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Large class teaching with Backstage

François Bry (Institute for Informatics, Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich, Munich, Germany)
Alexander Yong-Su Pohl (Institute for Informatics, Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich, Munich, Germany)

Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education

ISSN: 2050-7003

Article publication date: 6 February 2017




Several challenges of today’s higher education were motivations to reconsider the contents and formats of lectures and tutorials and to conceive the classroom communication system Backstage, a social media platform supporting a novel form of large-class teaching. The purpose of this paper is to report on the challenges met, on the novel teaching form and on an evaluation of this teaching form.


The use of Backstage in two courses is evaluated. One of the courses has been specially adapted to promote student participation, the other course has been held in a traditional way. To investigate the usefulness and acceptance of Backstage in the given settings the data collected on Backstage and student responses in surveys are analyzed.


The results indicate that Backstage can foster interactivity and awareness in large-class lectures when used in combination with a teaching format that provides opportunities for and encourges lecture-relevant communication. Furthermore, students appreciated the use of Backstage.

Research limitations/implications

This paper reports on a case study which lacks generalizability. Further studies under controlled conditions and of the learning effectiveness of the approach are still outstanding.

Practical implications

This paper describes an approach fostering a form of Active Learning in large classes. Since large classes are widespread in higher education, the approach has a considerable practical potential.

Social implications

The paper describes an approach to large class higher education teaching in using social media.


Similar results have not been published so far.



The authors are thankful to Vera Gehlen-Baum, Faculty for Pedagogy and Psychology of the Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich, for fruitful discussions and useful suggestions; Bernd Finkbeiner, Saarland University, for his feedback on Backstage; the many students for their contributions to Backstage who are too numerous for being named individually; Martin Josko and to the anonymous members of the Leibniz Supercomputing Center for strengthening the university’s internet, making it possible for the authors to deploy Backstage in their lectures; Elke Kroiss for her help in proofreading this paper; and the anonymous reviewers for their useful feedback.


Bry, F. and Pohl, A.Y.-S. (2017), "Large class teaching with Backstage", Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education, Vol. 9 No. 1, pp. 105-128.



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Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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