The rise of iclickers in the classroom

Andrew Callaghan

The use of handheld response pads, or iClickers, is trending among Loyola professors.

According to a 2011 survey of 131 Loyola students, which was organized by Susan Brower, media services coordinator, 76 percent of students responded that using clickers helped them learn academic material, but several admitted they didn’t like paying for clickers.

iClicker is a wireless handheld response system which allows immediate student-to-teacher digital responses. This synchronized audience response system was developed by inventors at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In the past few years, these devices have spread to hundreds of colleges and universities nationwide.

Brower has trained over 75 professors to use these devices since Loyola began using iClickers in 2009. She believes that clickers stimulate classroom engagement.

Typically, Brower leads an introductory faculty training session at the end of each semester.

“If, after the introduction session, the professor decides that he/she wants to use them, then the professor attends a two-hour training,” Brower said.

According to Brower, in any given semester, around 25 Loyola professors use iClickers for in-class participatory activities.

“Clickers have been in use in education for at least 15 years now, and there is lots of research and data out there on how they increase learning in the classroom,” Brower said.

All-inclusive clicker quizzes and non-grading group polling activities demand full participation. Clicker activities allow students to communicate with each other, gain familiarity with their professor’s quiz questioning style, and be reminded of previously taught material.

iClickers can be purchased or rented at the university bookstore or purchased online for around $30. If bought from the university bookstore, the bookstore will buy the device back for half-price after the student is finished using it, typically at the end of an academic semester.

“I encourage professors to continue with the iClicker, as opposed to other response systems, because many of our undergraduate students have purchased clicker remotes with the promise that they will last throughout their time here. So, professors are free to use whatever system they choose, but that might mean that students will be paying an additional fee for a different clicker,” Brower said.

George Reinecke, music industry studies freshman, felt he had positively benefited from periodic clicker quizzes given in his major’s introductory course.

“The prospect of having random clicker quizzes kept me on my toes. I felt like I could never miss class because if I did, I could have missed a clicker quiz, and my grade would go down,” Reinecke said.

The Rev. Robert S. Gerlich, S.J., associate professor of history, began using clickers four years ago in his freshman-level history survey courses. Gerlich gives daily clicker quizzes to his students in these courses, then factors daily quiz averages into the student’s final class grade.

“Once a student realizes that they are accountable for preparing material, through class [clicker] quizzes, the tendency is to take greater care in reading and preparing the assigned material. Those that do not prepare are under no illusion about when and why there work has taken a nose dive,” Gerlich said.

According to a 2007 study conducted by researchers at West Virginia University, when random periodic clicker quizzes or polls were implemented into a class’s curriculum, average daily attendance went up by 20 percent.

The study also indicated that 88 percent of students reported they “frequently” or “always” enjoyed in-class clicker quizzes or polls, and that those who learn visually found it easier to retain information.

Malcolm Pitchford, freshman, international business major, didn’t enjoy the daily clicker quizzes given in his history prerequisite course.

“I felt like those quizzes put an unnecessary burden on my study time. Here I was, at my first semester of college, stressed out trying to balance five classes. I attended every class, read most of the assigned readings, and then I miss one little ‘fun fact’-type quiz question, and my grade suffers because of it,” Pitchford said.

However, Brower explains that a student’s experience using clickers is dependent on the technological expertise and training of the student’s professor.

“The bottom line is that the students with the most positive experiences with clickers were in classes with professors who had the most positive experiences with clickers. Clickers are merely a pedagogical tool. It takes the professor’s time and effort to make them useful. That is the reason why both the introduction and training sessions are mandatory for every professor that has students buy the clickers,” Brower said.