graphic representation of chatChat can open a one-way medium into a participatory one, says education professor Bonnie Stewart.

Chat communication an aid to building community, argues professor of online education

While Bonnie Stewart welcomes returning to in-person classrooms, she does miss one element of online teaching: chat, the feature of digital meeting platforms that enables a real-time scroll of participant contributions to run along the side of the screen throughout a class, meeting, or session.

Dr. Stewart is an associate professor of online pedagogy and workplace learning in the Faculty of Education, and author of a column in University Affairs on “The Digital Classroom.” In the most recent entry, she explains that the chat function empowers students to be their own active Greek chorus in spaces where they might otherwise be passive.

“Online, I heard from probably 90 per cent of my students voluntarily in the chat,” Stewart writes. “No matter how welcoming I try to make my in-person classrooms, verbal contributions have never come close to that number. Nor could they, without taking up all our class time.”

She argues that by giving a little bit of power back to learners, chat can open a one-way medium into a participatory one.

“I’m excited to go back to the classroom again in January,” Stewart concludes. “But I still want to find a way to build a choral chat experience into our work inside those familiar four walls.”

Read her entire piece, “The online meeting chat is dead: long live the online meeting chat.”

Published by Universities Canada, University Affairs provides news, commentary, and in-depth articles, as well as practical advice and tools to help your career, whether you’re a university administrator, faculty member or graduate student.

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