Some of the Vanguard faculty like to make use of text chats in their pedagogy. In order to maximize student engagement, they prefer to have smaller groups of 3-4 students, but to have all the chats scheduled to run at the same time.
This is similar to what you would do in a classroom, if you asked students to get in small groups to discuss a topic. However, in this case, they are typing text to one another, which many assert helps to engage more introverted learners.
Canvas does not allow for multiple text chats to occur at the same time. Instead, a backchannel chat service, TodaysMeet can afford the opportunity to get multiple conversations going at once. These chats can be embedded (presented / shown) within Canvas, so the students’ experience using the service is seamless.
From TodaysMeet website:
TodaysMeet is the premier backchannel chat platform for classroom teachers and learners. Designed for teachers, TodaysMeet takes great care to respect the needs and privacy of students while giving educators the tools for success.
Students join fast, easy to start rooms with no registration, and can immediately start powerful conversations that augment the traditional classroom.”
A backchannel is a conversation that is happening behind the scenes when something else is going on. Stephen Brookfield regularly uses TodaysMeet in his courses, to allow for more introverted students to pose questions without as much discomfort as they might have asking in front of the full class.
Brookfield also allows students greater comfort of being more of a minority voice when the majority of the class has a different perspective than they do. Stephen Brookfield shares more about his discussion approaches on episode #015 of the Teaching in Higher Ed podcast.
While TodaysMeet is typically used as a backchannel, you can certainly use it as the front-and-center of a course activity. It allows you to have more than one chat going on at a time, which is something many of our faculty miss about the chat feature in Moodle (our former LMS).
TodaysMeet chats can also be embedded within Canvas to make the process of participating in a chat more streamlined for students.
Create a TodaysMeet account
A TodaysMeet account is not required to use the service. However, it does help to have an account, in order to access older chats and manage multiple chat occurrences. The create account option is in the upper right-hand corner, in a bright red box.
Set Up a Chat
When you set up a chat on TodaysMeet, an important consideration is the length of time to leave the room open. This is not the Set up chats within TodaysMeet (leave the room open as long as possible; you’ll schedule the precise time for the chat from within Canvas). Transcripts of chats are only available as long as the room is open, unless you upgrade to a paid account.
For each chat you’ve set up, enter the room and click to access the (1) room tools.
Choose embed and then click to embed the live stream (2) (otherwise, students will have no means of participating directly, though transcripts can be useful for reading through the chats after they have concluded)
Select (3) other and then (4) copy the embed code to use within Canvas.
The embed code can be pasted within Canvas anywhere you see their text editor, such as within pages or within an assignment.
Create a page or assignment (or wherever you want to embed the TodaysMeet chat) and click to toggle over to the HTML editor.
Paste the code into the (1) editor and toggle back to the (2) rich content editor. Remember to save/publish the page/assignment, if you’re happy with the results.
Create an Assignment
If you want to be able to grade or provide feedback on the chats, it can be most helpful to have it set up as an assignment. As indicated above, you can embed an assignment in Canvas and have students not have to leave Canvas to chat using TodaysMeet.
Having these chats set up as assignments allows you to:
- Establish due dates/times for the chats
- Assign groups to the chat assignment, to break students up into smaller discussion groups
- Make grading easier, by being able to assign grades/points to an entire group, versus student-by-student (though you still can make exceptions to individual student’s grades)
See the Student’s Perspective
When students login to Canvas, they can access the chat assignment.
TodaysMeet allows for anonymity, though we suggest that you encourage students to enter their own names, depending on what you are hoping to accomplish with the exercise.
Students’ messages are restricted to 140 characters (which is the same as what Twitter, a microblogging service, allows).