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Vol 2: May 2005

Immediate Response Systems: Clickers are catching ON

By Michelle B. Kunz & JoAnn Linrud

    Immediate response systems, commonly referred to by students and faculty as “clickers” are becoming common-place in many classrooms.  The basic setup for this technology involves a personal remote device (the clicker) that many times looks very much like a TV remote, and a receiver unit attached to a computer or laptop with appropriate polling software installed.  There are a variety of systems available; the two most prevalent in higher education are CPS by  and TurningPoint by  At present most systems use an infrared (IR) signal that is sent to the receiver when the student selects a numeric or alpha response key on the remote pad.  However, both systems are rapidly changing over to improved radio frequency (RF) signals that are more reliable and less susceptible to ambient interference. 

    How are professors using the clickers in class?  There are many ways.  In large classes they provide a quick and easy way to take attendance.  In addition, quizzes, in-class surveys and other polling of students’ comprehension can be done quickly, providing immediate feedback to both the students and the professor.  Test reviews are simple to deliver and provide the opportunity to clarify misunderstanding of unclear concepts, etc.  The applications are limited only by the ingenuity of the professor.  By polling students on specific concepts during lectures, the professor can gauge the students’ comprehension of the material covered.

    The system seems to be most warmly received by younger, traditional-aged students, used to technology, TV remotes, and the “MTV generation” mentality.  However, the anonymity of the response system allows the shy, introverted student to participate in an anonymous, non-threatening environment.  Thus, it encourages class participation by quiet, silent students.

    For the most part, student surveys find that students like the technology.  They believe it does get them involved in the class more, and provides them motivation to attend and participate.  However, there are some negative aspects.  First the clickers cost the students as either a separate or additional purchase, or are bundled with the text.  The instructor must spend some time learning the software and developing or refining its application in the class lecture/presentation. 

    Finally—is this a long-term trend or just a fad?  Some will argue the former, while others will argue for the latter.  Is it really the greatest thing since sliced bread?  Probably not.  However, the “clicker,” just like multi-media, PowerPoint, wired classrooms, and other technological developments, is really just one of many tools in an arsenal of technology and instructional support materials available for professors to consider, evaluate, and perhaps, or perhaps not, adopt.

Dr. Michelle B. Kunz
Associate Professor of Marketing
Morehead State University
Morehead, KY 40351

Dr. JoAnn Linrud
Professor of Marketing
Central Michigan University
Mount Pleasant, MI 48859


Marketing Insights is edited by Tim Aurand & Tanuja Singh at the Northern Illinois University.
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