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Exploring An Electronic Polling System For The Assessment Of Student Progress In Two Biomedical Engineering Courses

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Assessment of Biomedical Engineering Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.549.1 - 7.549.11



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Paper Authors

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Sean Brophy

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Robert Roselli

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Main Menu Session 2609

Exploring an Electronic Polling System for the Assessment of Student Progress in two Biomedical Engineering Courses

Robert J. Roselli, Sean P. Brophy

Department of Biomedical Engineering / The Learning Technology Center Vanderbilt University, Nashville TN 37235


Monitoring students' understanding as part of course lectures has the potential to increase student engagement, facilitate modification of instruction so it targets learners’ needs, and increase students’ overall learning of the course materials. Classroom Communications Systems (CCS) provide a method for students to respond immediately to questions posed by a professor in class. The results are aggregated and reported to the instructor and the students in the form of a histogram (see for more information on commercially available CCS). We have introduced one of these electronic polling systems into two biomedical engineering courses: biomechanics and physiological transport phenomena. Fifty-seven CCS questions were asked in the biomechanics class. Students in this class were separated into 3 groups on the basis of the number of CCS questions they answered during the semester: low (<26, N=13), mid (26-44, N=10), and high (>44, N=15) participation groups. Comparisons were made between the three groups for total course performance, overall examination averages, final exam grade and average homework grade. In every case, low-participation students performed significantly lower than high or mid participation students. No differences were found in performance between the mid and high participation groups. We conclude that performance in all aspects of the course is related to class participation. The primary reason for non-participation in CCS activities was absenteeism. There were only rare cases when students, present in the classroom, did not answer a CCS question. There was a slight, but not significant, difference in the rate of correct responses to CCS questions between the 3 groups. Therefore, when low-participation students are present, they appear to understand the material as well as mid- or high-participation students. This would suggest that the reason low-participation students do poorly in the course is because they miss significant portions of the material that is presented in class, not because they are unable to understand the material. We believe the CCS system engages students during class by providing them with timely feedback, and assisting the instructor in setting the pace for introducing new material. This paper describes the result of this initial investigation for using CCS in engineering education and discusses research we are conducting on the next generation of CCS for higher education.


Classroom Communications Systems (CCS) are methods that can provide useful formative assessment to students and timely information about student comprehension to instructors. All CCSs provide mechanisms which perform the following basic functions: 1) delivery of an

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright Ó 2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Brophy, S., & Roselli, R. (2002, June), Exploring An Electronic Polling System For The Assessment Of Student Progress In Two Biomedical Engineering Courses Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--10676

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