After 18 months of Zoom, Teams and all the other platforms I’m sure you are a little fed up with everything needing to be a video call? What other ways of synchronous engagements are there? 

After engaging in a lot of Tweet chats (my favourite are #LTHEChat and #UKRunChat) I was wondering if this format of synchronous typed engagement would work in a learning environment setting? Click here to read more about the #LTHEChat and their Tweetchat help section.  

I first tested this in the Doctoral Supervision reading group hosted by Dr Kay Guccione & Dr Sian Vaughan. This was planned to do something synchronous but low-energy between reading group meetings. 

Using the common Tweet chat format worked very well (see #LTHEChat link above)

  • 4 questions on a specific topic are posted over one hour (one every 15 minutes) during a pre-arranged date and time 
  • Participants reply to the questions 
  • Conversation happens
  • Chat stays available for asynchronous engagement

I was surprised how well it worked and the unexpected bonus was to see multiple parallel conversations emerging. Something you would get in a meeting room or lecture hall – the ability to tag people and have a side conversation was just brilliant. People could also go back and forth between questions. Something you just can’t do in a video meeting. 

After this successful first try, I then tested this format in two other scenarios – first a online catch up with the Geoscience Communication Editorial board on Slack and then as part of my PGR Supervisor development module.  

Again, both settings worked very well – the added bonus was that the chat stayed available. So, if anyone couldn’t make it, they were able to engage afterwards and add their thoughts. Obviously, you can record a video meeting, but you lose the interaction with people who missed the meeting – unless you add the video to a discussion page, but even then, it will be difficult to engage with certain aspects or individual comments. The chat-based works very well for this. 

This approach also makes meeting more accessible, more equitable and low energy. People can “chat” simultaneously and don’t have to rely on a chair to give them a say, people can’t really hog a meeting either because everyone has the same access. Screen-reader users might need more time to read and reply to messages, but they can do so in their own time during or after the meeting. This set up also makes it easier to engage via the app version of Teams or Slack and you don’t have to worry about from where you are joining. No one will know if you’re typing away while eating, being out for a walk, sitting on a bus or on the sofa. Having the text preserved to go back over also means you don’t have to be switched on for the whole 60 minutes – you can get distracted and then come back to the meeting, checking what you have missed and re-start engaging.

A pink-orange neon sign: # tweet tweet on a wall with tropical wallpaper. The wall paper is green and has images of branches with oranges and tropical birds on it.
Photo by Chris J. Davis on Unsplash

I’m adding this way of synchronous engagement to my teaching and researcher development activities, and I will look at ways to evaluate them properly. 

Let me know if you have used this chat format as part of your activities or if you are planning to.