Seamless Constructive Alignment? The use of ‘Clickers’ as a learning activity aligned to an end of module MCQ online assessment.

By Julie Dunne. School of Food Science and Environmental Health
I was interested in incorporating ‘Clickers’ quizzes as a learning and revision tool for a group of first year organic chemistry students. The module was delivered in semester two to 33 students in an Environmental Health BSc. degree. In previous years it has been taught through examples followed by in class active learning exercises, and therefore I would consider it to have been a student centered active learning experience even before the introduction of ‘Clickers’ quizzes. The module has been assessed for the last three years through an online end of module MCQ quiz with integrated feedback. I was interested in determining the effect of introducing ‘Clickers’ MCQ in-class quizzes on student engagement and performance, and also specifically on their perception of it as a preparation tool for the aligned MCQ assessment.
An MCQ ‘Clickers’ quiz was developed for each broad topic (six altogether) and the questions resembled those found in the assessment. As for all MCQ quizzes, the success lies in the quality of the distracter wrong answers. These were developed based on common mistakes made by students, as evidenced by previous exams and assessments. The quiz formed part of the in class activities for each topic, and was normally run towards the end of the topic, when students had built a foundation in the area. Feedback was given after the results of each question survey was displayed , but before the ‘big reveal’ of the correct answer. This feedback hinted towards the merits of each answer, and aimed to help students determine themselves which was correct by carefully examining each choice, and eliminating wrong answers.
Student evaluation was through an online questionnaire, and was completed by all students in the module directly following their end of module assessment.
The results from this evaluation demonstrate an extremely positive attitude to ‘Clickers’ by students. They believed they were more interested and focussed (engaged) during the quizzes, and even more motivated to get the answer correct, compared to other in-class activities. They found they feedback given during the quizzes helped them understand where they were going wrong. They also thought it was useful to see how they were performing compared to their peers. Finally, they strongly believed that the ‘Clickers’ quizzes had been an appropriate tool to prepare and revise for the end of module assessment. In addition, in an open question, several of the students cited ‘Clickers’ as being one of the best features of the module. Comments included the benefit the quizzes and the feedback had in determining where they were going wrong, but also they were popular because they were fun and interactive.
Nonetheless, a comparison of the grades attained with and without ‘Clickers’ quizzes does not show a significant increase in student achievement. However, this may not be the case if ‘Clickers’ were introduced to a more traditional lecture based teaching model.
In conclusion, ‘Clickers’ quizzes have been introduced to a first year organic chemistry module as a teaching and revision tool. This has resulted in a more interactive, engaged and fun learning environment. Students have benefitted from timely feedback and felt more prepared for the aligned MCQ online end of module assessment.

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Using numeric input clickers in accounting

Alice Luby, Lecturer, School of Accounting and Finance

My rationale for using clickers with my accountancy students is to encourage students to be more active in the learning process.  This facilitates those who learn by doing, the approach is also useful for visual learners.  A useful outcome from using clickers is that I now have an immediate and much greater awareness of what concepts the students have grasped and what areas they are struggling with.

The use of the real time registration tool allows me to save the responses of students which I can scan and identify those not participating or those consistently getting wrong answers.  Also, if students decide to mess by putting in silly answers I can see who is responsible!  Understandably the students have some grumbles in this however I have assured them that I will never disclose to peers who gives wrong answers as they had like the anonymity association with clickers before I introduced the registration tool.  The students have responded favourably to the ‘leader board’ slide where the top 6 are identified by name!  Unfortunately this only seems to capture MCQ style questions and not numeric input, so I haven’t been able to continue with feature.

I have three different approaches to using the clickers with students.

1)     I use them to gauge threshold competencies – see if students have the basic prerequisite knowledge before embarking on a topic

2)     I now incorporate clickers questions when presenting new material and techniques to engage the student as ensure they are grasping the new material. It helps keep them away and show me if they understand what has just been presented.

3)     A new approach that I have started to use is by using clickers in combination with a worksheet to establish if students can apply accounting knowledge to examination style questions.

The students (and myself) really enjoy using the clickers.  The lectures I have presented using clickers have students fully engaged and active.  In the past students would sit in the room, few would actively engage and many would appear to drift off after 10 to 15 minutes.  If you gave them a question to attempt they would talk to each other and not really tackle the work.  However, since the clickers were built into the lectures students appear to be engaged throughout the lecture.  They listen because they know that are going to get ‘hit’ with a set of clicker questions after a couple of slides and they are apply what they have heard immediately. I was somewhat concerned when I introduced the clickers to tackling examination style questions because a single exam question could take up a whole one hour lecture.  However, using the clickers provided a mechanism to break the question down into a step by step approach guiding the students through the complex question and getting immediate feedback.  I find that it is essential to provide them with a structured worksheet template for tackling the question or they loose their focus as they move through the question.  The worksheet template allows them to focus and make the most out of the clicker slides. Some of the students have indicated that for the first time they can figure out how to tackle a full exam question and their confidence is beginning to grow.  Students have indicated that the clickers keep them awake and focused and that it makes accounting more interesting.

Random feedback from an on-line student survey on use of clickers

The clickers are very useful as you can see where you went wrong and when you are right

Its a good idea to use clickers questions in the lecture as we lean the topic then get asked questions on it to show whether we have understood the topic or not.

I really enjoy the clickers, they help you to focus on the lecture because you want to get the right answer.

There so useful and make the class more exciting….and help us understand the theory better!

Keep your attention throughout the class.

I love using the clickers it makes accounting fun and confirms your understanding of each topic and highlights areas of difficulty.

Keeps me alert, love the bit of competition it creates, and makes classes a bit of fun which is alway good.

Helps me personally stay alert in class, gives me a sense of how well I’m currently understanding the topic and makes the class a much more enjoyable experience – I FEEL LIKE I LEARN SOMETHING IN EVERY CLASS PRIMARILY DUE TO THE CLICKERS.

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BA Hospitality Management using clickers to increase student participation

Valerie Hascoet, DIT School of Languages

I used the clickers this semester with a group of second year students from the B.A. in Hospitality Management as part of their third French module. I focussed on the skill of listening comprehension, which in turn underpins the student’s performance in their oral competence.  My aim was basically to transfer the worksheets I had been using in class to perform listening exercises, into interactive Turning Point slide shows. My expectations were three-fold:

  1. To ensure that every student participated in the activities as the clickers  allow you to monitor how many participants actually respond to the quizzes;
  2. To provide the students with immediate feedback on their individual performance by displaying the group’s overall results;
  3. To generate discussion within the group and with the lecturer as to the reasons of their occasional (!) underperformance.

Moreover the clickers would introduce a playful atmosphere for about 10 minutes in each session in which they were used.

I stuck to my goal of producing the clickers for every teaching hour I had with the group, so 10 slide shows were produced over the course of the semester. However I limited the use of the clickers  to one activity per session, as opening the correct files, distributing the clickers and (attempting to) register the students (cf. below) took about 4 minutes of each class. I continued to use worksheets on occasion alongside the clickers.

There were technical glitches due to the fact that I was handling several technologies at the one time: a CD or .mp3 file for the audio material, then the Turning Point questionnaires, then the transcripts as word documents for the correction phase. I will be less ambitious next time!

Overall I found the system easy to design with and easy to use…up to the point when the classroom computer was upgraded to Word 10. From there on the Turning Point software had to reinstalled and malfunctioned every week, refusing to register the students initially, then to register their clicking at all in the last 2 sessions. I have yet to figure out why.

I experimented with various types of questionnaires, and became increasingly ambitious with each new session, graduating from simple “True or False” exercises to multiple choices with 3, and then 4 entries. I would like to try out Likert scales next, but the material I was converting did not lend itself to it. Indeed I found out that transferring my paper-based exercises to a multiple-choice framework sometimes stretched my imagination.

In doing so I progressed from testing the particular skill of listening comprehension (my original goal) to introducing the odd question about spelling/ grammar/ vocabulary/ culture, even pronunciation, which is paradoxical when using a written medium.

The added value in running questionnaires through using the clickers is in reaching goals number 1 and 2, without a doubt. In an informal assessment of the impact of the clickers on the classroom, students immediately reported that they felt more motivated into participating in the activities because of the competitive aspect it introduced.

However I am less satisfied with the reflective aspect of our interactions in class. The clickers did not always generate discussion. Indeed the interaction was very uneven from week to week. Unfortunately the technology cannot solve the problems students have in analysing their performance, identifying their weaknesses and working out solutions for their language learning.






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Google Quiz & Poll app for Android

Google have developed  a Quiz & Poll application for Android mobile phones that combine several Google technologies to make an easy to use app for engaging students. Educators can create quizzes and polls easily using Google Spreadsheets.

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Clicker Technology – too techno for me!

DIT Lecturer Una Beagon provides some reflections and tips on how she first used clickers with her class

Clickers are hailed as a novel way to engage students within your classroom.  But, are you a busy lecturer with enough to do; does this strike you as just more time consuming work and – there’s technology involved – does that turn you right off??

As a new, part time lecture just finding my feet, I thought I would try them out and the purpose of this article is to tell you how I got on.

So what is the technology then?

The actual clickers are just a little key pad which allows the students to select a number or letter.  The clickers come with a USB key which you plug into your computer and this is the gadget that recognizes the keys pressed by the students.

DIT uses Turningpoint clickers and as a lecturer, you will need to download a software plugin

The software appears in PowerPoint as an extra toolbar along the top.  Instead of inserting a PowerPoint slide in the middle of your presentation, you just insert a Turning point slide (they look the same).  You create a question and multiple choice answers and the rest is up to the student.  If you can use PowerPoint, you should be able to use Turningpoint.

When the slide appears, the students select an answer and when you close the polling, a chart appears showing the students’ answers. You can choose which type of chart you want to display the answers.  The benefits are obvious, it shows you immediately how much the students have understood, so immediate feedback can be easily actioned.

So, I’ve tried it once, would I bother again?  Yes, but with some major changes !   I set up a lecture at the end of the semester as a ‘Who wants to be a millionaire’ revision lecture and created about 70 questions with a class of 25.  I explained that the clickers were similar to those used on ‘Who wants to be a millionaire’ – let’s ask the audience .

Here’s how it went:

Registration tool

The software gives you the opportunity to assign a particular clicker to each student.  I wanted to give a winner’s  prize for the best student so I trialed this.  The registration tool is very easy to use.  It is a matter of creating a spreadsheet of class names and then running the wizard when everyone has a clicker in their hand.

The software identifies the clicker associated with each student.  Does it matter if there are students absent?  No – it still works.   I also had a student come in late, after the registration was completed and he was also able to join in, albeit the software did not have a name against his clicker.

Who wants to be a millionaire

I explained the use of clickers referring to this show  and the ‘ask the audience’ part..  I had the theme music running at the start of the class and during a few questions, the countdown music too.  This got a few smiles.  The prizes for the best three students were also well received.  There was healthy competition within the class.

70 slides over 2 hours – No, no, no !

My major error was that I had far too many questions and monotony really set in.  Thankfully I had a few exercises in between where students were asked to label a diagram and write down some descriptive answers on the handouts I had given them.  Next time however, I would substantially reduce the number of slides and insert more activities.  Also bear in mind that you can only ask multiple choice questions, so in my instance, the questions I asked on the handouts required written answers.

Display chart types

I trailled a number of chart types, but found the ‘Horizontal Slide’ or ‘Offset Slide’ to be the best. The piecharts and vertical charts were separate to the answers so it was difficult to visually see what the response was.   The Horizontal Slide’ or ‘Offset Slide’ was much clearer.

% or number toggle tool.

The standard response data appears to be in percentage, but I found it very useful to switch between % and number so I could actually see how many students had answered each question rather than %.  This toggle button appears on the screen toolbar so it’s easy to use.


My final error was on timing of the questions.  I found students very slow to respond and because I had 25 students, it seemed to take a long time for some students to read and answer the question compared to others.  The onscreen tool bar tells you how many students have responded.

There is also a difficultly that students press the key before you open the question so they think they had responded when actually the system had not recognized them.  You are then left waiting for the final responses.

During the class I took, I stated that I would just take the first 20 answers, which was a little unfair to the slower students but at least sped up the process.  You can however add a countdown to your slides which shows you onscreen how many seconds you have to respond.  This is definitely something I would use in the future.

 Finally, my top five tips on clickers:

  1. Try them once.
  2. Registration Tool easy to use.  Gives the students an incentive to see their name onscreen on the winners list.
  3. Don’t overdo the number of slides, break it up with exercises in-between.
  4. Use horizontal slide or offset slide types
  5. Add a countdown timer to the slides.

Clicker Technology – too techno for me ? – Trust the Technology and Try it as a Treat

Download these handy hints as PDF: Clicker Technology – too techno for me?

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Using clickers to teach threshold concepts in accountancy

According to research into threshold concepts once a learner understands a particular concept they are then unlikely to forget and subsequently have the ability to apply their learning to similar and more complex tasks. Teaching basic concepts to novice accountancy learners can be a tricky task particularly as the teacher is already very familiar with the topic.
At DIT, Alice Luby (a lecturer in accountancy), has employed various strategies including use of clickers in trying to accomplish understanding of basic concepts and calculations in accountancy with first year students.
The lecturer presents first year students with multiple choice questions on basic but essential concepts in order to gauge understanding of the class. Immediate feedback from the class indicates if further explanations or revision of the topic is necessary. Interestingly the use of clickers has also enabled the lecturer to test for deeper learning by developing more complex problems in order to test if students can apply the concepts to other tasks.
Alice reports improved student interaction and engagement in class time. Clickers also provide immediate feedback for the lecturer and the student enabling rapid identification of misunderstandings
The use of clickers to test for understanding of threshold concepts has also allowed her to test for deeper understanding of concepts by using more abstract problems for students to solve. Interestingly, she has found that while surface understanding has been achieved, deeper understanding is often not accomplished and more support is needed in order to establish successful completion of complex problems. This has invoked reflection on teaching methods used in order to facilitate deeper understanding of threshold concepts.


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Using the Team selector tool for groups

In a few weeks time I will be asking students of the MSc in Applied eLearning to work in groups to design and develop elearning resources.  I plan to use clickers to enable students to self select the team they would like  to participate in.

Firstly in class we will brainstorm ideas and topics worthy for design and development and then use clickers to vote for the most popular ideas. The ‘priority ranking’ option within Turningpoint  can be used for this.

I will use the Team Assignment slide tool to create groups by asking the students to vote for the project team they would most like to be involved in.

This sounds like a plan 🙂

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