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Compare and select your backchannelling tool

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This guide presents a comprehensive comparison table for the Microsoft Forms, MS Teams Q&A, iClicker, Kahoot!, Mentimeter, Piazza, Padlet, Poll Everywhere and Top Hat.

Many instructors and teaching team members already make adjustments to class activities in real time based on student response, whether it’s by watching faces/body language to get a sense of what they’re understanding, using clickers, or using some of the “backchanneling” apps available to get students actively involved in lectures (e.g., Mentimeter, PollEverywhere, Kahoot!).

This guide provides an overview of some popular backchanneling tools (both included in the U of T Academic Toolbox and un-vetted) that you could implement in your courses (and not all are typical classroom response tools). There are several features for you to consider, in addition to pedagogical value, including the support model, the cost, and if the tool has passed U of T's security audit. You will also want to consider how much time and energy you have to build and implement these tools.

It is highly recommended that if you would like to implement a new tool, that you leave yourself a few months prior to the beginning of the class to fully test. You are also encouraged to talk to the Education Technology Office.

Learn about the benefits and rationale of implementing online chatting tools in a physical classroom in our blog post: Let's Chat about Chatting! (Session Review)

Before you select your tool, please review the University of Toronto's Provostial Guidelines on the use of Digital Learning Materials.

1. Overview of Backchanneling Tools

  1. Microsoft Forms - With Microsoft Forms, you can create surveys, quizzes, and polls, and easily see results as they come in.
  2. Microsoft Teams (Chat and Q&A) - Use real-time chat and Q&A features in MS Teams that allows for instant messaging, fostering quick and efficient exchanges during meetings without disrupting the main conversation. Integration with other Microsoft 365 applications facilitates easy file sharing, document collaboration, and access to shared resources.
  3. iClicker Cloud - a classroom response system that allows instructors to integrate interactive questions into presentations and collect student responses via mobile devices, laptops, or iClicker remotes.
  4. Kahoot! - Create a fun learning game in minutes – called ‘kahoots’. You can make a series of multiple choice questions or try our new game – Jumble. The format and number of questions are entirely up to you. Add videos, images and diagrams to your questions to amplify engagement.
  5. Mentimeter -  Mentimeter is an easy-to-use presentation software. With Mentimeter you can create fun and interactive presentations. We help you make your events, presentations, lectures, and workshops innovative and memorable.
  6. Piazza - The incredibly easy, completely free Q&A platform. Save time and help students learn using the power of community. Wiki style format enables collaboration in a single space. Features LaTeX editor, highlighted syntax and code blocking.
  7. Padlet - An online collaborative platform that allows users to create and customize virtual boards where they can easily add and organize various content such as text, images, links, and files. The tool is commonly used for collaborative projects, brainstorming, and information sharing.
  8. Poll Everywhere - Poll Everywhere transforms one-sided presentations into two-way conversations with the audience. This web-based audience response system lets you embed interactive activities directly into your presentation. The audience responds on the web or via SMS texting on their phones.
  9. Top Hat - Top Hat’s student engagement software enhances the course experience by motivating students to learn, participate and ultimately master the content you teach.

Support for TopHat was deprecated and the tool was removed from the Academic Toolbox on May 1, 2024. 

2. Backchanneling Tools Comparison Table

Tool Cost Part of U of T Academic Toolbox Integrated with Quercus? Start Up Effort Analytics
Microsoft Forms Free with U of T Enterprise License Yes;
Centrally Supported (U of T)
No Low Yes
Microsoft Teams (Chat and Q&A) Free with U of T Enterprise License Yes;
Centrally Supported (U of T)
No Medium Yes
iClicker Requires student purchase Yes;

Implementation Support (U of T)

Technical Support Website (U of T)

Yes Medium Yes
Kahoot! Free for limited features; Pro account for full features No;
Support available via Developer
No Low Yes
Mentimeter Free for limited features; Pro account for full features No;
Support available via Developer
No Medium Yes
Piazza Free;
Part of the U of T Academic Toolbox
Centrally Supported (U of T)
No Low Yes
Padlet Free for limited features; Pro account for full features No;
Support available via Developer
No Medium Yes
Poll Everywhere Free for audience size up to 25 people;
Paid plans for additional features
Support available via Developer
No Medium Yes
Top Hat Requires instructor and student purchase No;
Support available via Developer
No High Yes

Keep up to date on Quercus Integrations on the Integration Update website.

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