Response systems create interactivity between a presenter and his or her audience. In educational settings, such systems are often called "Student Response Systems." The hand-held remote control that students use to convey their responses to questions is often called a "remote" or a "clicker."

 

Each remote communicates with a computer via one or more receivers located around the room or connected to the presenter's computer with a USB cable. Typically, the results are made instantly available to the participants via a graph projected on a screen.

 

 

 

The Process

Benefits

History

Hardware

Research Studies


 

The presenter uses a computer and a projector to display a presentation for the audience to see. In the most common use of such audience response systems, presentation slides display questions with several possible correct answers, more commonly referred to as multiple choice questions.

 

The audience participates by selecting the answer they believe to be correct and by pressing the corresponding button on their remote. Their answer is then sent to a receiver that is connected to the presenter's computer. The audience response software collects the results, and the aggregate data is graphically displayed within the presentation for all to see. Some remotes also have additional buttons, allowing the presenter to ask (and audience members to answer) True/False questions or even survey questions.

Depending on the presenter's requirements, the data can either be collected anonymously or it can be traced to individual participants in circumstances where tracking is required (e.g., classroom quizzes, homework, or questions that ultimately count towards a student's course grade). Incoming data may also be stored on the host computer, and data reports can be created after the presentation for further analysis.

 

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There are many reasons for the increasing use of audience response systems (ARS). The tendency to answer based on crowd psychology is reduced because, unlike hand raising, it is difficult to see which selection others are making. The ARS also allows for faster tabulation of answers for large groups than manual methods. Additionally, many college professors use ARS systems to take attendance or even grade answers in large lecture halls, which would be highly time-consuming without the system.

Improve Attentiveness

 

In a study done at four University of Wisconsin campuses (University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire, University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh, and University of Wisconsin–Whitewater), faculty members and students in courses using clickers were given a survey that assessed their attitudes about clicker use in Fall 2005 and its effect on teaching and learning. Of the 27 faculty members who responded to the survey, 94 percent either agreed or strongly agreed with the claim "Clickers increased student engagement in the classroom," with the remaining six percent responding that they were neutral about that claim. (None of the faculty respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed with the claim.) Similarly, 69 percent of the 2,684 student respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the claim "Clickers led me to become engaged in class," with only 13 percent disagreeing or strongly disagreeing with that claim (1).

 

 

Increase Knowledge Retention

 

In the same University of Wisconsin study, 74 percent of the faculty respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the claim "Clickers have been beneficial to my students' learning," with the remaining 26 percent choosing a "neutral" response. (No faculty respondent disagreed or strongly disagreed with the claim.) Similarly, 53 percent of the student respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the claim "Clickers have been beneficial to my learning," with only 19 percent disagreeing or strongly disagreeing with that claim (2). In a different but related study, Catherine Crouch and Eric Mazur more directly measured the results of Peer Instruction and "ConcepTests" on student learning and retention of information at the end of a semester.

 

Faculty members using this "Peer Instruction" pedagogical technique present information to students, then ask the students a question that tests their understanding of a key concept. Students indicate their answer to the instructor using an audience response system, and then they discuss with their fellow students why they chose a particular answer, trying to explain to one another their underlying thinking. The instructor then asks the question again to see the new student results (3). The study authors used scanned forms and hand-raising for audience response in the initial year of the study, and then they switched to a computer-based audience response system in the following years.

The "clicker" use was only part of a multi-pronged attempt to introduce peer instruction, but overall they found that "the students taught with Peer Iinstruction significantly outperformed the students taught traditionally on two standard tests - the "Force Concept Inventory and the Mechanics Baseline Test" - and on traditional course exams as well (4). A Johns Hopkins study on the use of audience response systems in Continuing Medical Education (CME) for physicians and other health personnel found no significant difference in knowledge scores between ARS and non-ARS participants in a clinical round table trial involving 42 programs across the United States (5).

 

Students indicate their answer to the instructor using an audience response system, and then they discuss with their fellow students why they chose a particular answer, trying to explain to one another their underlying thinking. The instructor then asks the question again to see the new student results. The study authors used scanned forms and hand-raising for audience response in the initial year of the study, and then they switched to a computer-based audience response system in the following years.

 

The "clicker" use was only part of a multi-pronged attempt to introduce peer instruction, but overall they found that "the students taught using peer instruction significantly outperformed the students taught traditionally" on two standard tests - the "Force Concept Inventory and the Mechanics Baseline Test" - and on traditional course exams as well. A Johns Hopkins study on the use of audience response systems in Continuing Medical Education (CME) for physicians and other health personnel found no significant difference in knowledge scores between ARS and non-ARS participants in a clinical round table trial involving 42 programs across the United States.

 

 

Poll Anonymously

 

Unlike a show of hands or a raising of cards with letters on them, sending responses by hand-held remotes is much more anonymous. Except perhaps for a student (our audience member) who watches what the person next to him/her submits, the other students (or audience members) can't really see what response his/her fellow audience members are giving, and the software that summarizes the results aggregates the responses, listing what percent of respondents chose a particular answer, but not what individual respondents said. With some audience response systems, the software allows you to ask questions in truly anonymous mode, so that the database (or "gradebook") is not even associating answers with individual respondents.

 

 

Track Individual Responses

 

The "clickers" that audience members use to send their responses to the receiver (and thus to the presenter's computer) are often registered to a particular user, with some kind of identifying number. When a user sends his/her response, the information is stored in a database (sometimes called the "Gradebook" in academic models of audience response systems) associated with each particular number, and presenters have access to that information after the end of the interactive session. Audience response systems can often be linked to a Learning management system, which increases the ability to keep track of individual student performance in an academic setting.

 

 

Display Polling Results Immediately

 

The audience response system includes software that runs on the presenter's computer that records and tabulates the responses by audience members. Generally, once a question has ended (polling from the audience has ceased), the software displays a bar chart indicating what percent of audience members chose the various possible responses. For questions with right/wrong answers, audience members can get immediate feedback about whether they chose the correct answer, since it can be indicated on the bar chart. For survey-type polling questions, audience members can see from the summary how many other audience members chose the same response, along with how many audience members (or what percent of the audience) chose different responses.

 

 

Create an Interactive and Fun Learning Environment

 

Clickers are in many ways novel devices, so the novelty itself can add interest to the learning environment. More important, though, is the interactive nature of audience response systems. Having been asked a particular question about a concept or opinion, students are genuinely interested in seeing the results. They want to learn if they answered the question correctly, and they want to see how their response compares to the responses of their fellow audience members (6). The increased student engagement cited in the University of Wisconsin study attests to the ability of audience response systems to improve the learning environment.

 

 

Confirm audience understanding of key points immediately

 

In the University of Wisconsin study previously cited, faculty members were unanimous in their recognition of this key advantage of audience response systems. In other words, 100% of the faculty respondents either agreed or strongly agreed with the claim "Clickers allowed me to assess student knowledge on a particular concept.". Students also recognized this benefit for their own self-assessment. 75% of student respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the claim, "Clickers helped me get instant feedback on what I knew and didn't know."(2)

 

 

Gather data for reporting and analysis

 

Unlike other forms of audience participation (such as a show of hands or holding up of response cards), audience response systems use software to record audience responses, and those responses are stored in a database. Database entries are linked to a particular user, based on some ID number entered into the handheld remote device or based on a registration between the user and the company that manufactures the handheld device. Answers can be analyzed over time, and the data can be used for educational research or other forms of analysis.

 

 

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Since the 1960s, a number of companies have offered Audience/Personal Response Systems, several of whom are now defunct or changed their business model.

Circa 1966, Audience Studies Institute of Hollywood, California developed a proprietary analog ARS system for evaluating the response of a theater audience to unreleased motion pictures, television shows and commercials. This early ARS was used by ASI's clients - major motion picture and television studios and advertising agencies - to evaluate the effectiveness of whatever it was they wanted to accomplish: for example, selling more products, increasing movie ticket sales, and achieving a higher fee per commercial slot. Often, a client would show different versions to different audiences, e.g. different movie endings, to gauge their relative effectiveness. ASI would give out free tickets on the street to bring people into the theater, called the "Preview House," for particular showings where each attendee would fill out a questionnaire and then be placed in a seat with a "dial" handset outfitted with a single knob that each attendee would turn to a position to indicate his or her level of interest: turning the knob all the way left for "dull" to turning all the way to the right for "great." In 1976, ASI upgraded their system to become fully digital, have Yes/No buttons and, in some cases, numeric keys for entering in numbers, choices and monetary amounts.

Another of the industry’s very earliest systems was the Consensor. In the late 1960s, Bill Simmons, a recently retired IBM executive, reflected on how unproductive most meetings were and built a system to improve them. He named his brainchild the Consensor. In 1972 he applied for a patent, which was granted in 1974.

The Consensor was a system of dials, wires, and three lights; red, yellow, and green. A question was asked verbally and people would turn their dials anywhere from 0 to 10. If the majority agreed, the green lamp would light. If not, either the yellow or red lamp would light, depending on the level of disagreement.

Simmons teamed with a couple of others to form Applied Futures, one of the very first Audience Response companies. Although business was strong for this fledgling company, the Command and Control management style of the day proved a formidable opponent to this new tool, which promoted consensus building.

One of the early educational uses of an audience response system occurred at Rice University.[8] Students in a computer-equipped classroom were able to rate how well they understood portions of a lecture, answer multiple choice questions, and answer short essay questions. Results could be tallied and displayed to the class.

Audience response technology has evolved over time, moving away from hardware that required extensive wiring towards hand held wireless devices and small, portable receivers.

Responding to Microsoft's dominance in presentation software, companies that produce audience response systems often provide a plug-in to PowerPoint along with proprietary question-generation software, making it easier for teachers, professors, and office professionals to integrate audience response into their presentations.

 

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The majority of current audience response systems use wireless hardware. Two primary technologies exist to transmit data from the keypads to the base stations: infrared (IR) and radio frequency (RF). A few companies also offer Web-based software that routes the data over the Internet (sometimes in a unified system with IR and RF equipment). Cell phone-based systems are also becoming available.


Infrared (IR)

The oldest of these technologies, IR audience response systems are better suited for smaller groups. IR uses the same technology as a TV remote, and is therefore the only one of the four technologies that requires line-of-sight between the keypad and receiver. This works well for a single keypad but can fail due to interference when signals from multiple keypads arrive simultaneously at the receiver. IR systems are typically more affordable than RF systems, but do not provide information back to the keypad.


Radio frequency (RF)

Ideal for large group environments, RF systems can accommodate hundreds of voters on a single base station. Using some systems, multiple base stations can be linked together in order to handle audiences that number in the thousands. Other systems allow over a thousand on just one base. Because the data travels via radio frequency, the participant merely needs to be within range of the base station (300 - 500 feet). Some advanced models can accommodate additional features, such as short word answers, user log-in capabilities, and even multi-site polling.


Internet

Web-based audience response systems work with the participants' existing computing devices. These include notebook computers and PDAs, which are typically connected to the Internet via Wi-Fi, as well as classroom desktop computers. If the facilitator's computer is also Wi-Fi-enabled, they can even create their own IP network, allowing a closed system that doesn't depend on a separate base station. The web server resides on or is accessible to the facilitator's computer, letting them control a set of web pages presenting questions. Participants log in to the server using web browsers and see the questions with forms to input their responses. The summarized responses are available on a different set of pages, which can be displayed through the projector and also on each participant's device.

 

 

Software

Audience response software enables the presenter to collect participant data, display graphical polling results, and export the data to be used in reporting and analysis. Usually the presenter can create and deliver her entire presentation with the ARS software, either as a stand-alone presentation platform or as a plug-in to PowerPoint or Keynote.

 

 

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Learn about research that others have done to prove the effectiveness of student response systems like Beyond Question.

 

 

 

 

 

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1 - Kaleta, Robert, and Joosten, Tanya. "Student Response Systems: A University of Wisconsin System Study of Clickers," Educause Center for Applied Research Research Bulletin. Vol. 2007, Issue 10, May 8, 2007, pp. 4–6. A public version of the information, in the form of a PowerPoint presentation about the findings, is available at: http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/EDU06283.pdf.

2 - Kaleta, Robert, and Joosten, Tanya. "Student Response Systems: A University of Wisconsin System Study of Clickers," Educause Center for Applied Research Research Bulletin. Vol. 2007, Issue 10, May 8, 2007, pp. 6–7. A public version of the information, in the form of a PowerPoint presentation about the findings, is available at: http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/EDU06283.pdf.

3 - Crouch, Catherine H., and Mazur, Eric. "Peer Instruction: Ten years of experience and results." Am. J. Phys. Vol. 69, No. 9, September 2001. p. 970. Available at http://www4.uwm.edu/ltc/srs/faculty/docs/Mazur_Harvard_SRS2.pdf

4 - Crouch, Catherine H., and Mazur, Eric. "Peer Instruction: Ten years of experience and results." Am. J. Phys. Vol. 69, No. 9, September 2001. pp. 971–72.

5 - Miller, Redonda G., Ashar, Bimal H. and Getz, Kelly J. "Evaluation of an audience response system for the continuing education of health professionals." Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions. Vol. 23, No. 2, 2003. pp.109–115. Abstract at http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/110478084/abstract

6 - Beatty, Ian. "Transforming Student Learning with Classroom Communication Systems," Educause Center for Applied Research Research Bulletin. Volume 2004, Issue 3 (February 3, 2004), p. 5. Available online at http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ERB0403.pdf.

7 - Lane, David, and Atlas, Robert. "The Networked Classroom," Paper presented at the 1996 meeting of Computers and Psychology, York, UK, March 1996.

 

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