Backchannel discussion

Also known as: back-channelling, online discussion, web discussion, online chat

Backchannel discussions enable students to participate in an online discussion that occurs as a secondary activity taking place during a live main event. They:

  • provide educators with a window for informally assessing students' knowledge through reviewing chat transcripts
  • promote student engagement and participation
  • are best employed with a structure that provides opportunities to chat without being disruptive, offering a reinvention of the live experience which makes it more meaningful. 

Back channel discussion

ICT templates

Learning activity templates

Office 365

Google G Suite

Make sure you are logged into your Microsoft account or Google account before accessing these templates. For more support refer to Getting started with technology

How to use with ICT

Set up a web-based discussion in real time so that participants can type comments into an online forum like a chat room, while another presentation or live activity is running.

Single computer

Set up this device as a kiosk computer for the students to enter their questions or comments in an online form template during the main classroom event. An online form offers better management of positive digital citizenship because every student’s backchannel contribution is identified by name. Ensure the main activity is oriented so as to position the kiosk device behind the audience. Student comments or questions can then be projected in real time for dynamic responses with minimal disruption to the main event.

External resources

Find out more resources
Title Link Description
Backchannel in education – Nine uses by Derek Bruff on the Agile Learning website Backchannel in education A comprehensive exploration of the possibilities for using a backchannel in educational settings.
Nine classroom backchannel tools you can start using today by Martine Ellis on her blog The Teaching Space Nine classroom backchannel tools This is episode 20 of The Teaching Space podcast and it is all about backchannel tools.
Backchannel chat is an online review by Amy Lauren Botula, hosted on the Common Sense Education website Backchannel chat online review This is go-to information for any teacher or school considering signing up to the Backchannel Chat platform.
Audience response and backchannel tools on Jane Hart’s C4LPT blog Audience response and backchannel tools Tools used to gain live audience responses and/or build a backchannel, listed in alphabetical order.
Backchannel and informal Assessment Tools: Compared in one Chart on Richard Byrne’s blog Free Technology for Teachers Backchannel and Informal Assessment Tools: Compared in one Chart A useful comparison chart evaluation of eleven backchannel tools. Downloadable as a PDF or Google Doc.
10 Ways to Use Backchannels in Your Classroom on Med Kharbach’s blog Educational Technology 10 ways to use backchannels in your classroom Tips and procedurals on ways to create and use backchannels in classrooms.


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Personalised learning

Disability, Learning and Support

When planning to use technology in the classroom it is important to consider the diversity of your learners. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework to guide the design of learning environments that are accessible and effective for all. For UDL guidelines, information and additional materials, visit the CAST website.

Many students require technology as an adjustment to support their access to learning. Adjustments (NESA) are actions taken that enable a student with disability and additional learning needs to access syllabus outcomes and content on the same basis as their peers. Enrol in the Personalised learning with technology online course to help you make more informed decisions regarding technology.


For a range of simple, how-to videos visit the Assistive Technology page on the Disability, Learning and Support website. Resources are organised into four sections; Literacy and Learning, Vision, Hearing, Physical and Motor Skills.


High potential and gifted learning and support

When planning to use technology in the classroom it is important to consider the full range of abilities of all learners. High potential and gifted learners may require additional adjustments and deliberate talent development.  These strategies include differentiation, grouping, enrichment and advanced learning pathways so students can be engaged, grow and achieve their personal best.


Assessing and identifying high potential and gifted learners will help teachers decide which students may benefit from extension and additional challenge. Effective strategies and contributors to achievement for high potential and gifted learners helps teachers to identify and target areas for growth and improvement. School leaders can access the Evaluation and Planning Tool to support strategic improvement planning.


Recognising the diversity of high potential and gifted students represented in classrooms across 4 domains of potential can be explored further by accessing illustrations of practice.


For further support and advice about how to tailor learning for high potential and gifted students from all backgrounds, visit the High Potential and Gifted Education web section, High Potential and Gifted Education Policy or attend one of the professional learning courses on offer.