CPS clickers:

Tara Halbritter

Tara Halbritter

Instructors of introductory biology courses have thrown out the traditional pencil and paper and are taking a new approach to administering quizzes.

Last semester, Biology 103 and 151 began using new Classroom Performance System “clickers,” which allow students to take quizzes with the press of a button. They are now being used by all introductory biology courses this semester.

Students purchased the clickers, which look like blue remote controls, at the bookstore at the beginning of the semester for $6. They then went online to E-Instruction’s Web site and registered the clicker via the Internet. The registration fee to activate the clicker was $15. Once that was completed, the student could use the clicker.

Instructors post a multiple-choice or true-and-false question on the screen and students use the clickers to point to one of six receivers and press the letter corresponding with the answer that they think is correct. One quiz question usually takes about a minute to complete. Instant results are formulated and the students know whether or not they answered correctly.

This technology is used only in Rotunda D. Six receivers are situated around the room, so not everyone has to point at the same one. However, these receivers can become overloaded and not record all of the students’ responses.

Carol Wake, a biology instructor, said the receivers were upgraded between semesters. There were previously only four receivers in the classroom. Now there are six that are of higher quality.

While some students feel these quizzes are a pain, it’s the instructors who are actually doing most of the work. Just like power-point presentations, teachers must prepare their questions before each class period.

The department uses a software program called E-Instruction that allows them to write their own questions and possible answers. Biology instructor Nels Troelstrup said the software is pretty simple to use. He formulates questions to ask before each class and sets aside a few minutes during class for clicker questions.

“It’s really not that tough,” Troelstrup said.

Wake said this approach is the technological version of what she has done on paper in the past. She said it does take some extra time in class for the clicker questions.

“Time is a factor, but I think it’s worth the time,” she said.

Troelstrup said the technology is being used to help students perform better and to help the instructor get key points across during lecture

“It’s not intended to be a pain,” he said. “It’s not for me, it’s for them.”

Some technical difficulties have occurred with the clickers.

“The first semester we used them, there were a number of clickers that didn’t work,” said Wake.

She said the situations were often frustrating, but only a very small percentage of the devices malfunctioned. She said the company that sells the clickers does an exceptional job of standing behind their product.

Wake also said, “The student technical support line has been very good.”

One advantage of this technology is that it has allowed instructors to receive instant feedback. The results of the quiz let instructors know if they need to touch on some parts of the lecture again. Troelstrup, like many other instructors in every department, has tried in the past to get feedback through paper. Unfortunately, that method wasn’t very efficient and it could take a couple of days to get results.

“We’re constantly seeking feedback,” he said. “It’s hard to get a clear vision if points are getting across.”

Troelstrup and Wake both suggest that students may feel more comfortable providing feedback when they are anonymous. This method of taking quizzes allows students to do just that.

“It’s tough to get students to raise their hands and ask questions,” said Troelstrup.

Since Wake introduced this technology into her classroom, she said students are encouraged to pay better attention and to be prepared for questions that might be asked. She also said it loosens up the class and promotes open dialogue.

“I get more verbal response now,” she said.

Troelstrup says another advantage this system brings is that students will be prepared for test questions. The questions that are presented during class are probably the type of questions one would see on an exam. He said he thinks students are now more likely to focus on the material and not on the questions that’ll be asked.

“Back in the day, when I was a student, I was never sure what I’d see on an exam,” he said.

Some students think the clickers are not so useful.

“I think it’s an inadequate way to take a quiz. It’s just another thing we have to buy,” said senior Joe Schaefer.

And some students believe the clickers are used to get students to attend class.

“The clickers are an ineffective way to take attendance. I think that’s what they’re trying to do,” said freshman Sarah Javers.

Other students said the clickers help them prepare for the course.

“These are easy points, and the results let me know if I need to study some more or if I can go fishing,” said junior Casey Dowler.

Whether students like it or not, other departments at SDSU are considering similar technology. Wake said the chemistry and psychology departments are exploring their options.

#1.885414:1749007171.jpg:bioclicker.jpg:Introductory biology courses are now using this device for class quizzes.: