Student Response Systems - "Clickers"


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response ware devicesWhat are "Clickers"? 

The term "Clickers" is a commonly used term to describe some type of response system. Traditionally, the term has been used to refer to the actual device that students or audiences use to respond to questions posed by the presenter or instructor. Once a question is posed, the students use a "clicker pad" or some type of similar tool to digitally respond to the live question (Raux, 2012). These systems are also known as audience response systems, personal response systems, group response systems, and student response systems (Mula and Kavanagh, 2009). Many companies who provide these type of response systems have also begun implementing the use of mobile devices as the actual clicker pad. Rather than purchasing an extra device to carry around with them, companies are allowing students and other audiences to respond via the digital devices they are already carrying.

What are Clickers used for?

Instructors in courses are using Clickers for a variety of different in class applications. In a typical face-to-face classroom, especially when dealing with large numbers of students, the instructor asks a question and it is answered only by the best, most outspoken students leaving the shy or less articulate  students to continue to be passive participants in the class. 

"Some students do not respond to questions or request for feedback due to the fact that even though they are physically in the classroom, their minds are somewhere else. Other students do not respond for fear of retribution, either from their fellow students or from the teacher whom they perceive may think of them as 'dumb'. Some students do not answer questions because they cannot put into words what is concerning them. Failure to articulate concerns could be due to being unsure of the relevant terminology to use, or in the case of many overseas students, a perception that they cannot express themselves adequately in English. Moreover, there dis frequently a group of students that answer, or attempt to answer, every questions, thereby dominating class discussions and leaving little chance for other less assertive students to respond. In addition, another group of students may simply fail to understand or follow the logic of the argument presented. All these groups are not necessarily mutually exclusive, and may share similar characteristics." (Mula & Kavanagh, 2009, p.2)

Clickers can dramatically increase the participation transforming students from passive learners to active participants (Beard, 2013; Raux, 2012). Using clickers, instructors can pose a question and get immediate, real-time feedback allowing the instructor to review what the students do not seem to understand, provide additional explanation and examples for a concept that is misunderstood, or move on to the next part of the lesson if students demonstrate comprehension (Mula & Kavanagh, 2009). This allows the instructor to tailor their course material to address specific needs by the group of students sitting in front of them rather than using the same course outline for every section they teach. This formative approach also allows students to use the instant feedback as well, giving them the ability to judge how well they are understanding the material (Mula & Kavanagh, 2009), ask for clarification, and determine the gaps in their knowledge. This dynamic delivery of the material and interaction between the class participants allows instructors to more effectively meet the needs of all students (Mula & Kavanagh, 2009). 

According to Mula and Kavanagh (2009), when used appropriately, this tool can enhance the students' learning experience in the following ways: 
  • Create more engaging classes
  • Provide immediate feedback for use by both the instructor and the student
  • "Assist students to reinforce key concepts, draw connections to new material and build on previous knowledge" (p.6)
What are the potential benefits to using Clickers in the classroom?

A variety of benefits to using clicker technology in the classroom have been identified through research.  "Traditional, passive, feedback is conducted via exams and quizzes. These sources of feedback are infrequent and do not encourage the student to do additional work to master the material because the feedback arrives too late and the student has already moved on to new material." (Raux, 2012) Clickers, on the other hand, provide for immediate feedback which can help both the instructor and student to identify gaps in knowledge. The use of clickers provides for active learning as it gives every student the opportunity to actively participate in the class session, a technique difficult in face-to-face classrooms, especially large lectures. Several studies have shown that students retain more information when an active learning approach is taken (Raux, 2012) which is consistent with studies that show an association between active learning and an increase in exam scores (Anthis, 2011). Additionally, clickers may provoke student discussion of the course material which can facilitate active learning (Anthis, 2011). As a result of the active learning approach, participation in the classroom is increased and students have indicated that the clickers enhanced their understanding (Mula & Kavanagh, 2009). 
Many students, and faculty alike, view clickers as a positive element in a lecture based classroom as many students enjoy the interaction that this type of technology brings to their courses (Mula & Kavanagh, 2009; Nielsen, 2013).

How do I implement Clickers in my classroom? 

Acknowledging the benefits to using a student response system can cloud the fact that the system itself is just a tool and if not used correctly can actually be a hindrance to a positive learning experience (Nielsen, 2013). "Focusing primarily on the technology with a belief that the technology will automatically improve lectures, instead of focusing on how students think and learn, is the single most important reason for failure when implementing new technology into education and SRS is no exception." (Nielsen, 2013) Often, when new technology is introduced, there is a learning curve on both the part of the students and the instructor. It is important to spend time learning the student response system you will be using and to feel comfortable using the system. Students have shown a higher percentage of acceptance to the new technology and felt that they learned more from the use of the student response system when an instructor experienced with the technology was conducting the class (Nielsen, 2013). 
Nielsen (2013) has identified several key factors to good implementation of student response systems within the classroom including: 
  • have a clear goal in the use of the student response system 
  • being consistent in the use of a student response system (use it on a regular basis, make it a part of the classroom experience and be consistent in how it is used as well)
  • the more experienced the instructor, the better the experience 
  • using time with the clicker appropriately (providing the correct amount of response time based on question type; easier, quick decision questions have a shorter allotted response time than more involved questions)
  • preparing good questions
  • providing a "don't know" option which will allow the instructor to better gauge the understanding level of the students rather than requiring the students to "guess" 
  • do not use a student response system as just a substitute for paper quizzes (take full advantage of the immediate feedback that is provided by using it as a knowledge check periodically throughout the lecture/class time)

Great! I'm excited and ready to get started, now what? 

Contact your IT department to find out what clicker technology is being used at your school. It is important to use the school's supported system to help reduce costs to students and so that you can get help when you run into any technical issues. Remember, it is important to identify how you want to use the clickers and why prior to getting started. Also, be sure to give yourself plenty of time to practice and become comfortable with the technology before you use it in your classroom, don't wait until the day before the semester starts to get set up! 

UCO faculty can get started with using Turning Technologies in their classroom here.  

Additional resources from a variety of schools using Clicker technology: 


Anthis, K. (2011). Is it the clicker, or is it the question? Untangling the effects of student response system use. Teaching of Psychology, 38(3), p. 189-193.

Beard, K.V., Morote, E.S., and Volcy, K. (2013). Effects of a student response system on pre-class preparation, learning, and class participation in a diverse classroom. Teaching and Learning in Nursing, 8, p. 136-139. 

Mula, J.M., and Kavanagh, M. (2009). Click go the students, click-click-click: The efficacy of a student response system for engaging students to improve feedback and performance. e-Journal of Business Education & Scholarship of Teaching, 3(1), p. 1-17. 

Nielsen, K.L., Hansen, G., and Stav, J.B. (2013). Teaching with student response systems (SRS): Teacher-centric aspects that can negatively affect students' experience of using SRS. Research in Learning Technology, 21, found at

Raux, D. (2012). An effective active approach for teaching accounting in the 21st century: Using active learning, an on-line course management system, and a student response system. Review of Business Research, 12(4), p.86-100.