E-Learning and Instructional Support (ELIS)
E-Learning and Instructional Support (ELIS) Address

Student Response Systems Untitled Document

A new classroom technology is becoming increasingly popular with students and faculty, the so-called personal or student response systems.  The latest versions of the software/hardware systems have become easy to learn to use and have extended the flexibility with greater numbers of features.

Each student is assigned a transmitter that operates on the same concept as a TV remote.  A receiver/detector logs the signals from each student’s transmitter as they answer a question posed on the projector screen.  Software allows instant graphing of the anonymous responses of the students.    

There are numerous pedagogical reasons to adopt a student response system in a classroom.  Several of the advantages stem from the fact that students enjoy using the system so much.  Because they like using the system, they are more likely to attend class regularly.  Because they expect questions to be posed on the course material being covered, they pay attention better during class.  The fun the students have using the system makes for better learning.  These benefits accrue regardless whether the course is one for majors or non-majors.  For students taking a course outside of their major, these systems are especially useful in helping students become more intrigued with the course content.

Additional benefits:

1) They improve communication in the class.  Because the use of the clickers is anonymous, those students who are quiet and/or shy participate.  So the instructor receives feedback and opinions from all students, not just the few most vocal.  Questions can be posed that require thought and all students are required to think through to an answer in order to respond. 

2) They provide instant feedback to students about their level of understanding and how they stack up against other students.  But, an individual’s information is available only to the individual and it can come each class period rather than episodically with quizzes and mid-term exams.  This spurs students to keep up with course content. 

3) SRS systems provide real-time feedback to the teacher.  Misconceptions can be identified and corrected immediately.  You can determine if most students understand a difficult concept.  Posing provocative questions can initiate more lively class discussions.

4) You can assign grades to the answers.  Sometimes students are apprehensive about science classes and are so anxious during formal quizzes and exams that they are unable to demonstrate what they know.  Students are more relaxed for one or two graded questions that appear scattered throughout each class period.

Necessary equipment:

  • Student clickers (transmitters)
  • Detector/receiver (usually with separate power supply)
  • Computer
  • Connecting cable
  • Software

Many of the companies provide the software for free and charge for the hardware.  OU does not provide hardware in classrooms at this time.  However, you may ask Classroom Support to download the software to a classroom computer via the normal service request form.  It takes no more time to set up in the classroom than for any other classroom use of computers. 

The detector, computer, and cable must be purchased for use by the instructor in the classroom.  Clickers can either be provided for the students or the students can be required to purchase them themselves.  They can be made available through bookstores.  Or, many textbook publishers now incorporate the cost of the clicker as part of the supplemental materials accompanying a textbook.  Selected textbooks are already providing SRS questions tied to the textbook material the same way they provide test bank questions.

Vendors of student response systems

The first three operate on infrared technology and the last one on radio frequency.  The manufacturers or textbook publishers will provide tutorials and workshops on request as long as you have purchased the hardware or are using the textbook in your class. 

The software packages operate in conjunction with or within other programs.  A PowerPoint slide can become a question integrated among other slides.  The individual clicker identification is matched to the student assigned to that clicker.  So, results can be moved into a grade sheet automatically.  Results can be printed in different formats or moved into Excel, or the grade sheets of systems like WebCT.  A roster that matches clickers to students can be created by the instructor or via a couple of approaches to registration – one online or during a registration classroom session at the beginning of a term.

Finally, what is the main reason for using a student response system?  It is fun for the instructor too!  The satisfaction of using a solution to some of the long-standing problems in creating the best possible learning environment makes going through the learning curve to use a new classroom technology worth it.

adapted from Student Response Systems By Dagmar Cronn
Spring Issue 2006, Oakland University Teaching and Learning Newsletter
A Publication of the Senate Teaching and Learning Committee