Academic Insight

Classes that Click

Audience Response Systems Device

Audience Response Systems device, more commonly known as a “clicker,” is a handy way for students to participate more fully in large hall classes in the sciences and other fields. (Photo: Nancy J. Parisi)

Along with laptops and cell phones, more than 4,000 UB students this fall began packing a piece of gear into their backpacks that may make them feel like they're on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

Slender, handheld devices, sold as Audience Response Systems (but everyone calls them “clickers”), are making large lecture hall classes at UB less impersonal and more effective for students and professors alike. To date, clickers are being used in introductory courses in chemistry, biological sciences, physics, political science and psychology that typically have a large number of students.

The clickers, which students use to answer questions posed by a professor during a lecture, help give the instructor instant feedback on whether the class is comprehending the topic at hand, and whether he or she should make appropriate adjustments. A wireless receiver installed in the classroom instantly records students' responses to multiple-choice questions posed by their instructor and provides a summary of results to the professor indicating how many students responded correctly or incorrectly.

“Now I've got instant feedback,” reports Troy D. Wood, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry, who saw attendance in his beginning chemistry class last semester jump by 30 percent once he started using clickers. “I know whether they're grasping the material or not, and it gives the students an opportunity to interact in the classroom because they can answer questions related to the material.”