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High Enrollment, Early Engineering Courses And The Personal Response System

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

FPD9 -- Technology & Textbooks

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.685.1 - 11.685.15



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Paper Authors


Mark Urban-Lurain Michigan State University

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Mark Urban-Lurain is Director of Instructional Technology Research and Development in the Division of Science and Mathematics Education at Michigan State University. He is responsible for providing vision, direction, planning and implementation for using technology mathematics and science education and developed several introductory computer science courses for non-computer science students serving 2000 students per semester.

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Jon Sticklen Michigan State University

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Jon Sticklen is an Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Michigan State University. He has a strong research record in knowledge-based systems. His main contributions have been in the theory and application of task specific approaches and in model-based reasoning. Dr. Sticklen has led the effort to rejuvenate the MSU College of Engineering freshman gateway course in computational tools.

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Neeraj Buch Michigan State University

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Dr. Neeraj Buch is an Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Michigan StateU niversity since 1996. He received his M.S. from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and his Ph.D. from TexasA&M University. For the academic year 1998-99 he was selected as a Lilly Teaching Fellow at Michigan State University. His research interests include pavement analysis, design and rehabilitation, performance modeling, non-destructive testing of pavements, high performance concrete, portland cement concrete durability issues, fiber reinforced concrete.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

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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