'Clicker' device introduced to help professors track progress
"It makes things much easier. In a big classroom, it's usually harder to get keep track."
By: Vanessa Krause
Issue date: 2/6/04 Section: News
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Media Credit: DAVID EPPOLITO
SURVEILLANCE IS JUST A CLICK AWAY: Only a few science classes have begun using the Personal Response System at UM.
A device that looks like a garage door opener may soon replace the traditional attendance sheets and test papers typically seen in class. The Personal Response System [PRS], nicknamed "The Clicker" by many students, is the newest gadget to hit college classrooms throughout the country.
All students enrolled in a class where the PRS is used are required to buy an individual hand-size clicker. Each unit comes with a unique, six-digit code which allows the professor to clearly identify each student. Several PRS receivers are mounted to the walls of the classrooms, and students sign in for attendance, or record their quiz answers by pointing and clicking towards a nearby receiver unit.
Once the students have sent their responses, the main unit, which is controlled by the instructor, receives the signal and the code is identified.
According to the PRS official website, the system is already being used in more than 200 colleges and universities. This is the first semester that the system is being used on campus, and as of now it has been introduced only in a few large science courses.
Dr. Blase Maffia, biology lecturer and undergraduate advisor, uses the PRS to lecture his Introduction to Biological Science courses and hopes that this system will not only be used in science classrooms but eventually by other departments as well. Though he has yet to use the PRS for grading purposes, Maffia has already seen positive results.
"This system allows me to get a sense if the students are learning or what material needs to be reviewed," Maffia said. "It makes things much easier. In a big classroom, it's usually harder to keep track."
The PRS is not only beneficial to the lecturers, but also to the students.
Their progress is easily tracked by the system, and it encourages students to keep up with the readings and lectures.
"I'm looking forward to the feedback system in my physics class. It's going to encourage me to keep up with my studies," Kevin Coyne, sophomore, said. "My only concern is that you can't be sure if the receiver has picked up your signal, since the numbers on the screen are small and look the same."
According to Dr. Daniel Wang, biology lecturer and undergraduate advisor, the PRS has helped him in his BIL 104 Genetics and Society lectures to get the students' undivided attention.
"In the past, I have to give a quiz or exam to get a feedback from students on how well they learned. It was time consuming. With this system, I get immediate feedback," Wang said. "My students enjoy this innovative approach and actively participated in this new program."
As of now, the clickers are not sold individually in the bookstore. Instead, in an effort to make the system more affordable for students, they come packaged with the course books. They may also be purchased online, sold back to the bookstore, or used for future courses.
For more information about the PRS, visit www.educue.com
Vanessa Krause can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org