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Professor Mark Courtright uses clickers for peer evaluation

Written by Caroline Klidonas, junior Acting major and Creative Writing minor

Professor Mark Courtright is finding ways to amp up student involvement in class presentations in his Business Communications class. How? You guessed it—with clickers! I met with him to find out firsthand just how he’s managed this.

Q: What specific ways have you used the clickers in class?

Professor Courtright’s Business Communications class explored doing business in other cultures. The class was divided into five groups of four for a project that culminated in a class presentation. Prior to the presentation, he gave the students a rubric with six categories on which to be evaluated.

Class presentation categories included:

1. Collaboration
2. Organization
3. Content and Preparedness
4. Visuals
5. Mechanics and Formatting
6. Question and Answer Techniques

Class Evaluation
At the end of the presentations, Professor Courtright showed the class a PowerPoint presentation with slides for each of the team country names, and the categories from the rubric. When he flashed a slide with a specific rubric category, the students rated the team in question from one to four with their clickers (four being the best). They completed this for each element of evaluation on the rubric, for each team.

Comparison of Scores
Professor Courtright didn’t stop there, however. Taking into consideration that students were evaluating their peers, Professor Courtright compared an indexed value of the average scores with his indexed value. He then weighted their index value at 30% and his at 70% and calculated a weighted score for each team’s presentation evaluation. “The way it really worked well was the fact that…they sort of flattened out the results by mostly fours and threes,” Professor Courtright reflects. “It made me go back in a couple cases, where I really downgraded my evaluation. I didn’t change my evaluation, but their moderating effect pulled the grade up.” Overall, Professor Courtright thinks, “it was a good balancing compensation aspect.”

When all of the normalizing calculations, as well as other parts of the team project were said and done, the student clicker evaluations weighed in at 20% of the overall project grade.

Q: Do you plan on applying the clickers in this way again?

“Yes, probably in about two weeks,” Professor Courtright responds without hesitation, but he will be tweaking the process this time.

Formal Business Analysis
This assignment is a formal business analysis, resulting in an individual presentation on whether or not students think they should buy a particular, randomly assigned company. For this assignment, Professor Courtright says that the rubric will be more “outcome-based,” asking the ultimate question, “were they credible?” The rest of the class will be on a hypothetical company board, deciding if they agree with the presentation to buy or not. Each student will receive the class feedback on the effectiveness of their argument. In addition, this time the student evaluations will account for closer to 40% of their final project grade.

Student Responses
Here is where things get interesting: whereas before the clicker evaluations were anonymous, now they will be assigned. In addition, the last question on the rubric will ask the students if they are willing to switch their grade with the student they have just evaluated. “It’s a reality check,” Professor Courtright explains. “If you say all these [rubric categories] are fours, and then you say you wouldn’t take the grade, that gives me an indication when I go back and weight it.”

Q: What difficulties did you or the students have with the clickers?

As a warm up for the students, Professor Courtright employed some of the exercises Dan Reis, Instructional Technologist in TLT, showed him in the clicker training session; the students caught on quickly, without any specific issues.

“My difficulty was when I went back to get the data, I didn’t know that there was a little app that you clicked on that pulled it all up, refined. At first I couldn’t find it; I found only raw data. I was panicking,” Professor Courtright says. To resolve this issue, he called Dan Reis, and learned that “iClicker Grader” was the app that he was looking for. Professor Courtright had the application installed but was unaware of how to locate the data.

Final Thoughts
Professor Courtright is still trying to work out ways to compensate for the students’ tendency to grade towards the four on the rubric. “I haven’t figured out if there’s a way to…say you’re limited to “x” number of fours. I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to put a ceiling on it, but I do want some realism.”

In addition, due to the formal nature of business writing, in which opinion-stating is null, Professor Courtright has yet to find a way to apply the clickers to “free-flow information.” He hopes to tackle this more “on-the-fly” application of the clickers next semester. “But for evaluating the performance, I think it’s really good,” Professor Courtright concludes.

The questions Professor Courtright is asking demonstrate that clicker use in the classroom is a dynamic learning process for both professors and students. All it takes is some healthy curiosity and a willingness to try new things in order to uncover the true benefits of this classroom tool.

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Dr. Amy Hogan: Clickers for Attendance, Discussion and Testing (no Scantrons!)

Written by Lori Schachle second year Honors Fellow majoring in Public Administration, minoring in Communications, Leadership and Management.

Amy HoganDr. Amy Hogan, Assistant Professor of Psychology, has always been intrigued by technology’s role in learning. Her research interests include interface design, the interaction of language and technology, and the application of new research methodology. This semester, she was able to merge her interests with her passion for teaching through TLT’s Clicker Pilot Program. Amy is one of several clicker pioneers testing out various uses for clickers. I met with Dr. Hogan to find out more.

Why did you start to use clickers in the pilot program?

Dr. Hogan has always been interested in incorporating technology in the classroom. In her previous experiences with the older clicker system, she had found that they were challenging to setup. However, upon hearing about the TLT’s pilot program for newer and simpler clicker systems, she decided to try them out and see how she could coordinate this new technology with her current teaching style.

What are some of the specific ways you use clickers in class; you mentioned earlier tests and during lectures?

Dr. Hogan has been using the clickers in many ways for her psychology classes, from day-to-day attendance to multiple choice exams.
Posing a material-related question at the beginning of the class not only allows her to tally attendance based on responses, but to prepare the students for open discussion as well. Because the new clicker system gives her immediate results, Hogan can easily take attendance as the students begin to use the clicker question as a springboard for discussion.  Hogan also uses the clickers for formative assessment, in measuring whether or not students understand the material presented during class. “Often I’ll pose a question and if a lot of people are not really getting it, then I can use that as a tool to keep trying to get that material understood and I can come at if from different ways before moving on to the next topic,” she says. This technique, in conjunction with the discussions, allows her to engage students while ensuring that they fully understand the material. “It’s not just testing knowledge but also using it as a discussion tool to gauge if they’re really interacting with, and understanding, the material or not,” she explains.  Hogan has even been using the clickers in place of Scantrons. Though students still work through and answer questions on the paper version of the test as a backup, they submit their final answers via clickers. This allows Hogan to get immediate feedback and post the results as soon as the class finishes the exam.

In using the clickers to stimulate discussions in class, do you think this has changed your teaching style?

While the clickers haven’t changed her teaching style in terms of discussions, the new system does offer more opportunities for students to participate in a variety of ways. “The good thing about the clickers is that even the shy students can put their voice forward, especially if we’re talking about sensitive subjects,” she says. Hogan realized that only a few students consistently speak up in class, but with the addition of clickers, students who are more reluctant to speak in class can put forth opinions that otherwise might not have been brought up. This can lead to deeper discussions that expose students to a variety of opinions and show Hogan where students stand in terms of exploring the material critically and analytically. “It’s helped me have a more informed take on the room,” she notes.

What advice would you offer to other faculty who are interested in using clickers?

Hogan assures other faculty interested in using clickers that the new iClicker system is easy to set up and run, even for those who may not be as technologically-minded.  However, using the clickers effectively in class is a bit more of a challenge. “I realized that adding in the extra questions and gauging the room is taking more time than I anticipated,” she notes. She found that discussion questions, attendance questions, and covering certain topics in more depth have thrown off the schedule for material a little. To counteract this, Hogan had to ask more strategic questions that compel students to arrive at analytical conclusions faster.

Have there been any downsides to using the clickers? You mentioned that the technology was fairly easy, but have students been confused or frustrated with the new technology?

After the first exam in which she used clickers in place of the traditional Scantrons, Hogan was concerned that students might be frustrated or stressed by using the clickers to submit responses. After asking for feedback, Hogan found that an overwhelming majority of students had a positive response to the new clicker system. “The students said the clickers were easy to use, that they would like to use them for subsequent tests. They liked the fact that literally I close the poll and I have the results right there and then. I can post to Moodle within five minutes,” she explains.

Is there anything more about your experience with clickers that you’d like to let us know?

Hogan says that her experience with the clickers has been very positive. “There are definitely things I would change in subsequent semesters but it’s kind of part of the learning process, as in giving myself more time and thinking about the types of questions that can really get at deeper learning,” she says. Overall the use of clickers has enhanced her experience in the classroom and she would recommend them to any professor looking to integrate technology with an engaging teaching style.

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LectureTools: An engaging presentation tool to use in the classroom

Jim Barbour, associate professor of economics, uses LectureTools in his introductory-level courses.

Jim Barbour, chair of the economics department and associate professor of economics, uses LectureTools in his introductory-level courses.

While searching for an alternative to clickers to use in his classes, Jim Barbour, chair of the economics department and associate professor of economics, stumbled upon LectureTools.

Run by a five-person team in Ann Arbor, Mich., LectureTools is an engaging, web-based program that allows instructors to create interactive presentations.

“I was looking for something that was more robust,” Barbour said. “Think of [LectureTools] as a combination of clickers, Facebook and Twitter all rolled into one.”


Special Features

By uploading preexisting PowerPoint presentations to LectureTools, instructors can enhance classroom materials by incorporating multiple-choice, short-answer or ordering questions, as well as images and videos onto slides. Students can access presentations on their own devices by logging in to the program.

“All of this is like a clicker on steroids,” Barbour said. “But now, you don’t have to keep track of the clickers, and you don’t have to charge them up.”

Instructors can incorporate multiple-choice, short-answer or ordering questions, as well as images and videos onto slides.

Instructors can enhance classroom materials by incorporating multiple-choice, short-answer or ordering questions, as well as images and videos onto slides.

LectureTools is free for instructors, Barbour said, while students must pay a flat $15 fee at the beginning of the semester.

LectureTools works best on laptops, tablets and smartphones, Barbour said, though students can still participate if he or she has a mobile phone with texting capabilities.

Barbour said out of the seventy-odd students he has had in his LectureTools-based classes, only one did not have a laptop, tablet, smartphone or phone with texting capabilities. Because of this, Barbour is lending his Kindle to the student.

“There are places [students can] checkout [laptops] from the school, so I’ve run into that once out of 74 students,” Barbour said. “It’s probably going to be a problem less and less as we go forward.”

Students can control the view of their individual screens, take notes on slides, mark slides as confusing, bookmark slides to review later and direct questions to instructors by typing inquiries into a comment box.

Students can control the view of their individual screens, take notes on slides, mark slides as confusing, bookmark slides to review later and direct questions to instructors by typing inquiries into a comment box.

While logged in to LectureTools, students can control the view of their individual screens. Students can take notes on the slides, and because the program is web-based, students’ notes are saved online and can be accessed later.

Freshman Michelle Rich, a student in Barbour’s introductory-level economics class, said she likes the flexibility of LectureTools in that it allows her to control what slide is displayed on her screen. She said she likes the interactivity of the technology too, because it helps her to better learn the material.

“LectureTools is helpful, but I am still adapting to this new way of learning,” she said. “I really like how my professor asks us questions through LectureTools because it tests us while we’re learning.”

Students can mark presentation slides as confusing, and they can bookmark slides to review later. Further, students can direct questions to instructors by typing them into a comment box, and professors receive those inquiries instantly.

“It’s another way for me to communicate with the class, and that’s really what I’m interested in because at the core, we are storytelling creatures,” Barbour said. “This allows me to tailor the story as I go to match what the class seems to need. Any good instructor always does that.”

LectureTools records all student activity and converts the data into a report, which is sent to an instructor approximately 20 minutes after class is over.

Some Downsides

Barbour warned LectureTools does have some downsides though. Uploaded PowerPoint slides cannot contain animations, so instructors must remove those from their presentations manually before uploading them. Instructors cannot monitor what is on students’ screens either, so Barbour said he does not know if students are paying attention or if they are browsing Facebook.

Sophomore Lizzie Guillaume, a student in Barbour’s introductory-level economics class, said she appreciates the interactivity of LectureTools but thinks it increases the temptation to search the Web.

Students in Barbour's economics class collaborate on a short-answer question.

Students in Barbour's introductory-level economics class collaborate on a short-answer question.

“I think LectureTools is extremely helpful,” Guillaume said. “It requires all people to be somewhat engaged, and I think it keeps the class organized. However, it also enables people to get distracted with Facebook and other sites on their computers.”

Regardless of its benefits and costs, Barbour said it is important for instructors to remember LectureTools is not a replacement for teaching—it is simply an enhancement.

“Is it the be-all and end-all of teaching classes?” Barbour said. “No, we’re still storytelling creatures, and this doesn’t tell stories. Any good storyteller has props—this is a good prop.”

If you are interested in using LectureTools in your courses and would like some assistance, contact Teaching and Learning Technologies at 336.278.5006 or tlt@elon.edu.

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Dr. Steve Braye: Learning Literature with Clickers

Written by Caroline Klidonas, third-year Honors Fellow majoring in Acting, minoring in Creative Writing.

Professor Stephen Braye, department of English, is one of several clicker pioneers on Elon’s campus. He has been exploring new ways to use them in his Literature class, with hopes for extending their use to his Global Experience class. I met with him to find out more.

Q: When did you start to use the clickers?

Professor Braye began working with the clickers during the first week of classes this semester. Until then, he had never used them before. Thus far, he has only used them in his Literature class for quizzes, which has allowed him to become accustomed to the clickers, as well as make mistakes and work out kinks that slow the class down. For example, when transitioning between questions, sometimes a graph of responses to the previous question appears on the projection screen, instead of the next question. Using the clickers first for small in-class assignments helped Braye learn from these mistakes, in order to employ the clickers more effectively and innovatively in the future.

Q: How else, besides quizzes, do you plan to use the clickers?

He plans to use them to answer issue questions in The Global Experience in order to spark discussion and provide a basis of where the class stands on an issue. The example he gives for an issue question that may be explored is, “Do you think we can use the earth however we want, even if it leads to our own destruction?” For Braye, the value of this is to be able to show the class their peers’ responses and then base a discussion off of that. For example, if two people in the class think that we should be able to use the planet however we want, then that is a point of discussion. It also provides a specific point of view that the entire class can adopt and then discuss from, which may be outside of their comfort zone. “I want to get to the point where [discussion] is more fluid than static,” Braye says.

Q: Do you foresee the clickers changing your teaching style?

Typically, Professor Braye structures his classes so that students discuss with a partner, then in small groups, and then as an entire class. This ensures that everyone is engaged and his or her opinions are heard. “I can see this allowing us to do something more dynamic,” Braye says. “It’s one thing for me to say something and for you to think well, he’s just being devil’s advocate; it’s another thing to say, no, you have people in this classroom who think that’s true.” The clicker data provides a foundation for this evolution of discussion.

Braye is also interested in observing any shifts in opinions by viewing student responses to an issue at the beginning of class and comparing their responses at the end. This leads to “talking more about what knowledge is, rather than something static, but as something active.” The clicker data can help students to see that their opinions can shift. “I just think it would be fun to play with knowledge,” Braye says.

Q: Do you have any advice for other faculty hoping to use the clickers?

In three words: “Small is beautiful.” Braye advises to start small, with things that don’t matter, such as an in-class quiz that can just be thrown away if there is some sort of mistake. As with any new technology, Braye suggests not to do anything that matters until you are completely comfortable with the clickers. “Think about what it can do to help you, and then use them.”

Q: How have the students responded to using the clickers?

“Once I got my routine, they just adapted to it.” Students told Professor Braye they loved using them for quizzes; however, now they associate the clickers with a quiz. Therefore, Braye told them that next time, they will be using them for something else. “It’s been a really easy technology to adapt. I may have wasted two or three minutes total in the three or four times I’ve used them.” Overall, Braye was thrilled to find that he didn’t waste any student time, and will be sure to break the clicker reputation as a quiz tool.

Q: Have you observed any downside to the clickers?

“It doesn’t make life a lot better, unless you’re really able to think about it.” It took Braye some time to grasp the idea of how to employ them as actual student response systems, to view examples of how they are being used, and to think critically and creatively about how he can use them to their fullest potential. The downside to the clickers will be only going so far as using them for quizzes, instead of exploring beyond that. “This is a sophisticated tool if you make it a sophisticated tool.”

Q: Any final thoughts?

A student response system, like the clickers, is an especially useful tool for larger sized classes because they give every student a voice. Students are less likely to be lost in the masses, and their engagement in the course can be more readily monitored. To be able to share with a class the spectrum of what their peers think about an issue, to move past the basic “regurgitation” of information, leaves endless possibilities for discussion and re-imagination of responses.

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Leveraging mobile devices as clickers

GoSoapBox on multiple screens

Web clickers work on a variety of mobile devices, including tablets, smartphones and laptop computers.

Teaching and Learning Technologies (TLT) is piloting new clicker technologies this academic year. Last time, we talked about traditional hardware clickers we are piloting. This post talks about a new kind of clicker that uses the internet and mobile devices.

Web clickers

A web clicker allows students to use their own mobile device to respond to a prompt. The mobile device can be any device with an internet browser and a Wi-Fi connection – any laptop computer, any tablet and nearly any smartphone. Other than the students’ device, no special hardware is required.

Web clicker vendors

Go Soap Box logoThere are many web clickers available right now. Here is a comparison of web-based clickers generated by Poll Everywhere, one of the oldest web clicker companies.  We are partnering with GoSoapBox in our clicker pilot because of its healthy feature set and the ability to manage polls from a mobile device – no computer is required.

Web clickers are recommended for instructors who want:

  • Students to use a laptop, tablet or smartphone in their class
  • To use their own iPad or Android tablet in the classroom
  • Students to contribute short-answer responses in addition to multiple choice responses
  • To create a private backchannel where students can ask questions during a lecture or class discussion
  • To monitor student comprehension in real-time during a course session
  • To create mobile-friendly quizzes that students can complete anytime
  • To encourage students to ask questions and interact outside of class time

Many of the advantages above are true of most web clickers, including GoSoapBox. There are some disadvantages of using student-owned mobile devices and Wi-Fi for clickers.

Disadvantages of web clickers:

  • Access: all students may not have a Wi-Fi enabled mobile device
  • Response time: Student responses can take a few extra seconds to appear
  • Distraction: Students could use their own device for non-academic uses: Facebook, texting, etc.
  • Overload Wi-Fi: Large classes could overload the classroom Wi-Fi and prevent some students from participating

Web enhanced hardware clickers

Many hardware clicker vendors also offer a web clicker option. The vendors in our pilot, TurningPoint and iClicker, give students the option to use their mobile device as a clicker. Students using their mobile device or a traditional clicker will all have a very similar experience – which is good and bad. Good because everyone participates in the same basic polls, regardless of the device they use. Bad because mobile devices can do a lot more than just respond to a multiple-choice question. Web-only clickers have unique features that are possible because everyone is on a mobile device.

What’s next?

Look for upcoming posts with Elon faculty talking about their experiences with clickers.

Interested in trying clickers?

If you are an Elon University instructor and are interested in testing out clickers during the Fall 2012 semester, let us know. We can get you set up with either hardware or web-based clickers and provide assistance with ways to incorporate them into your instruction.

Do you have any experience with any of the clicker systems? Let us know about your experiences in the comments section below.

Image by me…feel free to re-use it under the Creative Commons BY 2.0 license.

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Clickers: New technologies, new opportunities

New signTeaching and Learning Technologies (TLT) is piloting clicker systems, or classroom response systems, during the 2012-2013 academic year. Clickers? Aren’t clickers old news? While clickers have been around for years at Elon, there have been recent advances in the technology that require a new look. While the pedagogical case for clickers is strong, some faculty are hesitant to implement them because of complex software and unavailable hardware. Now, clickers are easier to use and student-owned mobile devices are common in the classroom. This post will focus on the clicker technology used in our pilot and the differences between traditional clickers and newer web-based clickers.

The goal of the pilot is to recommend a campus-wide clicker. The TLT clicker pilot includes two traditional hardware-based clicker system and one new web-based clicker system. The main difference between hardware and web clickers is the device students use to respond to participate. Hardware clickers use a device that works exclusively as a clicker and web clickers use a student-owned smartphone, laptop or mobile device. They each have advantages, but share some features.  Continue reading »

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Clickers in the classroom

The Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning (CATL) Teaching and Learning Technologies (TLT) recently hosted a series of seminars about the use of classroom response systems, or “clickers.” Guest speakers Tony Crider, Resa Walch, Amanda Tapler and Derek Bruff all presented to Elon faculty how they use clickers to improve classroom engagement. Clickers create an interactive component in the classroom by posing questions to students, who can answer with handheld transmitters, and organizing the responses in bars or charts.

Derek Bruff, director of Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching, was one of the guest speakers that TLT and CATL sponsored in February. Derek, the author of , “Teaching with Classroom Response Systems: Creating Active Learning Environments,” is an expert in using clickers in the classroom. For his book’s research, Derek interviewed about 50 faculty members at different universities and discovered numerous ways that clickers can be used. Derek presented a variety of ways that faculty can use clickers:

Quizzes and class participation

Some faculty members that Derek has worked with used clickers to see if their students were following along with the material. Others took it a step further and used clickers for class participation and discussion.

“You can lecture for 15 or 20 minutes and ask a question, but that only confirms that they’re awake,” Derek said. “Ask something that will generate different opinions. Use this to create discussion.”

Another instructor gave clicker quizzes to make sure students were adequately prepared for class and sent students home if they scored under 80%. “The students loved the expectation of preparedness,” Derek said. “She never had to use that penalty more than once.”


One professor found that students were hesitant to give their peers constructive criticism. When he implemented clickers into the classroom, the students could give anonymous critiques. Students rated their peers’ performances with clickers without having to face any sort of embarrassment.

“This opened the door to more productive critiques,” Derek said.

Proving points

In subjects like economics and psychology, clickers can serve as simulations. One psychology instructor showed students ten words related to needles. Later, she surveyed them using clickers and found that many students thought the word “needle” was actually on the list. This served as a starting point for a discussion.

More information about using clickers in the classroom can be found on Derek Bruff’s website, www.derekbruff.org.

If you’re interested in using clickers in your classroom, please contact TLT at 336-278-5006 or tlt@elon.edu. Through Media Services, we have access to several sets of clickers that can be made available for an extended loan period.

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