative analysis suggests, also, that backchannel contributors achieved higher grades.

Thus, backchannels can enhance student experience in large lectures--especially with our feedback-inspired redesign. Though we prioritized student experience, we believe that instructors, likewise, benefit from a more engaged student base.

Project participants:

Ian Burns


Tania Asim


Graham Hadden


Paul Oswald


Vivek Bhupatiraju