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Classroom response systems

Classroom response systems are now common in many universities and colleges. CRS’ are used for faculty to poll students – asking questions related to course content and, based on responses, re-teach key points or clarify misconceptions. While it sounds simple, writing questions that reveal misconceptions students have about curriculum is difficult. CRS are usually fairly affordable for students (except when they lose their clickers). I always wondered why we were building separate systems for response when many students already have mobile phones. Why not just use phones and texting for feedback? I read about an MIT initiative on something like this…and at least one university has started using iPhones for a response system. The important thing here is that the system works on any phone/device.


  1. Nicola wrote:

    Hi, we use TurningPoint at Surrey and I asked them last time they were over, about what they were doing with mobile keypads, it looks like they are getting there but as far as I know its not open – which is potentially missing the point as you have suggested re working on any phone / device (as far as I am aware – at Surrey approx third students are international and the chances of them all having appropriate mobile web friendly devices doesn’t seem that high – hoping to get a better picture soon though).

    One of the reasons I was interested is that we loan out our voting handsets through the library – same principle as books where they get for a semester or similar then same charges if lost etc However we got feedback that they still weren’t bringing them to lectures and my rationale – I guess like other people is – what one device is a student likely to bring along to a lecture…

    Also was thinking, does the session even need to be attended physically so is there need for a physical live connection – or can students vote virtually by attending online and whether the session needs to exist as a physical session at all.

    I have heard of people at our university in the past, trying experiments with both Bluetooth and SMS for live questions – trying to find those people and get feedback at the moment. Am just starting a mobile assessment pilot project with our music technologies dept – voting not in for the pilot but will hopefully get an opportunity at same time to start looking at this.

    Also hoping to combine this with feedback from an informal student survey – if get the chance to carry it out – where hoping to work with our student entrepreneur organisation and student union to go out and do some informal video clips and interviews about how students are using their mobile phones for learning. If we can do the survey and get meaningful feedback – am hopeful that this would be one of the things that might emerge – as in your post – why separate (I’m hoping students might feedback about the need to carry two devices with two keypads).

    On a separate note, huge apologies re the education and change post and the lack of the 12seconds challenge – they said it was a great question – well I don’t know why they keep saying they will do it then don’t, but sorry anyway !

    Tuesday, December 16, 2008 at 4:45 am | Permalink
  2. Nicola wrote:

    Sorry, forgot to mention audio too, due to possible problems with the bluetooth connectivity such as the pairing, multiple live connections, range if they were all in the same physical space. Although bluetooth / RFID / NFC, to another ‘screen’ of some description – questions could even appear on something that displays a screen like the bus updates you get which scroll across at bus stops .If you were a student wandering around the campus (could even be trying to attend that particular lecture and just late) and saw a question displayed like that where you could quickly connect and answer, or something like the blogwall or whatever thing you can display a screen on, it could possibly provide feedback from students or anyone else who isn’t even studying that module – that would be cool.

    Maybe with audio response – via SMS, Twitterfone or general voice apps (X+V or asterisk which I’ve only just come across but asterisk is fully open source voice)

    Tuesday, December 16, 2008 at 5:21 am | Permalink
  3. Frank Carver wrote:

    I can’t seem to make your trackback system work, so here’s a manual notification of a reference at

    Wednesday, December 17, 2008 at 2:30 am | Permalink
  4. Integrating a system like that would be a nice idea, since it is easier for students to quickly respond a query like that through a mobile phone than a computer.

    Wednesday, December 17, 2008 at 6:35 am | Permalink
  5. Peter D wrote:

    We use TurningPoint at CSU, Chico and our rep is actually here today – apparently their ResponseWare Web solution allows students with Wi-Fi enabled laptops and smart phones to participate just the same as students who purchased clickers. I believe they still need to purchase a web version license, but it’s much cheaper than the device. And they have a native iPhone application in development.

    Wednesday, December 17, 2008 at 1:30 pm | Permalink
  6. For most of the world that would impose a cost on students to reply to the CRS questions. For students using ‘pay and go’ services in the UK that would be around 10pence for every response.
    “Sorry I forgot my phone” might quickly become a simple excuse.

    Sunday, December 21, 2008 at 5:25 pm | Permalink
  7. Nicola wrote:

    Hi Daniel, yes its a really good point re SMS, there are free SMS tools like Cellity which are available internationally, but I haven’t come across one which works the other way – but there might be ones out there? I’m sure I spoke to someone at a UK mobile learning event earlier this year (from Nottingham, maybe?) who mentioned that they had free SMS sending and receiving so students weren’t charged, but can’t remember more than that – might have dreamt it. Mike Short was also asked at Mlearn about free SMS and said no – but you might be able to set up your own local operator-free network (maybe dreaming at this point but its something I hope to look into during 2009). Is it something you’ve looked into from an international (or UK for that matter) perspective?

    Tuesday, December 23, 2008 at 8:55 am | Permalink
  8. Samantha wrote:

    In the K-12 arena, cost of these things is a real issue. It’s not so simple to ask every student to buy their own clicker, so they end up buying a class pod (say 30) and share it between classes. Then they learn the issues of contantly needing to register the things for each new student that grabs one. Time wasted and people discouraged.

    For those K-12 schools with 1:1 computer labs or 1:1 laptop programs, they may want to consider “Virtual Clickers” –

    Thursday, January 8, 2009 at 2:17 am | Permalink