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SRS: Standard at UMD

Turning Technologies UMD Standard for Student Response Systems

Student Response Systems (SRS) also known as Clickers are small handheld devices coupled with receiving hardware and presentation software. The system allows an instructor to present questions, usually via a computer projector, and collect student answers immediately during the lecture. The results can generally be manipulated and displayed immediately and can be used to change the course of the lecture. Emerging literature on the use of this technology suggest that students are more engaged in learning in courses utilizing SRS.

In November of 2004, the University of Minnesota Duluth formed a committee of faculty and staff to explore the possibility of a standard solution for SRS. There had been at least four different products in use at the time. The number of interested faculty was increasing and the faculty who were already using the various systems planned to expand their use into more sections and classes. In some cases, students had purchased different types of handheld response units for different classes during a single semester. Given expected increase in use, consensus that the technology was useful in teaching and learning, and the notion that central support - only feasible for a single product - would improve usage, the Faculty Technology Team and the Classroom Technology Team collaborated to try to set a standard, and pick one product.

The first order of business was to determine what other schools were doing. In the second half of 2004, only one vendor was offering a radio-frequency product. This technology is much more robust than the older infrared technology that all vendors had been offering previously. Some universities made the decision to use the one vendor that offered this new technology, mainly because they were the only immediate option. Other vendors were only a few months behind the first to offer radio frequency, though, so this decision may have been hasty. In many other cases, universities had chosen a vendor based on association with textbook providers, complimentary hardware pricing, or similar one-dimensional reasons. The team could not find an example of another institution developing a reasonably complex rationale to answer the complex question of which product to choose.

The committee developed a rough draft of the standard at the first meeting. Because the committee was composed of faculty who had been using the technology in the classroom and information technology professionals who supported teaching and classroom technology, there was ample brainstorming about known and anticipated issues. Not knowing the precise landscape of possible product solutions, the group decided to categorize the standard into a two-tiered hierarchy of "requirements" and "preferences." By the second meeting, the group had reached consensus on a standard. The next step in the process was to find suitable vendors. The project leader called all known vendors to determine how closely they conformed to the standard, and reported findings to the committee. This process resulted in three vendors that met most of the standard and five that were rejected because they fell short of the standard in at least two significant categories among the "requirements." With the vendors chosen, the next step was to allow the committee to assess each of the three products.

The committee was able to reach consensus on a single product, which will be the standard beginning Fall Semester: Turning Technologies. Beginning Fall Semester 2005, about 1200 UMD students will use Turning Technologies handheld devices. There will also be a test kit available for checkout from AV. Please email Jason Davis at jdavis@d.umn.edu if you are interested in further information.