The Clickers Are Coming!

by Jeanne Drouillard, MBA., and Ron J Richard, PhD., CFL


In September 2005, the Centre for Flexible Learning (CFL) was asked by the Provost, Teaching and Learning to look at the possibility of using Personal Response Systems (popularly know as "clicker" technology) on campus.

We first did some research at the Educause Conference in October 2005, where vendors from a number of companies had displays and gave presentations. On November 25, 2005, representatives from the two leading technologies, eInstruction and Turning Point Technologies were invited to make more detailed presentations to interested faculty on campus. Based on faculty feedback from these presentations, as well as the costs involved, eInstruction was selected by the CFL for the winter semester pilot.

The Pilot

CFL purchased and paid the registration fees for one semester for 375 clickers from eInstruction for use beginning with the start of the winter semester. Two hundred and twenty five (225) clickers were provided to the Faculty of Education for use by Drs. Yvette Daniels and Larry Morton. One hundred and fifty (150) were provided to Dr. Ken Cramer of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (Psychology), for use in their classes in the Winter 2006 semester.

Dr. Cramer’s research ... demonstrated that students using the clickers vs. students not using the clickers ... averaged a 4% higher grade on the mid-term.

One month after the start of the semester, a representative from Thomson Nelson, which has a licence to distribute the Turning Point Technologies clickers to universities, offered to sponsor a pilot of their technology at no cost to the university. Dr. Julie Smit of the Faculty of Science (Biology) agreed to use this technology in her class of approximately 200 students.

Results and Feedback

Following a term in which these clickers were used, CFL met with the three faculty members referred to above and Prof. Denise Ghanam from the Faculty of Business who had used the Turning Point Technologies clickers in the fall semester in a class of 40 students. This was done in relation to an offer with the text book used in the class.

The clickers were mostly used for review and to generate discussion. In some cases, they were used to evaluate participation. Participation was higher when clickers were used. Their use appeared to increase attendance; there were instances of students who changed sections so that they could be in the class with the clickers (Psychology).

Overall feedback indicates that students really liked the technology. Feedback from students was all positive. They found it “cool” and engaging. They were more willing to participate, in particular in the large classes. Students who didn’t have clickers (in the Psychology class) wanted them.  Students liked using them; they felt secure with the anonymity in the large groups.

Dr. Cramer’s research further demonstrated that students using the clickers vs. students not using the clickers (even in the same classroom) averaged a 4% higher grade on the mid-term.


Should the university decide to adopt the clicker technology, it is recommended that one  type of clicker be identified as the preferred option and sold in the bookstore in order to reduce the number of clickers students need to carry around and the costs involved in the purchase. Presently the CFL is recommending Turning Point Technologies as this vendor.

Generally bookstores buy back the clickers from students leaving upon graduation at a reduced rate, and resell them at a reduced cost to new students. This allows departing students to recover some of their initial investment and for new students to pay less.

The university would need to support the clickers by providing training to faculty members who would need it. Further, we would need to add clicker registration to the SIS system in order to ensure that clickers are associated with the students and relevant courses. Initially, students would register their clickers manually at a secure, developed U of W website, but in the future we see this process possibly being done at the point of purchase (i.e.. When a student buys a clicker, the bookstore registers it in the student’s name into the SIS system, and then unregisters it when it is returned).  The mechanism for getting clickers registered to their users is still being developed.

The CFL welcomes any comments and suggestions about the use of these clickers in classrooms. We are also working to provide advice about ways to effectively integrate them into your curriculum, so that these are not merely cool gadgets, but part of an sound overall teaching strategy.

Jeanne Drouillard is the acting Director of the CFL
Ron J Richard is the editor of refLEXions and the Senior Instructional Designer at the CFL

Reader Comments

2006-Jul-10 at 15:36
Mike Weis
After talking to Julie Smit, I decided that I'd like to use 'clickers' in the lecture section of Ecology (55-210). What I need to know is whether a strategy for sales and registration will be in place for September.

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