Factors to Consider When Selecting Clicker Vendors

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.

Cost

  • 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?

Hardware

  • 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.

Software

  • 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?

Accessibility

  • How easily can students with physical disabilities, including sensory impairments, use the system?

Registration Methods

  • 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?

Delivery Modes

  • 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?

Question Formats

  • 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?

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