What Does Backchannel Mean?

A backchannel refers to the use of networked computers and instant messaging software in a learning or team-based work environment to provide private or one-to-one communication between the student/listener and the teacher/speaker.


Backchannel technology is widely used in conferences, networked environments with supported communication and/or chatting software, as well as to deliver academic lectures.

Techopedia Explains Backchannel

The term backchannel was initially coined to define individual behavior during a conversation or in an academic learning environment for individuals who prefer private or backchannel communication with the speaker. This might apply to people who are shy and do not wish to express their thoughts openly in a group, instead preferring to do so discreetly through alternative means.

A backchannel is implemented using audio, visual, and textual communication tools and technologies within a learning or team-based environment. These tools can be on a local network or accessed from the Internet. A user can privately participate in the discussion or project using the backchannel to communicate with the main speaker/manager as well with other team members.

Twitter, ClassCommons, Chatzy, TodaysMeet and GoSoapBox are some prominent tools for backchannel communications.


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Margaret Rouse

Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…