Tonight, students can react to the presidential debate in real time.

People who pay attention to presidential debates are used to watching them on TV in the den with family members or maybe alongside friends at a corner tavern or civic club.

The next day, at work, they might gather round the water cooler with co-workers to replay the most telling moments and see who shares their perceptions.

But tonight, a professor at N.C. A&T is using social media to create a group setting online, where participants can react as the debate unfolds.

New-media expert Kim Smith will host the online equivalent of a conference call in which his students — and anyone else who wants — can comment live on the last presidential debate of the 2012 campaign.

“Now we’re able to do the analysis in real time as it happens,” said Smith, who teaches classes at A&T in new media and society, minorities and the mass media, and multimedia journalism. “I’m really interested in seeing if it gets any public traction outside the university.”

The event is made possible by the “CoveritLive” website, which creates virtual “rooms” for people who want to watch an event together and text about it in a moderated format.

Smith got the idea of bringing his students together online for debate reaction last school year, during the Republican presidential candidate debates of the primary season.

“I was trying to figure out a way to engage students in talking about what was going on,” he said of the search that led him to www.coveritlive.com. “I wanted to use it as a way to promote interest in politics, education and debate.”