What’s New with Clickers?

There’s a new clicker on the quad this fall.  Clicker is the popular term for the devices used for in-class voting systems. The Homewood campus is now using the i>Clicker Classroom Response System; students can use the same clicker device in multiple courses. One of the benefits of the i>Clicker system is that it is integrated with the Blackboard course management system.

Faculty need a computer, either their own laptop or the podium computer in a smart classroom, to use clickers during class. Students simply purchase and register an i>Clicker voting unit. For the Krieger School of Arts & Sciences and the Whiting School of Engineering, the Center for Educational Resources (CER) will provide the i>Clicker software and an RF receiver if needed. Interested faculty can borrow a loaner i>Clicker system to try out in a class up to 50 students. For other JHU schools, contact your divisional instructional support center for information.

Photograph of an i>clicker2

In-class voting technologies were first piloted in classes on the Homewood campus in spring 2003. Since then in-class voting has become ubiquitous in large enrollment classes at Homewood; over 2500 students per semester use the system. Clickers are used in courses such as biology, chemistry, civil engineering, earth and planetary sciences, history of science and technology, materials science, physics, and psychological and brain sciences.

Clickers allow faculty to engage students quickly and easily. They enable faculty to:

  • Give and grade objective pop quizzes on readings or other assignments
  • Conduct in-class polls in real time
  • Stimulate class discussion by posing subjective questions, using either ad-hoc or previously developed questions
  • Manage, record and run reports on all aspects of students’ performance using the system
  • Take attendance

In a typical example, an instructor poses a question, often multiple-choice, to the class. Then students think about the question and submit their responses using their handheld wireless transmitters (clickers). Responses are beamed to a receiver plugged into the instructor’s computer. Software on the computer processes the information quickly and displays a bar chart showing the distribution of student responses. Instructors can then use these responses to decide how to proceed in the class.

Opinions vary on whether or not to use clickers for grading class attendance. Some instructors simply use clicker votes to count as participation points, just as they might grade students in discussions. For instructors who would like to monitor attendance over time, clickers can record attendance.

Instructors have found that using clickers has dramatically increased attendance in class, enhanced just-in-time teaching capabilities, increased classroom participation and simplified the deployment and grading of quizzes and exams. Data collected over several years in several courses show a direct correlation between clicker participation and final grades. Clickers are generally considered to be one of the foundations of an active learning classroom.

Faculty who are interested in learning more about the in-class voting system should
contact Brian Cole (bcole@jhu.edu, 410-516-5418) or drop in to the Center for Educational Resources on Q Level in the Milton S.Eisenhower Library.

Clicker Resources

Richard Shingles, Lecturer, Department of Biology
Direcctor of the TA Training Institute, Center for Educational Resources

Image source: Photograph © Brian Cole


Teaching Tips: Classroom Assessment

Increasing emphasis is being placed on assessment, and many faculty are looking for evaluation practices that extend beyond giving a mid-term and final exam. In particular the concept of non-graded classroom assessment is gaining traction. In their book Classroom Assessment Techniques, Thomas Angelo and Patricia Cross (Jossey-Bass, 1993) stress the importance of student evaluation that is “learner-centered, teacher-directed, mutually beneficial, formative, context-specific, ongoing, and firmly rooted in good practice.”

Students in a classroom.

While the authors describe in detail numerous techniques for ascertaining in a timely manner whether or not students are learning what is being taught, here are several quick and easy to implement methods:


The Minute Paper: At an appropriate break, ask students to answer on paper a specific question pertaining to what has just been taught. After a minute or two, collect the papers for review after class, or, to promote class interaction, ask students to pair off and discuss their responses. After a few minutes, call on a few students to report their answers and results of discussion. If papers are turned in, there is value to both the anonymous and the signed approach. Grading, however, is not the point; this is a way to gather information about the effectiveness of teaching and learning.

In Class Survey: Think of this as a short, non-graded pop quiz. Pass out a prepared set of questions, or have students provide answers on their own paper to questions on a PowerPoint/Keynote slide. Focus on a few key concepts. Again, the idea is to assess whether students understand what is being taught.

Exit Ticket: Select one of the following items and near the end of class ask your students to write on a sheet of paper 1) a question they have that didn’t get answered, 2) a concept or problem that they didn’t understand, 3) a bullet list of the major points covered in class, or 4) a specific question to access their learning. Students must hand in the paper to exit class. Allow anonymous response so that students will answer honestly. If you do this regularly, you may want to put the exit ticket question on your final PowerPoint/Keynote slide.

Tools that can help with assessment

Classroom polling devices (a.k.a. clickers) offer an excellent means of obtaining evidence of student learning. See http://www.cer.jhu.edu/clickers.html for information about the in-class voting system used at JHU. Faculty who are interested in learning more should contact Brian Cole in the CER.

Faculty at the JHU School of Nursing have been piloting an online application called Course Canary to obtain student assessment data. Formative course evaluation surveys allow faculty to collect student feedback quickly and anonymously. A free account is available (offering two online surveys and two exit ticket surveys) at: https://coursecanary.com/.

Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources

Image source: Microsoft Clip Art