Monday, May 19, 2014

Utilizing Personal Response Tools and Software


A personal response tool is a device used to encourage interactivity between a presenter and his/her audience. The first technology introduced required a hand-held remote control type device that is often called a “clicker”. However, new software has been introduced that allows responses from the audience utilizing personal devices such as smartphones, laptops, and tablets. There are many personal response tools available. Some are free and utilize personal devices while others are fee based and require a special remote.

Cloud-based software enables the presenter/instructor to create questions or polls that can be sent to the participants/students during the presentation or lecture or integrated into a PowerPoint slide deck. Results are instantly tabulated via the Internet, and can be displayed by the presenter to the audience either as anonymous responses or linked to the participants.

Benefits of using personal response tools

  • Improved attentiveness and engagement during the presentation
  • Increased retention of presentation materials
  • Facilitation of private student responses
  • Tracking of individual understanding so that the instructor can identify students who are not comprehending the material
  • Adaptation of questions written on-the-fly according to the direction the class takes
  • Immediate display of polling results to facilitate discussions and question and answer time
  • Creation of an interactive and fun learning environment
  • Confirmation of students’ understanding of key points immediately instead of waiting for an assessment activity
  • Gathering data for reporting and analysis

Response Products

Learning Catalytics: A “bring your own device” student engagement, assessment, and classroom intelligence system by Pearson. Students use their web-enabled devices to interact with open-ended questions that ask for numerical, algebraic, textual, or graphical responses. Instructors can access a question library with thousands of questions. Free instructor account and a student fee of $12 for 6 months.

Turning Technologies (TurningPoint): Offers instant management of polling participants, content, sessions and reports. Provides a simple interface in PowerPoint, or through a floating interactive toolbar. TurningPoint allows several response options ranging from clickers to smartphones and/or laptops. Pricing varies depending on use.

Poll Everywhere: A web-based application that allows participants to respond via any web-enabled device by sending text messages, visiting the web page, or using Twitter. The poll can be embedded within a presentation or web page and updates in real time. The free plan limits the number of participants to 40 per poll with higher-ed price plans available. Take a tour of Poll Everywhere.

Socrative: A student response system that empowers teachers and/or presenters to engage their audience through a series of educational exercises and games via any web-enabled personal device. For more information, view the 4 minute video produced by Socrative at, and the narrated slideshow “Using Mobile Devices as Personal Response Tools”. Students can use the Socrative app or access it through the Internet without creating an account or login. The student response service is free for everyone but only 50 participants can be logged in at one time - but you can have as many as you would like throughout the day.

QuestionPress: A classroom response system that provides polling, surveys, forms, and online assessments through live interaction with the students. QuestionPress can gather a digital show of hands and more, whether the responders are in the same room or across the globe. Fees are based on sessions and the number of responders per session.

Google Docs: Several tools available in Google Docs can be used as to create quick assessment surveys for students. Instructors can use Google Forms to create a quick exit-ticket type survey of their students’ understanding. The Google spreadsheet can be used to watch students’ work in progress. The spreadsheet can be revisited by the students in order to gather information or to check their progress. Google Docs allows up to 50 multiple users to access a doc at the same time. Docs can be accessed by any web-enabled device through the shared link. Visit “Google Spreadsheets and real-time assessment” for an excellent article on how one instructor uses Google Docs for instruction.

Moodle: There are several activities available in Moodle that can be adapted to use as personal response tools such as
  • The Feedback activity can be used to create multiple, ungraded questions for assessment and polling. The Feedback activity will keep track of individual student’s results or can record responses as anonymous. See “Building Ungraded Feedback Activities in Moodle” for more information.
  • The Choice activity allows instructors to create one question with a number of options as the student’s choice. The publishing features available in Choice allows the instructor to choose when and if the results will be released and whether they will be anonymous or with names. See “Interactive Uses of the Moodle Choice Activity” for more information.
  • The Quiz activity can be used to give students instant feedback through graded questions. Instructors can set the quiz grade to 0 if they do not want the grade to count. With the many settings options available in the Quiz activity, multiple attempts can be allowed and adaptive attempts can be integrated.

Online Survey Tools

There are also many free online survey tools available for quick web-based polling. For more information about online survey tools visit the article, “A Few Good Online Survey Tools”. The article features information on SurveyMonkey, Zoomerang, SurveyGizmo, and many others.

Getting Started - Preliminary Questions to Think About When Incorporating Response Tools into the Classroom*

  • How do you plan to use the product?
    • what type of questions (multiple choice, true/false, other) would you like to use?
    • how would you like to collect students responses (anonymously or not)?
  • In which classroom are you going to teach (if already known)?
  • What is the expected enrollment for the class?
  • What response devices would you like the students to use (clickers, laptops, smartphones -- note: not mutually exclusive)?
  • How early in the class would you like to poll the students?
  • In what format would you like the results to be displayed?
  • Do you want the results to be available to students? 

 *Harvard University’s Academic Technology Group webpage provides an overview on using clickers and a pedagogical background for their use in the classroom. 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Open Education Resources (OER): What, Why and How

 The What, Why and How of Open Education Resources

What are Open Education Resources? 

Open education resources (OER) are learning materials released under an open license that allows for their free use and repurposing (New, 2014). Unlike electronic versions of textbooks sold by publishers, open source resources are made up of materials gathered from various sources and are not protected by copyright. They are often designed to be interactive, with links to source materials and multimedia elements with the materials being licensed openly so that anyone with an Internet connection can access them (eCampus News).

Why use Open Education Resources? 

Textbook prices have risen an average of 82 percent between 2002 and 2012, about three times faster than the rate of inflation, according to a report from the U.S. Governmant Accountability Office (eCampus News). "Textbooks are the largest out-of-pocket expense for students and families," said Ethan Senack, higher education associate for student advocacy group U.S. PIRG. College students spend an estimated $1,200 a year on textbooks, and the costs are often higher in fields like science or mathematics (eCampus News). Open educational resources give students more control over the learning materials they use and can drastically lower the cost of their education.

Another advantage of using open-source materials is that they can be updated immediately when new information and/or studies are released instead of waiting a year or more for it to show up in an updated version of a printed textbook.

How can faculty use Open Education Resources?

There are many high quality, free resources in existence. New (2014) recommends that faculty take advantage of OER by engaging with the OER community through conferences, online resources (such as the ones listed below), and by tapping the knowledge of the college librarians.

Sources for Materials

Textbook publisher Pearson has launched the OpenClass Exchange platform with almost 700,000 educational resources compiled into an easy to search catalog. The resources include videos from TED-Ed, Kahn Academy, and YouTubeEDU as well as courses from the Open Course Library. Scot Chadwick, vice president and general manager of OpenClass, said the expansion of Pearson's online learning environment addresses the difficulty that educators have had in locating the best open educational resources and integrating them into existing learning management systems (New, 2013). A search bar is used in OpenClass to search for materials with an option to preview material before it is added to a course (New, 2013). Educators can choose which of their courses they want to have connected to OpenClass (New, 2013).

MERLOT is a free and open peer reviewed collection of online teaching and learning materials and faculty-developed services contributed and used by an international education community. Membership is free in MERLOT but is required to contribute to the Community and to build custom content-loaded webpages.

Lumen Learning assists institutional leaders and faculty with addressing the major challenges of OER adoption by helping to find quality content and mapping it to course learning outcomes; incorporating OER into academic strategy and curriculum decisions; training and supporting faculty; and improving student outcomes. Lumen also provides Open Course content with free digital access for students to 100% of course materials. Instructors have the freedom to adapt learning content to their instructional preferences and students' needs.

The OER Commons website is a network that brings together over 44,000 OER tools for sharing curriculum. It also provides a host of world news and training on the amazing arena of open education.

The article, E-Curriculum - Exploring 24 Free Open Education Resources, explores twenty-four sources for open education resources.

More Reading:

There are important points faculty should consider when building digital open source learning content. The article, E-Curriculum - 12 Points to Consider, Part One brings many of these considerations to light. 

There are some great tools that can be used outside of the learning management system to  compile and share resources with students. The article, E-Curriculum- 7 Key Tools Uncovering A Goldmine of E-Resources, talks about seven of those tools in great detail with links to the tools.

When considering using open education resources, it is important to know the laws surrounding copyright. The article, Staying on the Right Side of Copyright in Education which first appeared in T.H.E. Journal gives a primer on copyright laws.


New open-source strategy would drop textbook costs to $0. eCampus News. April 9, 2014.

New, J. (2013, September). Pearson creates searchable OER catalog. eCampusNews, 6(8). p. 10.

New, J. (2014,  April). Will book publishers go the way of ice delivery? eCampusNews, 7(4). p. 22.