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Using Chat in Online Instruction

orange sheets of paper lie on a green school board and form a chat bubble with three crumpled papers.

Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash

Moving to synchronous virtual library instruction during the past year, I have experimented with lots of different types of technologies such as Google Docs, Padlet, and Poll Everywhere.

 I found that one of the easiest ways to make online instruction sessions interactive is simply using the chat box built into the web conferencing system. The advantage of this is that students are already familiar with the tool, and they don’t need to leave the web conferencing interface in order to respond. Also, students can choose to respond to the whole class or just to the instructor. I find that students often use this feature when I point it out in my introduction.

Here are some questions that my colleagues and I have used in chat during instruction: 

  • What is one question you have about doing research?
  • What is one tip you have for other students about doing research
  • Find an article about your topic. Put 2-3 new ideas from the article in the chat.
  • Ask students to respond with a number for quick feedback, e.g. Have you used the research databases before?
  • Find an article and copy and paste the citation information in the chat.

A technique I have used a lot is to give students time to search and then ask them to cut and paste the citation for an article that they found in the chat box. This can be very helpful to see if students are on the right track. Students often send a private chat during this time if they are having trouble, and I can give them tips. When we get back together as a group, we can look together at one of the articles shared. It is also a way to make sure students know that databases can generate citations and that sometimes those citations need to be tweaked to follow proper formatting.

How do you use the chat box in online library instruction?

4 replies on “Using Chat in Online Instruction”

I’ve found that my online research sessions are pretty one-sided and they don’t get much interaction, so I like the thought of actually having something to do in chat besides just telling students they can ask questions there. The numerical response questions are perfect when time is short. I’d love to be able to give students time to search independently and privately ask for help via chat, but our sessions have been cut from 90 to 60 minutes and it makes it hard to get through all the material, let alone leave time for searching. Do you find that it’s worth covering less material in exchange for giving students time to search? One shots always require some compromise, I guess!

I definitely prefer to present less and give students time to search and ask questions. But yes, it definitely is a balancing act.

Thank you for sharing Suzanne. I also agree with you about using the chat box built into the web conferencing system. Students do respond.

Yes, it is simple but effective. I think it is helpful to remember that some students are more comfortable responding in chat directly to the instructor, so I make sure to point out that option. Some students are more comfortable doing this. Google Meet does not allow direct response to the presenter and this caused a lot of stress with my kids in online school last year. If you are too shy to ask a question in front of everyone, you don’t have the option to just ask the teacher.

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