Academics & Research

Teachers liven classroom with clicking

Students may be surprised to see an extra item on their school supply list soon, as the use of clickers, wireless response devices that allow instructors to collect students’ responses instantly, has become increasingly popular at UH.

“Clickers give students a voice,” assistant professor Lindsay Schwarz  said.

Schwarz said she has been using the clickers in her pharmacy classes.

“For example, if I pose a verbal question and ask for a show of hands, how many hands will go up? Not too many,” She said. “With clickers, student may anonymously respond.  I think clickers keep students focused and attentive, and clickers help me see how I’m doing, with my explanations of the material.”

This semester there are about 43 instructors who are using the clickers; 14 of them are first-time users.

“Clickers have been implemented successfully on campus, and I see that more instructors are inquiring about clicker use and asking for help to implement the clicker technology into their courses,” instructional designer Q. Park said.

Clickers were introduced to UH in 2005, and in Fall 2009 the campus switched to Turning Technologies brand clickers, which have an integration feature that can automatically upload grades to Blackboard.

Instructors connect a clicker receiver, which has a unique channel number programmed, to their lecture computer. Students set their clicker channel to the instructor’s receiver channel. Then they use the clicker to respond to the question posed by the instructor.

After polling is closed, the class results are displayed on a PowerPoint slide displaying the number of students that answered correctly and incorrectly.

These devices have been used in a number of ways to benefit the classroom learning experience.

Schwarz said she uses the clicker to help her determine the existing level of knowledge of the class.

“As an instructor, I must say that the clicker answers that are recorded by the software allow me to see who is not understanding the material and help them before an exam.” She said. “Occasionally, the majority of the class will show me, through clicker use, that I was not clear with my topic discussion.  In this instance, I have the opportunity to stop, assess misconceptions and make the necessary clarifications.”

Through various clicker strategies, instructors are able to test students on material that has been taught.

“In addition to taking attendance, I use the clickers for weekly quizzes over the assigned readings and for what I call challenge questions,” history professor Nancy Young said. “Because the questions often involve interpreting a short quote from a historical figure we are studying, students increase their analytical and critical thinking skills with these exercises, hopefully boosting their exam performance on major exams.”

Instructors said they have seen positive results by letting students use the clickers to get extra credit.

“I typically ask between two and four of these questions per class session, and students accumulate bonus points for correct answers to these questions,” Young said. “These (clicker) strategies have two big benefits for students: class attendance rates are higher and grades are better because students are more likely to do the reading if they are held accountable on a regular basis.”

Schwarz said she also uses the clickers to give her students an opportunity to get extra credit.

“I use a previously used and discussed clicker question as an opportunity for extra credit on each exam.  A student can earn extra credit by getting the questions correct on exams only if they were in class the day the question was posed and discussed.”

There are two models used on campus – the RF and RF-LCD.  The RF can be purchased at CougarByte for $35 and the RF-LCD can be purchased at the campus bookstore for $45. While they work the same way, the RF-LCD clicker has an LCD panel that displays the user’s answer choices.

“I highly recommend their use.  I’ve seen a bored, distracted class become much more engaged with clickers, especially when they are used as the ‘carrot’ to encourage their use for learning sake,” Schwarz said.

[email protected]


  • I’m a bit curious why no students were interviewed for this story. I’ve had clicker classes in the past and the continued use of them means 2 failures to me:

    1) Profs who are totally out of touch with their students. Clickers are nothing but a scam to artificially inflate classroom fees. If they’re so necessary for the class, include them in the fee bill so that there can be more oversight. Just putting it on the syllabus as a mandatory purchase is ridiculous and should be fought at every chance. Why can’t departments invest in a bulk quantity of these and then rent them out to students? This approach saves students money and provides money directly to suffering departmental budgets, rather than the bookstore and the clicker manufacturer. It’s the same problem we had years ago with profs having mandatory reviews at off-campus locations.
    2) Profs who are too lazy to really innovate. I’m glad that these profs are trying to incorporate the clicker into their lessons, but I can guarantee that for each example like this, you’ll find ten profs that use it to take attendance at the beginning and end of class (the use I’ve seen most – in theory, it prevents students from skipping class, bailing early, or showing up late – a poor surrogate for actually establishing a relationship with your pupils). Without getting into the debate about attendance as a portion of a student’s overall grade, the idea that a clicker is a worthwhile investment for any student (if the majority of profs use it that way) is foolish.

    I only pray that students are checking syllabi before enrolling to do their best to avoid useless clicker classes.

    • really? A in pcol? due to clickers?!?! who are you and i hope you’re not apart of class of 2014. you disgust me.

      I like how some professors in this article fail to mention their true reason of using clickers… such as taking attendance! If i pay tons of money to a class I’m too lazy to wake up for, aren’t I being punished enough? Must I go through the hassle of being explicitly known as an absentee? I think not.

      • I think the clickers were worthless. One more expense to buy, at least 25% of the time there was something messed up and the clickers couldn’t be used. In terms of their use in pharmacology, the actual student responses didn’t matter because you usually just guessed anyway. The only way clickers improved my grade was because Schwarz would put the questions verbatim on the exams (which made it harder to copy the question before she moved on because you had to get the damn things to register that you did indeed submit and answer.) If you got the question right but you didn’t submit your answer (aka you ditched or your remote wasn’t working) you were denied credit on the exam. In response to NP, you didn’t get an ‘A’ because you used a clicker, you got an ‘A’ because you memorized the minutia she wanted you to memorize.

Leave a Comment