[TOS] IRC for a class or not

Susan E. Sons sesons at iu.edu
Tue Jan 9 19:21:07 UTC 2018

I use IRC regularly for teaching/mentoring sessions and it can work well
for many audiences.  I'm not a professor, but some of my mentees are in
that age cohort.

IRC Pros:

Extremely handicap accessible.  Smooth, predictable behavior with screen
readers for the blind, and a variety of client options for users with
visual or auditory impairments or other concerns.

Extremely accessible in the general sense: IRC is free to use, with low
bandwidth requirements, and there are clients available for free for
nearly every operating system on the planet.  The system requirements
are a fraction of those for browser-based chat services.

Logging provides built-in, searchable reference material.

No distracting animated gif inserts and the like as in browser-based
chat services.  IRC is strictly text based, and clients can even strip
obnoxious colors and blink tags from text (many do by default).

Once students adapt to IRC-based discussions, they tend to be more
attentive because it's easier to multitask or task switch without
missing important context, compared to e.g. Slack or an audio or video

IRC Cons:

One must install software to use IRC (there are web gateways, but they
are prone to abuse and have connectivity issues).

One must learn a few text commands to use IRC effectively.  It's not
that hard, but there are some younger non-technical folks who balk at
not being able to click everything.

IRC doesn't provide screen share or video capabilities, which can be
helpful for some types of teaching.  (I've used Crowdcast with great
success here.  It's proprietary, but very open from an interface
perspective and the support is great.)

My two cents. :)


On 01/09/2018 01:25 PM, Joanna Klukowska wrote:
> I will be teaching an Open Source Software Development class this
> spring. I usually use Piazza for class discussions and most
> communications. But for an open source course, I feel like IRC might be
> more appropriate. Except I am not sure how a bunch of college kids will
> handle IRC.
> Does anybody have any experience in using IRC for a course as a single
> communication tool with students?
> Any feedback would be very appreciated!
> Best,
> Joanna

Susan Sons
Chief Security Analyst
IU Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research

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