Dr Ismail Talib gets his students clicking with the Classroom Response System

1. How did you get to know about the Classroom Response System?
CIT invited the representatives in Singapore to conduct demonstrations on their product, and I attended these sessions.

2. Why did you decide to try it out?
I had tried the quiz system on IVLE, and wanted an alternative system that allowed me to conduct the quizzes during class.

3. Which class did you use it for?
I used the Classroom Response System for my GEK1049 module during the special term.

4. What was its impact in the classroom?
This is hard to gauge. The feedback responses were blended with more general impressions of my teaching. So, it is hard to separate these from students’ more direct responses to the use of CRS. After all, the use of any mechanism for teaching is usually built on one’s ideas and principles of teaching, and students in their own way, are able to see at least some of these as they are practically enacted in the classroom.

5. What are the benefits and drawbacks of the system?
A benefit of the system is the quiz facility itself, which is its prime selling point. Of course, quiz questions could be asked by using traditional means, but the students’ answers and the lecturer’s feedback cannot be given quickly enough. Whether to have the quiz at all, of course, depends on the nature of the module that one teaches, and the method of teaching that one adopts for the module. So this is not something that could be used for all modules.

One drawback is the logistics involved. For a class of 40+ students, one has to carry two bags of handsets or ‘clickers’. These bags are supplemented by the bag containing the notebook computer. So the lecturer has to carry three bags for a class of moderate size.

The reason for bringing along the notebook is that I have found that it is best to separate the PowerPoint slides on the seminar room computer, from the display for the system on the notebook. Also, even if one wants to have both on the same computer, the notebook serves the function of ensuring that the information that is registered by the software is registered on the lecturer’s own personal computer, and not on a computer that is also used by other people. A further reason for bringing along the personal notebook is that, although one can install the software on the seminar room computer, one doesn’t know how stable it would be.

The initial preparation was time consuming. There is a learning curve for learning the software – it is not something that one knows how to use immediately. Also, one must try to integrate the quiz questions into one’s lectures in order to make the use of the system worthwhile.

6. Would you use it again? Why or why not?
I am thinking of using the Classroom Response System again. I will however be hesitant to use it for big classes – imagine carrying several bags to the lecture theatre, and of course, one can’t do it alone if there are too many to carry! Moreover, the logistics of distributing the handsets to students at the beginning of the session, and collecting them at the end, is a hassle if the class is too big, and the process may of course eat too much into one’s lecture time. Classes which depend on evaluative responses are also a problem, especially with a system like the CRS, that allows only one correct answer for each question, or does not allow answers with variable points weightage.

For further reading, you might want to borrow Audience response systems in higher education : applications and cases edited by David A. Banks (LB2395.7 Aud 2006) from the NUS Central Library.

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