June 18, 2006
June 18, 2006
June 21, 2006
11.685.1 - 11.685.15
High Enrollment, Early Engineering Courses and the Personal Response System
The Personal Response Systems (PRS or “clickers”) is one of the latest technologies to make its way into the classroom. Recent advances in the technology of these systems has reduced the costs and increased the ease-of-use of these systems, so that more faculty are considering using these systems in their classes. This paper reports on the experiences of faculty who used PRS for the first time in two, high enrollment engineering courses: an introductory computer science course enrolling approximately 250 students and an introductory statics course enrolling approximately 200 students. The instructors used different approaches with the PRS questions. In the computing course, the students’ correct answers were worth 30% of their final grade. In the statics course, students received 5% of the grade for participating in the PRS questions, regardless of the correctness of their answers. In both courses, student participation in the PRS questions and the correctness of their answers were positively correlated with their performance in other parts of the course. In both courses, it appears that students with lower GPAs who participated in PRS questions benefited as much as or more than other students, suggesting that using PRS may help students who are at-risk academically.
Personal Response Systems (PRS or “clickers”) are hand-held transmitters that allow students to respond to questions in class, with their responses recorded on the instructor’s computer. These systems allow instructors to move away from didactic lecture formats towards more active learning strategies that encourage student participation and are consistent with research on active learning 1. Perhaps one of the best-known advocates for this approach is Eric Mazur, who uses clickers as part of his peer-instruction model in teaching conceptual physics 2.
Over the past year, PRS technology has moved from infra-red (IR) systems to radio-frequency (RF) systems. The IR systems are line-of-sight, meaning that the students must point their transmitter towards a receiver. Furthermore, the only feedback students had that their responses were received was to watch for their clicker number to scroll across the display on the instructor’s computer. Using the IR systems in large (200+) lecture halls requires multiple receivers to be installed permanently in the lecture classrooms. The logistics of having equipment installed in the classroom, having students all entering their responses concurrently and seeing their clicker number scroll across the screen made their use in large classes daunting. With RF systems, the technology is not line of sight and a single receiver that plugs into the USB of the instructor’s computer can receive all of the responses from several hundred students. The systems are two-way so that students’ handheld units confirm to each student when her or his response has been recorded. Several textbook publishers are now bundling PRS with textbooks and are encouraging faculty to adopt the textbook/PRS packages. However, incorporating a PRS into a class requires the instructor to consider what changes will be required in the instructional design to make optimal use of this technology.
Urban-Lurain, M., & Sticklen, J., & Buch, N. (2006, June), High Enrollment, Early Engineering Courses And The Personal Response System Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--1341
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