Since the Fall of 2004, students at the University of California Berkeley's School of Information have engaged in online discussions in a synchronous chatroom backchannel. Interactions occur both inside and outside of class, when users are co-present or in separate physical locations. Conversations sometimes augment class discussion, allowing for different types of in-class participation, as well as the sharing of relevant material and resources.
By creating a software visualization of chatroom behavior, we hope to explore the benefits of such a tool for educators wishing to understand the relation of chat activity to the classes they teach. Some teachers and professors have now looked into incorporating chat into the classroom by creating sanctioned chatroom channels for students to engage with one another. Our goal is to create a software tool to enable this visual analysis and assess its usefulness in education. In designing this tool, our questions include:
- What can chat data say about classroom interactions?
- How can this information be used by educators?
- In what ways does chat augment class discussion?
- Which dimensions of chat are most useful for learning?