Capstone Project 3: integrating clickers in classroom teaching


Design Document


Technology has had a profound effect in every aspect of daily life over the last few decades, and its impact in teaching and learning is evident in a classroom at any level of formal education. Over time, the adoption of technology, especially mobile technology has made inroads into the day to day lives of people who had previously been deprived of it due to socio-economic factors (Pachler et al., 2010). This increased adoption, thanks due to the increasing number of features of mobile technologies (Pea & Maldonado, 2006), has resulted in their increased use in the classroom.

Successfully integrating these technologies into the learning ecosystem requires the understanding of learning theories, pedagogies, and the technical know-how of the implementation. Instructional designers (IDs) such as myself work with instructors to find the best way to effective integrate these technologies and add value to the teaching and learning process. IDs engage with instructors and students to effectively plan technology integrations, and iteratively improve upon them. Among the various models developed by academics to manage an instructional design process, a role-based design methodology developed by Hokanson et al. divides the role of a designer into various other roles such as that of an engineer, artist, craftsman, etc.(Hokanson, Miller, & Hooper, 2008). The instructional designer wears these different hats at different times in the design process to successfully affect the design of a learning system.

One of the technologies that is increasingly being adopted in higher education is a clicker, more formally known as an Audience Response System, or a Student Response System. Clicker systems allow instructors to engage the classroom by asking them quick short questions that the students can respond to, and view the results instantly. This process gives the instructor immediate feedback into their teaching, as a result of which they can amend the pace of instruction (Kay & LeSage, 2009). Clickers also provide various other benefits such as attendance tracking, increased student interaction with the instructor and peers, engagement in the classroom, while playing a role in redesigning assessment and increasing the efficiency of the instructor (Kay & LeSage 2009; Caldwell 2007).

At Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q), undergraduate students in the first year are required to take an introductory course: Media and Society. This course explores the interactions between media, culture, and society, and lays the groundwork on which future courses in the majors of Journalism and Communications are based on. Since this a course a student enrolls in early in their undergraduate life, it also introduces them to the university, learning philosophies, their peers while they develop basic literacies of the media that is every present in their lives. As such, it is an ideal class to use clickers as part of its core instruction to most effectively meet the learning objectives of the course.

While hardware based clickers have been used in the classroom for a good part of the last decade, recent advances utilize features of smartphones that turn them into a software-based clicker that students can use, hence doing away with carrying one more device. Sharples (2013) argues that is important to take into account the individual preferences of the students while designing a solution for mobile learning. These days, smartphones have become the explicit expression of one’s identity. Moreover, one of the challenges of hardware based clickers is that students either forget them or lose them (Caldwell, 2007). By using smartphones, which are almost always in one’s possession, this challenge is greatly reduced. Using a smartphone also provides the instructor with the ability to engage the students with question types beyond multiple-choice and True/False, which is a major limitation of hardware clickers. Short answers and phrases can be typed in using the keyboard that the students are already familiar with.

For the Media & Society class, students will be required to download the “ResponseWare” mobile app developed by Turning Technologies. The instructor will create the questions or polls as part of their instructional media and the students can respond using their phones, which are already connected to the university wireless. Students who do not possess smartphones, or a phone that is compatible with the app can be loaned a phone from IT department. The devices are tied to the license that the students will be required to buy and register, hence providing the instructor with the ability to match responses to students. The instant results shown in class at the end of each poll will remain anonymous. The setup will also be used to conduct formative assessments in the course, which will consist of multiple questions and different types of questions.


Design principles related to integration of clickers in the course Media and Society:

Design Guideline Strategy
Students’ individual preference is important for the success of a mobile learning solution (Sharples, 2013; Stowell, 2015)
  • Support the students in downloading and setting up the ResponseWare app on their own phones.
  • Make phones/devices available for students who do not have smartphones
  • Provide students with training through demo polls at the beginning of the semester
  • Offer ongoing technical support to students and instructor throughout the semester
  • Create documentation that students can refer to easily for technical support
Clicker use in the classroom increases attendance(Caldwell, 2007)
  • Develop questions that students can answer using clickers at the start of class
  • Consult with the instructor on the point value to be given for clicker use on time and regularly
  • Ensure that classroom is setup at the class time to avoid technical difficulties
  • Decomnstrate difference between clickers and regular sign-in based attendance technique to focus on instructor efficiency
Clickers encourage student engagement with instructors and peers (Blasco-Arcas, Buil, Hernández-Ortega, & Sese, 2013; Kay & LeSage, 2009)
  • Ask questions that foster discussion once the polling is completed
  • Allot time for discussion of poll results in the class
  • Develop questions that attract varied answers to encourage discussions
  • Gather demographic data using clickers and pivot the data against poll results (Eg: 25% of male students made choice A as opposed to 80% of female students)
Students and Teachers like getting regular feedback on understanding (Kay & LeSage, 2009)
  • Develop methods to easily show and explain poll results to the class
  • Work with instructor on adjusting the pace of the instruction based on feedback from polls
  • Revisit poll questions and answers from previous class sessions to highlight learning and understanding, or change in opinion
  • Stimulate students with questions/polls that support metacognition (Brady, Seli, & Rosenthal, 2013)
  • Create reports for instructor to highlight trends in student responses over time
Using clickers in small groups encourages effective pedagogy in an active learning classroom (Daniel & Tivener, 2016; McDonough & Foote, 2015)
  • Create specific group based polling activities that require students to work in groups
  • Develop questions which require the group to engage in a consensus building activity
  • Follow up on polling activities with discussion providing for peer-instruction>/ul>
Clickers make it possible to effectively complete formative assessment (Kay & LeSage, 2009)
  • Work with instructors to convert paper based quizzes to clicker format
  • Run through a demo quiz with students to practice answering different types of questions and alleviate any technology-specific anxiety
  • Develop a workflow for marking assessments with instructors highlighting efficiency



Blasco-Arcas, L., Buil, I., Hernández-Ortega, B., & Sese, F. J. (2013). Using clickers in class. the role of interactivity, active collaborative learning and engagement in learning performance. Computers and Education, 62, 102–110.

Brady, M., Seli, H., & Rosenthal, J. (2013). “Clickers” and metacognition: A quasi-experimental comparative study about metacognitive self-regulation and use of electronic feedback devices. Computers and Education, 65, 56–63.

Caldwell, J. E. (2007). Clickers in the Large Classroom: Current Research and Best-Practice Tips. CBE - Life Sciences Education, 6(1), 9–20.

Daniel, T., & Tivener, K. (2016). Effects of Sharing Clickers in an Active Learning Environment. Educational Technology & Society, 19(3), 260–268.

Hokanson, B. B., Miller, C., & Hooper, S. (2008). Perspective for Innovation in Instructional Design, 52(6).

Kay, R. H., & LeSage, A. (2009). Examining the benefits and challenges of using audience response systems: A review of the literature. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 25(2), 235–249.

McDonough, K., & Foote, J. A. (2015). The impact of individual and shared clicker use on students’ collaborative learning. Computers and Education, 86, 236–249.

Pachler, N., Cook, J., Bachmair, B., Kress, G., Seipold, J., Adami, E., & Rummler, K. (2010). Mobile learning: Structures, agency, practices. Mobile Learning: Structures, Agency, Practices, 1–382.

Pea, R. D., & Maldonado, H. (2006). WILD for learning : Interacting through new computing devices anytime , anywhere. The Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences, 852–885.

Sharples, M. (2013). Mobile learning : research , practice and challenges. Distance Education in China, 3(5), 5–11.

Stowell, J. R. (2015). Use of clickers vs. mobile devices for classroom polling. Computers and Education, 82, 329–334.


In order to successfully integrate student response systems or “clickers” in a class, the instructors must understand the pedagogical advantages of higher student engagement leading to better student performance in the classroom. A Clicker Request Form will be made available to all faculty members at Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q). The purpose behind this form is to encourage faculty to envision how they would use the clickers while also help the Instructional Designer(ID) plan for classes that will use clickers. Faculty members will be encouraged to submit the form at least 2 months before the first day of classes.

Once the request to use clickers is approved, the ID will meet with the faculty member to understand their needs in details and chart out a plan to integrate the technology in their class. The ID will discuss the syllabus the instructor and consult with them on how to best use clickers in their classroom.

One month before the start of the class, the ID will help the instructor acquire an instructor account with Turning Technologies (the clicker vendor for NU-Q) and set the TurningPoint Cloud software on their computer. Along with a training session, instructions provided will help them in getting familiar with the software and create polls to be used in the class.

One week before the start of the class, the instructor will be able to download the students from the LMS in use at NU-Q to their TurningPoint Software using the provided instructions.

On the first day of class, the ID will hand the clickers out to the students and lead them through the process of registration using the instructions from the following documents:

The above documents will also be made available to the students for future reference.

The instructor and the ID will lead the students through a demo poll on the first day of class where both the instructor and the students can practice polling. The following documents will be provided to the respective group that will help them throughout the semester:

At the end of every session, or week, the faculty member will be encouraged to export the grades from the TurningPoint software back to the LMS. Instructions provided in the document will help the faculty member repeat this process.

If a student has already obtained a license for a previous class, they can use these instructions to register their device for the class.