Audience Response Systems



NOTE: As of August 2018, Top Hat is now available for free to all Pitt faculty and students. To get started with Top Hat please visit this post. The remainder of this article is out of date, and will be updated in the near future. Please contact the LMS Support and Consulting team if you are interested in adopting an Audience Response System for your course.

Audience Response Systems (ARS)–also known as “Clickers”–provides students with a wireless hand-held response pad that allows them to reply to classroom questions electronically and receive immediate feedback. Faculty can thereby engage students in course material through interactive question and answer sessions. The ARS software polls students, quickly tabulates the results, and presents the findings graphically.  Audience response systems are also known as classroom response systems, electronic response systems, and student response systems.

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How does ARS work?

Most Audience Response Systems are composed of both hardware and software. The software is similar to presentation software that displays a question. The students respond to the question using devices similar to television remote controls that send infrared signals to a receiver attached to the presenter’s computer. The computer records and displays the response from each student.

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How Can an ARS Help Faculty Achieve Their Course Goals?

  • Engages students in course material through survey, pre-test, practice, or review questions. Classroom interaction encourages students to be prepared for each class. To maintain learners’ attention, questions must be challenging, thought-provoking, and/or stimulating.
  • Promotes collaboration with group exercises that require students to discuss and come to a consensus, or with quiz questions that create a healthy competition.
  • Provides instant feedback to students regarding an issue, question, or calculation. Consider using Gagne’s learning theory, which incorporates guidance, practice, and feedback into structured lessons.
  • Increases communication by discussing the answers and opinions revealed in the results. The response system provides all students with an equal opportunity to respond, and faculty can take advantage of their responses to generate dialogue. Because the system can allow for anonymous responses, it is effective for sensitive questions, such as ethical, legal, and moral issues.
  • Collects data for research or formative/summative evaluation. The SRS can be used for classroom assessments to measure students’ preparation, understanding and/or satisfaction. Some instructors administer pre- and post-tests using ARS.

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Recommended ARS

  • Top Hat

Top Hat is now available for free for all Pitt faculty and students. To get started with Top Hat please visit this post.

  • Turning Point Clickers by Turning Technologies

Dedicated hardware clickers from Turning Technologies are available from Classroom Services for will-call loan or with staff setup assistance in classrooms. Software to create interactive polls within PowerPoint is available at no cost from Software Distribution Services and from the Turning Technologies website. Operational training for TurningPoint hardware and software is available through Educational Technology Services.

In addition, an online ResponseWare application from Turning Technologies allows participants to respond to classroom polls using their web-enabled mobile devices. Classroom Services has licenses available for registered University courses.

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Further Information About Audience Response Systems

Clicker Resources Guide: An Instructor’s Guide to the Effective Use of Personal Response Systems (Clickers) in Teaching; EDUCAUSE Library, 2010

Evidence-Based Teaching: The Next Generation; Webinar, EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI), 2014

Seven Things You Should Know About Open-Ended Response Systems; EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI), 2011


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