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Classroom Communication Systems

Page created by Laura Guertin (Pennsylvania State University Brandywine) and Rebecca Teed (SERC)

The following are some topics to consider before implementing and while using course communication systems.

Who will purchase the system?

Will the campus purchase and support the hardware and software needed to operate the technology?

  • Some of the manufacturers allow the handheld IR remotes to be purchased individually by students. The McGraw-Hill Company can package individual remotes with their textbook titles, yet your school will still need to purchase the IR receiver and software.
  • A certain number of remotes come with every receiver/software package purchased, so these can be lent to students through the college or university library system. University of Texas at Austin uses this system.
  • In addition, if many students purchase their textbooks online and not through a campus bookstore, the instructor will have to make sure the students purchase the remotes and realize that they are an important part of class participation. Be prepared for arguments from students not willing to spend the extra ~$20 for the remote.
Learn more about sources for remotes and software here

Is your classroom set up for using this technology?

Can the classroom be changed to accommodate the technology?

  • For example, you will need a computer with the software loaded that you can connect the receiver to. Does your classroom have a desktop computer locked in a cabinet where you do not have easy access to the ports?
  • One problem with using computers that stay in a classroom is that the student data collected is stored on that computer, not your own. One way to avoid this issue is to use a laptop computer where you have files of the student records.

What if a student forgets his/her handheld IR remote, or a remote fails to work?

This will happen at some point, and instructors need to prepare for this type of situation.

  • What will you do if you are having students take a quiz with the remotes, and a student is without one? For graded exercises, it is a good idea to have a few paper copies on hand for those students who are unable to participate with the remotes.
  • You may also want to have some spare batteries available for the remotes that are not sending a signal.

How will I be able to connect an individual response to an individual student?

  • If the students purchase the remotes themselves, they will be required to provide the instructor with the remote number or go online and register their remote number under their instructor and course name (this is set up by the instructor through the company supplying the remotes). The instructor then downloads the class list with the corresponding remote identifications. The instructor needs to make sure the student purchases and registers the remote on their own by a certain deadline.
  • If the school purchases a set of remotes, then the instructor assigns a remote number to each student. A student will be required to use the same remote every class period.
  • Instructors should keep an eye out for students picking up more than one remote at the beginning of class or holding two remotes, especially if the remotes are being used as an attendance taker and a student decides to "respond" for a friend not in class.

What if I'm not looking to match individual responses with individual students?

There is still a valuable use for course communication systems in the classroom. Instructors can obtain feedback on lecture topics, an assessment on the class comprehension of material, etc. Instructors can also have students work in groups on problems and have just one response entered on a remote.

What happens to the handheld IR remotes at the end of the semester?

Students can sell the remotes back to their campus bookstore or hold on to the remote and use it in a future class.

Classroom Example

See the example on Quicksand Questions: Short In-class Activity.


For more advice on how to use this technology and examples of how it is being used at several universities: