At today’s TLT Group seminar on teaching with clickers, a few of the participants were interested in advice on the vendor selection and adoption process. Given how quickly classroom response system vendors release new hardware and software, I decided not to include in my book some kind of chart comparing the features of popular vendors. Instead, I described several possible categories for such a chart in the hope that these categories would be a useful starting point for campuses beginning the vendor selection process.
Below you’ll find a short version of this list of categories, along with a few useful questions to ask for each category. There’s a more detailed version in my book, but given the interest in this topic at the TLT Group seminar, I thought I would share this short version here. Feel free to share additional factors to consider in the comments below.
- What are the costs to students for hardware or registration fees?
- What are the costs to your institution for hardware or software?
- What discounts are available if an adoption / exclusivity agreement is signed?
- What kind of displays do the clickers have? What kinds of batteries do they use?
- How easy will it be for instructors to set-up receivers before class? How easy will it be for receivers to be permanently installed in classrooms?
- What frequencies does the system use? Radio frequencies are generally superior to infrared frequencies.
- Does the software function differently when running on Macs?
- What needs to be installed on the classroom computer-the software itself or other programs such as PowerPoint?
- How easily can students with physical disabilities, including sensory impairments, use the system?
- Can students register their clickers’ serial numbers using the local online course management system? How easy is this process for students and instructors?
- Can students register their clickers’ serial numbers during class? How easy is this process?
- Can the clickers be used fully anonymously so that not even the instructor can identify student responses?
- How does the system integrate with PowerPoint and other slideware programs? Can the instructor use a remote to control both PowerPoint and the classroom response system?
- Does the system provide a floating toolbar mode allowing instructors to display questions and answers in any way they choose?
- Does the system make it easy to ask questions on the fly during class?
- Does the system provide a student-paced mode in which students respond to questions asynchronously?
- Does the system permit the use of free-response questions? If so, how does the system display the results of a free-response question?
- Are other question formats possible, such as ranking questions or multiple-mark questions?
Reporting and Grading
- What kinds of reports can the system generate from clicker data?
- What options does the system provide instructors for assigning point values to questions?
- Does the system allow instructors to upload grades to the local online course management system? If so, how easy is this process to use?