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The Value of Using an Anonymous Backchannel in Entry-Level STEM Courses

Session Overview

This video was part of the July 2020 REMOTE: The Connected Faculty Summit

The loss of students underrepresented in STEM between the first course and subsequent courses is a challenge to academic institutions and is thought to be due, in part, to a lack of identity with the discipline. This presentation describes a collaborative SEISMIC ( research project wherein an anonymous backchannel is introduced in entry-level STEM courses to see if this leads to positive changes in student identity within the course discipline. The use of a backchannel in a STEM course has been shown to have a positive effect on the level of participation by female and first-generation students who, when surveyed, professed greater discomfort with verbal questioning. A longitudinal study showed that a 97% of students felt that an anonymous backchannel should be offered in all entry-level STEM courses. The study also found that use of the backchannel changed students’ willingness to ask verbal questions in subsequent courses.


Perry Samson

Professor, University of Michigan
Perry Samson is Professor of Climate Science in the College of Engineering and Professor in the School of Information at the University of Michigan. Prof. Samson has been awarded an “Arthur F. Thurnau” Professorship for his contributions to undergraduate education and has been previously named “Professor of the Year” in the State of Michigan. Prof. Samson is an innovator of classroom technologies and is co-founder of The Weather Underground, a global website for weather information, and LectureTools, a technology for interactive student engagement. He serves as Senior Vice President for Teaching Innovation for Echo360, a worldwide leader in classroom video capture.