September 21, 2007
By Kirk Sibbald
More than 1,000 students at the University will be using clickers in their classes this year, an interactive technology that is proving increasingly popular with faculty.
The technology works much the same as the polling system used during the ask-the-audience portion of game shows, explained Keith Jeffrey, manager of education and research technology services with Information and Technology Services (ITS). Professors can use the clickers for everything from taking attendance to quizzes, and can get a real-time view on whether or not the class understands certain concepts.
Also known as a Classroom Performance System (CPS), clickers were first used on campus about three years ago. Although reviews of the technology have been mixed Jeffrey said there is no question clickers have been catching on with professors.
Workshops surrounding the technology were held last year, and the College of Medicine did some trial runs with the clickers during the 2006/07 school year. Those activities “brought out some other latent interests across campus,” and it was not long before other colleges wanted to try clickers as well.
Medicine now uses clickers in the majority of their classes, Engineering uses it for first-year classes, Veterinary Medicine loans clickers to students on a deposit basis for use in that college, and various other individual professors in other departments are also taking advantage of the technology.
As of Sept. 13, 1190 clickers had been sold on campus and 57 classrooms had been equipped with receivers. When ITS took the reigns of the clicker initiative, they researched various product vendors and settled on one that is now used throughout campus, therefore saving students from having to purchase more than one of the handheld devices, which costs about $39 each.
“If students were going to invest in a vendor, we wanted to maximize that use,” said Jeffrey.
While taking attendance and getting quick quiz results are obvious perks of the technology for professors, clickers have various other applications. For example, said Jeffrey, when a professor wants to know whether or not their class understands certain concepts, they can ask a question and see the results in real-time displayed on a screen. If the majority answer correctly, it’s likely safe to move forward with the lesson; if only a few are grasping what’s being taught, professors may choose to spend more time on that topic.
“I think all of them will be used for engaging the students. It’s a way to get students to actively participate in class rather than just being there and taking notes.”
Office of Communications, University of Saskatchewan