Challenges and Issues to Prepare for

On any given day, you will hear one of three sayings- "I forgot my clicker," "My clicker isn't working," "I didn't get to answer one of the questions." You need to think carefully about how you're going to answer these questions as you construct your syllabus and grading policies. Extra 'loaner' clickers and spare batteries may be an easy solution.

Student cheating, recording clicker answers for someone who is absent.

Cheating may become a problem, especially in large classes. First, you need to carefully and specifically define clicker cheating. While some instructors discourage "chit-chat" or sharing of information while students are answering questions, other instructors actively encourage student discussions. Whichever route you choose, make your expectations clear to the students. Some students may be blatantly giving answers to neighbors but this is typically not the norm. Most students see the value in answering questions on their own and make a genuine effort to answer on their own. You are more likely to find one student with two or more clickers who is answering on behalf of another student who isn't attending class. To most instructors, that is cheating and strictly prohibited. Your penalty should be clearly outlined on the syllabus. Some instructors choose to fail the student for the whole class while others fail the student just for the clicker portion of the course grade. A statement about cheating can be found on Joe Calhoun's syllabus (Acrobat (PDF) 16kB Jan31 10) at Florida State University. FSU has upheld several challenges by students to the sanctions.

The best way to combat cheating is to walk around the room and watch students as they answer. If you teach in a large lecture hall, assign one or more teaching assistants to monitor the room with you. You could also create some kind of peer monitoring to minimize cheating.

As with any technology, you need to have a backup plan if the software or computer fails. The simplest policy is to just cancel the clicker points for the day. Trying to collect data manually and enter it into the clicker software is usually not feasible for many reasons. A makeup policy might be difficult to administer. You may not need to state anything official on your syllabus but you should mentally have a plan if you walk into class and can't use the technology one day. Or, consider use of ABCD cards that require no software or computers.

Like any data, you should form a regular habit and procedure for backing up your clicker data. Lost or corrupted data will be virtually impossible to restore or recreate.

Student errors and carelessness will occur. Most systems require the student to enter some kind of student ID into the clicker which is then used to process scores and upload them to a Learning Management System (LMS) such as Blackboard. If the ID is incorrect the student will receive a zero. Correcting errors is sometimes difficult and other times easy. It depends on the error, the software, and the LMS. Your policy will certainly depend on your experience and the type of error. Some instructors take a strict position by stating no student-generated errors will be corrected while others adopt a softer policy.

While some or all of these challenges may seem large and not worth the effort, not very many instructors find the costs to outweigh the benefits. After some experience dealing with these issues, they become minor disturbances. The benefits to both the instructor and student almost always far outweighs the costs and challenges clickers present. After implementing clickers in their classroom, very few instructors would even consider giving up the pedagogical benefits that they bring.