I use a student response system (clickers) in all my modules at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. Enrolment for undergraduate modules varies from 120 to 330 students and at postgraduate level, 40 students. Large enrolment and complex material provide the perfect environment for the use of clickers. Students are more apt to attend, prepare, stay abreast, and involve themselves if there is a daily consequence for doing otherwise—which clicker technology facilitates well. I found that clickers provide both students and the lecturer with timely and ongoing feedback regarding comprehension of the course material and content.
With clickers, students have an input device that lets them express their views in complete anonymity, and the cumulative view of the class appears on a public screen. 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. One of the best features of clickers is that it allows students to provide input without fear of public humiliation and without having to worry about more vocal students dominating the discussion. Another benefit of clickers over traditional active learning methods is that they follow the principles of game based learning. This complements today’s students who have grown up using computer games for learning and entertainment.
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Fun in the lecture theatre…
Fun is another benefit of using clickers. Students have stated that clickers “complement the lectures,” “introduces activities during the lectures,” and “makes the lectures more interesting.” Students also believed that with the help of clickers, I was able to explain course materials better. Overall, they felt that the use of clickers in the lecture promoted interactivity and learning.
Impact on module results…
The use of clickers has had a significant grade impact for my modules. The class average (final module result) for most modules increased by 8%. I found that clickers draw students into the course material through active engagement and active learning. Modern students are primarily active learners, and current lectures may be increasingly out of touch with how students engage their world. A relatively new technology, clickers offer one approach to employing active learning in the classroom.
I have come to the conclusion that there is a huge amount that can be done by individual teachers to help deepen the learning of their students and greatly augment their own professional satisfaction. For example, using a new technology invigorated my approach to teaching. I would encourage lecturers to engage with their students and seek feedback over the course of their modules. This simple act assists in getting the students involved in the module. Just as a person can post comments using a pseudo-name to another’s Twitter page, or in a chat room, a student can answer a question using clickers without anyone but that student knowing his/her response. The current generation of students, digital natives or members of Generation Next that were born between 1981 and the 1990s, who have always known mobile phones, computers and the Internet, are more likely to interact in class if they can use a device to mediate classroom apprehension.
My experience with students and clickers has been positive and now I am wondering why are students engaging with clickers?