UH should offer alternatives to clickers

In 2010, the Teaching with Technology Group of the Bauer College sent out a survey, and around 60 percent of those that used classroom response system technology — or “clickers” — in class answered questions and submitted feedback, and the results showed that students generally were going to class more often, paid closer attention and admitted that the clicker assignment questions challenged them to think.

Many classes in Melcher and Cemo Hall are using clickers as tools for various purposes ranging from attendance grades to extra credit, and it seems to be a growing trend among professors. And why not? Instead of collecting papers or having to grade, a professor simply adds up correct answers and awards whatever percentage of a point for that day.

The university charges a whopping $40 plus tax for the clickers, much to the ire of many students. “Make the clickers cheaper,” was one of many negative survey responses regarding the price. In a comparison to response cards found on Amazon, the clicker used at the university was one of the higher-priced. The tradeoff is that the cheaper clickers, despite having average to good reviews, are very bulky compared to the slim shape of the university’s clicker, and would be much more cumbersome to store.

Another common complaint from students is that clickers used by the University, despite having a higher price tag, tend to break down frequently. There are places on campus that repair or replace clickers free of charge, but many students have already experienced the agony of having a clicker break down in the middle of a lecture and not getting credit for clicker questions. Still, it’s nice to know that once you buy a clicker, you simply have to present a receipt and get free maintenance.

One very promising but potentially disastrous option is a clicker application for one’s smart phone. The technology is cheaper, and available for purchase as an app, but the option to use your smart phone as a clicker isn’t available to students at UH.

UH could be trying to sell as many expensive clickers as they can, but that is not likely considering how easy the school has made it to repair and replace clickers that have been bought. More than likely, professors don’t want students to have an excuse to have their phones out during class or look up answers on their Internet browser and cheat the system.

However, this policy may change as schools institute better policies to govern the use of smart phones in class. There are already measures in place that some classes take to lock computers during online tests, so the thought of something restricting smart phone use to classroom purposes only isn’t far fetched.

Clickers are an imperfect technology, but they are profitable, easy to use, shown to cause more students to show up and pay attention in class and make the task of garnering attendance grades or extra credit in a classroom consisting of hundreds of students easier. Given that, they are probably here to stay, although UH should offer better and easier concepts, such as using clickers with smart phones.

Jacob Patterson is a business senior and may be reached at [email protected].

1 Comment

  • Smart phone apps can, and are produced, and used in other universities that facilitate this type of interactive learning. Abilene Christian is one Texas example.

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