National University of Ireland, Galway
Traditional lecture hall teaching involving exposition by academics to passive listeners are suffering from falling attendance and criticism of effectiveness. Although presentation quality is improving, there is an anecdotal perception that students do not see a tangible benefit in lectures when lecture slides are distributed online. To create added value in the lecture format and improve learning opportunities for students, we have trialled the use of Personal Response Systems (PRS, also known as clickers) in a variety of lecture formats. This has resulted in a foundation of knowledge and experience in the use of PRS technology and in the pragmatic challenges for everyday teaching. Three specific areas have been identified:
Firstly, the PRS technology itself requires preparation and testing to identify a suitable configuration. Software compatibility and pre-installation requirements can reduce flexibility, while instability can sabotage plans at the last minute. Secondly, effective integration of clickers into individual lectures requires budgeting of time and structure. Careful use of slide design is required to optimise the presentation. Finally, the design of effective questions presents especially significant challenge. It is necessary to understand the intended learning outcome and likely confusion of students in order to pose questions which have maximal impact on student learning.
Despite these challenges, PRS technology is a highly engaging teaching methodology. Interactive communication within the lecture hall is highly motivating and valued by students, and creates a perceived benefit for attendance.