In 2011 the School of Business trialled student response systems (SRS), commonly called clickers, as a new method for engaging students in university lectures. These mobile phone sized devices have a keypad and use interactive technology that allows students to answer questions posted on PowerPoint slides. With clickers, students can express their views in complete anonymity, and the cumulative view of the class appears on a public screen. Immediate feedback can be given once all students have answered the question in the form of colourful bar graphs, providing a practical way to inform both the students and lecturer whether the students comprehend course content.
Clickers can provide added value when compared to some active learning methods such as class discussion. In a normal class discussion, only one or two students have the opportunity to answer a question. Even if the answer is correct, the lecturer has no way to gauge if the other students knew the correct answer. A student who is unsure of the correct answer may be unwilling to take the public risk of being incorrect. Another benefit of clickers over traditional active learning methods is that they follow the principles of game based learning. There may also be excitement associated with this technology because of its use on TV game shows such as ‘Millionaire.’
How they work
The clickers were used in conjunction with PowerPoint presentations. Clicker questions were selected from the chapter being discussed in the lecture. This process increased student activity and decreased monotony, as well as highlighting how various chapter concepts were related, integrated, and supported in a summative learning context. The clicker question presentation process was fairly standardized within the PowerPoint slides and was the culmination of an iterative process developed to maximize student involvement, responsibility, positive learning, and student focus.
Some feedback from students included comments such as, “The clickers are great fun to use”, “I am learning so much more through using clickers”, “Helps to get better understanding of material”, and “Gets class involved”.
Not surprising, interactivity was one of the most highly cited benefits of the student response system. Students highlighted that the use of the student response system increased their involvement in the class, helped to promote more class participation, allowed them to get immediate feedback, and enabled them to assess their understanding relative to those of the other students. A surprising finding was how important anonymity was to students, with one student explaining “anonymity is great, no fear of humiliation if I get a question wrong". The anonymity feature of the SRS increased students’ willingness to participate in the class.
This trial proved to be successful and the results demonstrated that the student response systems can significantly improve participation and interactivity in the classroom. On the back of the trial the School of Business has rolled out clickers across all the School’s modules.
Last updated: November 23, 2011