Back Channels – ’Covert Digital Back Channels in the Overt Classroom: Serendipity findings in empiric data regarding the use of backchannels in lessons

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearch


This article presents examples of backchannels for ‘reflection in action’ and ‘reflections on action’ with digital technologies found in, empiric, educational research data on the utilisation of digital technology in four University College programmes. The article identifies and introduces the notion of different types of backchannel communication that takes place amongst students during lessons. Furthermore, the article suggests a typological organisation of the different types of reflection the backchannels support. A back-channel is defined as a secondary, informal, unmanaged communication channel that happens simultaneously to an overt ‘main event’ but as a covet process that supports either the students, the lecturer, or both. The identified back-channels are divided into three different kinds of backchannels. The types are: ‘rhizomatic, covert backchannels’, ‘’Lecturer initiated and observed backchannels’ and ‘hybrid joint contribution backchannels’. The article investigates the pedagogical circumstances under which the backchannels emerge and how they are utilized. Furthermore, the article discusses the implications that covered, digital meta-communication during the lessons that may have on the relationship between lecturer and students. The article presents suggestions on how to use the covert backchannels as a constructive element in the lessons.

Finally, the article suggests pedagogical practices that offer the students other possibilities to engage and express insecurities and general questions during lessons and presentations.

Keywords: Backchannels, social media, lecturer-centred teaching, student-initiated activities, reflection-in-action
Translated title of the contributionSkjulte, digitale kommunikationskanaler i det synlige undervisningsrum
Original languageEnglish
OtherThomas Kjærgaards blog
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2021


  • learning, educational science and teaching

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