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Introducing Backstage – a digital backchannel for large class lectures

Alexander Pohl (Institute for Informatics, University of Munich, Munich, Germany)
Vera Gehlen‐Baum (Department of Educational Technology, Saarland University, Saarbrücken, Germany)
François Bry (Institute for Informatics, University of Munich, Munich, Germany)

Interactive Technology and Smart Education

ISSN: 1741-5659

Article publication date: 20 September 2011




This paper seeks to report on the conception of a novel digital backchannel, Backstage, dedicated to large classes, aiming at empowering not only the audience but also the speaker, at promoting the awareness of both audience and speaker, and at promoting an active participation of students in the lecture. In learning settings with a large and typically passive audience, the goal of Backstage is to foster active participation and facilitate collaboration akin to small‐learning groups.


The authors present the concept of a novel kind of digital backchannel that supports different forms of inter‐student communication via short microblog messages, social evaluation, and ranking of messages by the audience. The backchannel further supports immediate concise feedback to the lecturer of selected and aggregated students' opinions, making it possible to strengthen the lecturer's awareness of students' difficulties.


The concept is the outcome of a joint effort between computer scientists and educational scientists, and unifies technical and usability aspects with educational claims.


The concept combines computer‐mediated communication with elements of social media that not only foster active participation and collaboration among a large and otherwise passive audience, but also provide social means to self‐regulation and management of the backchannel discourse. The design of the backchannel is strongly influenced by findings of educational sciences.



Pohl, A., Gehlen‐Baum, V. and Bry, F. (2011), "Introducing Backstage – a digital backchannel for large class lectures", Interactive Technology and Smart Education, Vol. 8 No. 3, pp. 186-200.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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