Nov 27 2013

How Pepperdine Launched and Manages Clickers in the Classroom

From increasing participation to taking attendance, clickers have been a useful learning tool at Pepperdine University School of Law.

At Pepperdine University School of Law, clickers have become an important part of students’ education. Faculty members have embraced the technology, and since the program’s inauguration in 2012, over one-third have adopted clickers.

Here’s how it works: A faculty member creates questions with PowerPoint. The instructor’s computer accepts the students’ answers via a wireless USB receiver. Results — including bar graphs of correct and incorrect answers— are displayed on the instructor’s computer or on a projector screen. The law school’s information services team launched a six-step program to initiate and maintain clickers. Here’s a look at the process.

Phase One: Determine Faculty Technology Use and Interest

First, to gauge the level of interest in the program, the information services team gathered information about the faculty’s current use of clickers and other technology.

Phase Two: Cultivate Faculty Buy-In

Next, the team held a “Lunch-n-Learn” to show how the clickers could be used in the classroom. It was an opportunity for faculty members to install and use clickers. In addition, faculty members who had used clickers in the past were on hand to share their experiences.

Professor Gregory McNeal showed the audience how clickers act as an extension of a raised hand. McNeal noted, “Instead of calling on a few students during class, where there’s only a 1 in 70 chance of being called on without clickers, all students participate. Using clickers forces students to pay attention to content and their notes in order to participate and receive an assessment grade.” McNeal also described how he asks students why they aren’t getting the correct answer and then walks them through the thought process. In some cases, he adjusts his pedagogy to improve classes. These examples helped the faculty to understand that clickers are not just another technology; they can aid student retention, too.

The team presented the use of clickers as a way to resolve classroom challenges, such as attendance, content review and student participation. Faculty members may not know how technology is applicable to instruction; therefore, communicating the benefits can cultivate buy-in.

Phase Three: Clicker Training

The staff used one-on-one sessions to train the faculty on how to set up their PowerPoint slides and use clickers in the classroom.

Phase Four: Clicker Dissemination

Pepperdine ordered clickers and allowed current students to check them out from the library. In addition, new students received a clicker during orientation. This reduced library traffic and ensured that all new students had clickers on their first day of class.

Phase Five: Implementation

During the first several weeks of class, a representative from the information services department helped set up and register students’ clickers, which took about 15 minutes per class. Registering the clickers allowed professors to quickly take attendance and to match students to their answers.

Phase Six: Addressing Challenges

A number of issues were raised early in this process. Here are a few examples, along with their solutions:

  • Initially, McNeal asked students to buy their clickers from the bookstore. Because students do not pay a technology fee, there was pushback. To resolve the conflict, the information services team procured a grant from the chief information officer to buy back the clickers. Currently, students are not charged for clickers but are assessed a fee for unreturned clickers.
  • Students didn’t like being marked absent from class if they’d forgotten their clicker. Pepperdine decided to use this as a lesson. Without the proper tools, students wouldn’t succeed in the classroom or in the working world after graduation. By listing course participation requirements in the syllabus at the start of each term, students learned to bring their clickers, so their concerns were eventually mitigated.
  • Originally, faculty members had to bring a receiver to plug into the computer, and students needed to change their clicker channel accordingly. If a receiver was forgotten or students didn’t remember the channel, responses went unrecorded. Now, a receiver is permanently installed, and a sign posted at the front of each room reminds students to change their clicker channel.
  • Students frequently delayed class by asking questions about their clickers. To limit these questions, students now receive an FAQ card that addresses major concerns.
  • Faculty members were concerned about the amount of time needed to register student clickers at the start of classes. The information services team decided to preregister the clickers by adding the identification number to a roster before clickers are checked out. The rosters are then saved to each computer before the semester begins.

The efforts of information services to make clicker use smooth for the faculty and the word-of-mouth promotion from colleagues have increased the number of users at Pepperdine University School of Law.

<p>Monkey Business/Thinkstock</p>

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