The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Learning Technology Center (LTC) recently conducted a study regarding the use of the student response system, or “clickers,” in the classroom.
Clickers were introduced at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee campus last semester. About 5,000 students and over 20 instructors on campus currently use them.
The system consists of a wireless device that allows students to respond to a variety of different questions posed by their instructors.
“We haven’t completed the analysis yet, but students seemed to enjoy the new technology,” Tanya Joosten, an instructor from the LTC, said.
The study, which was made possible by a grant from the UW System, took place on four UW campuses: Milwaukee, Eau Claire, Oshkosh and Whitewater.
Of the 2,684 students who participated in the study, nearly 70 percent agreed that clickers made them feel more involved and engaged in their classes while over 80 percent agreed that the system was easy to use.
According to Joosten, the system is beneficial in both large lecture and small discussion classes. Students in larger lectures benefit due to the fact that clickers allow more students to answer their instructor’s questions. Students in small discussions are allowed to anonymously participate in classes where they may be afraid of agreeing with a controversial position on a topic.
Not all students are happy with new technology, however.
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee junior Brendon Bain is skeptical of the effectiveness of clickers due to his experience with the system in his digital art course.
“My professor said we would use the clickers for answering questions about reading assignments so that she could better understand what she needed to teach more,” Bain said. “She only used them to quiz us on what image we responded to most, which made it seem like a ploy to take attendance.”
Bain also spoke of a fellow student whose class used the clickers daily to take attendance. The student did not realize until six weeks into the course that hers was not working correctly and therefore not recording that she had been in class.
Joosten admits that, like any new technology, the student response system has its flaws.
According to the LTC’s study, some students and teachers have a difficulty with the clicker’s learning curve.
She also mentioned that all faculty members who use the system are trained in how to use the technology.
According to Bain, the training professors receive may not be rigorous enough.
“The professor did not know how to use them at all,” Bain said. “She had to have a tech come in almost every day to help her work the system.”
Despite individual problems, the student response system appears to be successful at this point of analyzing the study’s data.
Over half of student responses approved of clickers on each question asked by the LTC.
The number of instructors who use the devices on campus has nearly doubled since the fall semester.
Joosten feels that clickers will become integrated into more classes over the coming semesters.
“I’m not sure every class will use them, but most likely they will be seen more in larger lecture courses,” Joosten said.
The LTC’s final data analysis will be offered online at clickers.uwm.edu within the next few months.