Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


School of Teaching and Learning

First Advisor

Linda Haling


A qualitative multicase study utilizing content analysis and qualitative coding techniques was conducted to explore the influence of the use of digital backchannels on student interaction and reflection during an in-class discussion. Data were collected from six front channel transcripts and twenty backchannel transcripts, which resulted from six backchannel discussions that were conducted in three different teacher education courses. Additional data were gathered from participant interviews of seven students who were enrolled in the participating courses. The outcome of the research indicates two main themes developed in regards to the influence of digital backchannels on student interactivity: (1) The content chosen for backchannel discussions influenced student – content and student – student interaction and (2) The design of the backchannel activity affected all three types of interaction. The content analysis indicated there was limited variation in the amount of dialogue dedicated to discussing content. Interaction with content was apparent in all six class sessions, and the nature of the digital backchannel activity encouraged interaction with content at a relatively high level, with evidence of students building knowledge, drawing conclusions, and asking additional questions throughout the activity. The structure of the backchannel design also influenced student interactivity. Three factors were instrumental in determining how interaction was affected: (1) Whether or not the separate backchannel groups were connected digitally to the front channel group, (2) The role the instructor took throughout the activity, and (3) The seating arrangement and number of group members in the backchannel groups.

The following primary theme emerged in relation to the second research question, which considered the influence of digital backchanneling on reflection: (1) Student reflective thinking was present and supported throughout the activity. All twenty-six front and backchannel transcripts displayed evidence of reflective thinking as measured by Rodgers (2002) criteria for reflection in an educational setting. The seven students interviewed agreed this type of thinking took place during the activity, and the technique gave them the opportunity to reflect more as compared to a verbal in-class discussion. Additionally, all seven students felt they would utilize the educational technology in their future classrooms, directly connecting their experience with current situations and new ideas.

Lastly, the third research question was designed to explore the overall learning experience associated with backchannel discussions. Two primary themes resulted in relation to the third research question (1) Digital backchanneling resulted in a meaningful, positive, and focused learning experience, and (2) Millennials/digital natives seem to be less comfortable with technology and multi-tasking when used in an educational environment.


Imported from ProQuest Donnelly_ilstu_0092E_10832.pdf


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