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The Case for and Process to a “Clicker” Standard at Sacramento State

by Jean-Pierre R. Bayard, Director of Academic Technology & Creative Services
Michaeline Veden, Assistant Director for Production & Creative Services
Kimo Ah Yun, Director of the Center for Teaching & Learning

Over the past few years, there have been an increasing number of Sac State faculty who have been using classroom or individual response systems, aka “clickers,” to increase student participation, keep attendance, perform formative assessment, and automate grading in their courses.  A clicker system allows faculty to pose a variety of questions, including multiple-choice, true-false, and numeric entry, and have each student submit his/her answers using a small handheld remote device with a numeric and letter keypad.  A small RF (radio frequency) receiver connected to the classroom computer collects student submissions, and software enables the faculty to immediately evaluate student comprehension of content, display instant polling results to stimulate discussion, or create a variety of reports and data analysis based on student responses.  While classroom use of clickers at most universities has traditionally been reserved for large size lecture halls, the interest at Sac State has been growing not only due to  the increase in class size, but also because of faculty desire to engage students who, if allowed, may chose to stay quiet and refrain from engaging in class discussions.   

The RF Clicker from eInstruction

There are numerous clicker systems available, and without a recommended campus standard, the probability that a student would be asked to purchase more than one type of clicker during his/her tenure at Sac State was becoming more likely.  In addition, it was unrealistic to develop campus-based technical support and system integration for multiple clicker systems.  Therefore, in January 2008, recognizing the growing interest of Sac State faculty in integrating  student response systems (aka “clickers”) into the teaching and learning process, ATCS convened a workgroup to review industry leading clicker systems for the purpose of recommending  a  standardized clicker system for adoption by the campus.  The rationale for a standardized system is: 1) to provide consistency across the curriculum in order to eliminate the potential that students be required to purchase multiple clickers, 2) to enable ATCS to integrate the selected system into our current SacCT infrastructure and other corresponding learning management and productivity tools, and 3) to enable ATCS and IRT personnel and services to focus on fully supporting one system vs. scattered support of multiple systems.

The Clicker Workgroup was comprised of ATCS, IRT and Faculty representatives.  Recognizing that many CSU campuses have recently undergone similar evaluation and implementation processes, colleagues at Chico State and San Diego State were contacted and graciously shared their work products, thoughts, evaluations and anecdotes with our group.  These materials and input were invaluable as they not only saved time and duplication of effort, but also provided good insight into the pedagogy, process and products.  These materials, in addition to additional research in the field, lead to the development of a working set of selection criteria that was ultimately used to evaluate four systems:  Interwrite PRS, iClicker, TurningPoint and eInstruction CPS. The selection criteria categories included accessibility, ease of use, integration with other systems, hardware, software functions, costs/registration, response/receiver unit, and support, was reviewed and approved by the Senate’s Academic Information Technology Committee (AITC). 

Evaluation of the four identified systems was accomplished by review of vendor supplied and at large documentation, on site demonstrations of each system, and experiences and insights of on and off campus users and demonstration attendees.  The iClicker and Interwrite PRS systems were eliminated from consideration due to functionality and potential support issues.  The remaining two systems, TurningPoint and eInstruction CPS, were then closely evaluated against the original selection criteria.  There was no clear cut leader.  Faculty workgroup members, Kimo AhYun and Maureen Lojo, both experienced clicker implementers and co-authors of a paper on the effects of clicker usage on student performance, offered to field test both systems during their summer 2008 classes.  These tests aided in determining the depth and breadth of the systems, as well as the ease of use for faculty.  Both vendors supplied demo kits and support for the testing.  In addition, the TurningPoint system was used during the 2008 TUT Summer Institute. 

While all criteria factors were considered of value, the areas of accessibility, cost (to students, faculty and the University) and functionality emerged as the primary deciding factors in the final recommendation of eInstruction as the campus clicker standard.  An official agreement between Sac State and eInstruction was formally executed in November 2008.

Significant work is underway to integrate the eInstruction clicker system with SacCT, to assist faculty who are using a different product in moving to eInstruction, and finally to develop a robust support system and documentation.

For more information regarding clicker use and implementation at Sac State, contact us by email at atcs@csus.edu.

Do you have feedback for IRT? Email us at irtfeedback@csus.edu