Technology April 16, 2016 Last updated September 18th, 2018 1,322 Reads share

Modern Classroom Response Tools in Higher Education

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The demand and size of higher education classes continue to grow. In fact, most metrics and reports are indicating a larger and larger surge of demand for higher education as well as vocational training. Both require teachers and professors to rethink the way they

Why Consider Classroom Response Systems?

Traditional issues and challenges of teaching larger and larger classes tend to focus around disengagement of the students from the class program. Many feel lost in the numbers, do not have the discipline to function entirely independent, and lose pace with the class progress. All three factors combine to produce a low-performance problem or dropping out of the class entirely, which ends up being a waste of everyone’s time involved. Intimidation can also be another factor. Students are often unwilling to engage to avoid being judged by their peers, being seen failing publicly, or to highlight their lack of knowledge that the majority of the class may have already accomplished. The lack of anonymity becomes a major barrier to students asking the key questions they need to mention to learn and comprehend their class material.

A classroom response system can provide anonymity in response, ongoing and persistent engagement of all students, and they can flag when a student is falling behind as to what resources can be used to get back up to speed again. The system literally becomes the teacher’s assistant in responding proactively to a student’s needs versus waiting for him or her to fail.

Fundamental Requirements

The basic requirements have to be met regardless of brand. Institutions need to be prepared to provide a working and compatible computer or device to the instructor and each of the students, running the CRS software to be used. The teaching materials need to be compatible or formatted with a question and answer approach. Finally, the system needs to operate in way that both instructor and students can access and function inside it in real time, coordinated fashion. Sequential use or delayed response systems won’t work. With all the necessary components in place, the instructor and students will be utilizing the system open on their computers and interacting as the teacher poses questions verbally as well as electronically to the class. The students then respond with the tools provided in the software application. The data can also be captured as it is produced to determine both individual as well as group performance.

Different Use Methods

CRS packages vary on both style, format, delivery approach and design. However, all such systems require certain core requirements are met to function properly. The primary goal, of course, is to produce and maintain contact between instructors and their students. The secondary goals are to boost active learning, engagement, and foster products from increased communication between students as well. CRS systems deliver on both sets of goals when they are designed correctly and are easy to both use as well as become proficient in. Some of the more popular forms include:

  • Online Polling – Similar to a voting process, the online polling format assumes questions that are conceptual in nature versus just factual “yes-no” queries. The response is still a categorical choice; the student has to choose one of the options offered and can’t introduce other choices or topics outside of those provided for the lesson’s decision. This approach works particularly well when the polling is injected at different key points in lectures, ideally right after a key point has been covered. The student having to recall the information helps reinforce the lesson into long-term memory far more successfully than just covering the material and then it gets lost in a short-term memory blur.
  • Attendance Presence – Rather than putting the student on the spot, this type a tool focuses more on making sure the student is present and accounted for in the system. This type of CRS program also provides anonymity and avoids the right-wrong stress for the students. Attendance in and of itself is still considered a critical factor, with many studies showing evidence that consistent attendance in a class produces a higher success and pass rate as well.
  • Interactive Answering – This approach works a bit like a “choose your own adventure” book in that the class’ response tailor the content material to their performance and pace of accomplishment. It does require the instructor to be far more flexible than a scheduled approach typically used in classes, working at the speed of the class versus the speed of a syllabus calendar. However, it also matches the material challenge level with where the class is as a majority based on their system responses, ensuring comprehension at a higher level for each module completed.

CRS also have a number of benefits for instructors as well. These include student tracking, greater flexibility with the course material delivery, and grade tracking by both the instructor and students. The tracking, as mentioned earlier, comes in the ability to see instantly who’s engaged as the system does the tracking for the instructor automatically. Course material can be far more flexible because the instructor can change the material quickly in the system each week or day versus being stuck with a static printed book. And grade management provides an immediate picture of where a student stands. Again, studies have shown a working knowledge of one’s performance as it occurs also helps with higher success rates as well.

In Summary 

Classroom Response System tools have a lot to offer, and instructors working under the crush of larger and larger class sizes can benefit greatly from their advantages. Not every class is a perfect fit, but many are, and digital content delivery is becoming more commonplace as well. Further, students are expecting the use of technology in their training and will adjust to it quickly, like fish to water with younger generations. Again, CRS engages this latent bias for computers to the instructor’s advantage. And that too can be a synergy waiting to be opened up.

Images: ” Young professor giving class /


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James Jones

James Jones

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