Study Examines Usage of Clickers in College Environments

Dr. Angel Hoekstra, a sociology professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder conducted a study over six years to learn about the effectiveness of clickers in the classroom. Clickers present a mechanism for anonymous participation in a classroom and integrate a kind of gamified approach to classroom discussion.

She recommended open communication to the students about why clickers will be used in the class in order to ease their concerns about them. Clickers can yield fascinating results when you allow students to anonymously use them. The article about the study provided a great example of clicker usage:

The day she lectures about the effects of alcohol on the body, she begins by asking students an anonymous question: “Have you ever driven under the influence of alcohol such that if you’d gotten pulled over you probably would have gone to jail?” To ease students’ concerns about anonymity, she asks them to turn to a random neighbor and trade clickers. They then choose an answer from among the multiple choice responses.

Following collection of the responses, Hoekstra gives a 20-minute lecture on the effects of alcohol on the body. She concludes the lecture with another clicker question: “Given all this data, do you think it’s likely you’ll drink and drive again?”

Dr. Hoekstra actually found that clickers were more preferable to using smartphone, pointing out that students tended to get easily distracted by a gadget that can check Facebook and baseball scores. Of course, there are some professors who embrace the usage of smartphones in the class, like ones who subscribe to Top Hat Monocle’s mobile alternative to clickers.

She also reported that some students resist clickers because they view them as attendance tracking devices, or that they think they won’t work very well. These are two legitimate obstacles to embracing the practice, as each student must shell out between $40 and $60 for a clicker, and they want to know where there money is going.

Have you ever used clickers in a college environment? What was that experience like? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.