August 12, 2005
Students zap their way to improved education
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. Purdue University is pushing the trend of using "clickers" handheld, remote control-like student feedback devices to the next level by wiring computers in every campus learning space to use the devices.
The interactive response system consists of a radio frequency receiver in the classroom, response pads in the hands of students and a versatile software package that allows quizzing, polling and more. Instructors credit clickers with improving student attentiveness, participation and attitude. Professors use the system to take attendance, play learning games and instantly assess students' comprehension of their lecture. The real-time evaluation of academic progress makes a difference for students.
"It increases the overall pass rate and narrows the gap between the most successful and least successful students," said Tolga Akcura, an assistant professor of marketing in Purdue's Krannert School of Management.
Purdue is the first major university in the nation to license systemwide use of the radio frequency response pads, according to vendor eInstruction. This means students can carry one "universal" clicker and not one for each course.
Information Technology at Purdue (ITaP) selected an upgraded system after conducting a statewide forum examining the benefits.
"A unified system lowers costs and increases ease of use for students and is easier for us to maintain than hodgepodge implementation," said Ed Evans, ITaP director of learning spaces.
Initially skeptical, Brian Geddes quickly grew to love the system as both a Purdue student and teaching assistant. Purdue's use of radio frequency technology, instead of the infrared used at many institutions, reduces the number of receivers needed and amount of interference. The system allows up to 1,000 students to simultaneously provide feedback that can be compiled instantaneously into easy-to-understand graphics.
"I quickly found out how well I was absorbing class material, and I saw where the rest of the class stood as well," Geddes said about the clicker, which he said allowed him to more efficiently budget his studying and lesson planning time. "My professor could identify which sections of the course material to cover in greater detail based on the results of quizzes we took using clickers."
Purdue signed up for systemwide use on all of its campuses last October and began installation in January. Purdue's use of a single $12 clicker, instead of a separate clicker for each class, is lowering costs and increasing ease of use for the university and students. That's speeding the clicker's deployment. The number of Purdue students using clickers this semester will more than triple to almost 8,000.
"In classrooms across the country, students are indicating they are more likely to come to class and are empowered to participate," said Darrell Ward, president and CEO of eInstruction, the nation's top supplier of the technology, which, in a partnership with McGraw Hill, has placed clickers at more than 600 institutions.
Evans will discuss the challenges and benefits to extending classroom response systems on Oct. 15 in Orlando at the international EDUCAUSE 2005 conference. EDUCAUSE is an association that promotes the use of information technology in higher education.
Writer: Jim Schenke, (765) 494-6262, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sources: Ed Evans, ITaP Director of Learning Spaces, (765) 496-6496, email@example.com
Tolga Akcura, Purdue assistant professor of management, (765) 496-6773, firstname.lastname@example.org
Brian Geddes, (410) 591-6595, email@example.com
Darrell Ward, (888) 707-6819, firstname.lastname@example.org
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; email@example.com
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