Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Instant back channel chat room

I've been using back channels in my training and conference work for quite a while now and I'm getting to the stage where I wonder how I ever got by without them.

A back channel a means of enabling text based collaboration among the people in your class / talk and this is usually done by using some form of chat room that people attending the class can log into during the session.

There are a lot of advantages to this:
  • It facilitates greater participation and knowledge sharing. Participants are able to share what they know with each other on the topic you are talking about.
  • You can use it as an audience response tool get students to write in and share their responses. 
  • You can pass links to websites that students can then just click and open, so you don't have students trying to type or copy long URLs. 
  • You can also pass links to worksheets that students can download.
  • The back channel is a great tool for students to base their notes from the session on. they just need to copy the interaction and all the links into a file.

 My main tool has been TodaysMeet, but I have recently discovered a new one that could be worth trying.

It's called SimpleMeet.Me and it was designed for meeting collaboration. It has an advantage over TodaysMeet in that you can upload and share a document through it. So this could be useful for sharing your presentation or the aims of the class etc.

It's very simple to use, just go to and the site instantly produces the chat room for you and gives you a code to share. You then simply tell your students what the code is and they can go to the site and join the meeting.


Once you are in the meeting you put in your name at the top and can then start to chat at the bottom. Your shared file appears bottom right (I've uploaded my CV as an example). You can have a look in the chat room I've created here

Another nice feature of SimpleMeet.Me is that you can just enter your email address at the end of the chat and get a transcription of the complete discourse sent to you.

If you work in a computer lab or wireless environment and you want to encourage your students to bring along laptops and mobile devices and participate in your lessons, then SimpleMeet.Me is a really useful tool. Personally, I have found that using a back channel in this way has transformed the way I teach and enabled me to completely do away with using any kind of paper handouts in class - so no more photocopying. It's also reduced the amount of wasted time struggling with students misspelling URLs and increased engagement during the classes. Of course the catch is that you have to work in an environment where your students have access to the Internet in class.

I hope you give this a try and your students enjoy it.

Related links: 

Nik Peachey

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very useful post Nik:
I read and learnt about SimpleMeet.Me which is designed for meeting collaboration.
As you have said, It facilitates greater participation and knowledge sharing. Participants are able to share what they know with each other on the topic we are discussing in the class.
This tool can be useful with my students as I do lots of language learning and personality development interactive activities in my class. This tool can lessen my task of preparing number of worksheets, distributing, collecting and evaluating
Since my students learn about their personality, sometimes they are reluctant to speak in front of the class. The tool can help open up a student and share his/her problem with the tutor and a tutor facilitating student by sharing several self-exploring and learning links. Use of mobile phone is presently easy way to bring this tool in my class.