Clicking to Learn: A Case Study of Embedding Radio-Frequency Based Clickers in an Introductory Management Information Systems Course

Article excerpt

1. INTRODUCTION

The challenges associated with teaching core introductory management information systems (MIS) courses are shared by many. After acclimating to the sheer size of the lecture room and the volume of students (often with triple digit enrollments), the instructor must confront the larger issue of actively engaging students and sustaining their interest throughout the semester. This problem is exacerbated with the reality that a majority of students in an introductory MIS course are non-MIS majors, whom have little motivation to attend or to actively participate. This large lecture format also imposes common problems that are difficult to overcome with traditional teaching practices. Taking attendance is nearly impossible, seating charts are out of the question, in-class student activities are a logistical nightmare, group projects are too time consuming to properly manage, in-class surveys are great (but who has time to count all of the hands) and the list goes on.

This paper is intended to address these challenges by presenting a real life application of an in-class, radio-frequency (RF) based classroom response system (CRS; a.k.a. "clickers") in a core introductory MIS course for business students. Although the use of clickers in a classroom is no panacea, they most certainly provide significant inroads towards managing the challenges inherent in a large lecture format course. The driving research questions motivating this study include: how can CRS be effectively used to assist with overcoming inherent challenges of large lecture classrooms? What system features and traits should be sought in a classroom response system? Using a background of research in effective teaching and learning, this case study details the technical implementation and integration of an RF-based classroom response system with the course curriculum, as well as the significant benefits, lessons learned and effective practices discovered in the process. This manuscript is vendor-neutral, with a focus on system traits, features and practices that were found to be effective in enhancing the teaching and learning process.

2. BACKGROUND

2.1 A Review of Effective Learning Principles in the Classroom

Before discussing the technology, one should first consider the underlying goals to be accomplished by implementing CRS in the classroom. The research literature on learning discusses a number of concepts that promote effective learning in the classroom. Active learning, providing feedback, increasing attention span, and motivation are the four learning principles that have been identified as being particularly challenging to the large-lecture format class (Beatty, 2004, Bergtrom, 2006) and of Net Generation learners (Robinson and Ritzko, 2006). Active learning refers to techniques that require students to actively process and apply information to learn as opposed to passive listening (Meyer and Jones, 1993). The key characteristic of active learning that makes it a powerful technique is that active engagement involves higher-order thinking (such as analysis, synthesis, evaluation), which results in greater learning, understanding, and retention (Beatty, 2004; Bonk and Cunningham, 1998; Bonwell and Eison, 1991; Thalheimer, 2003).

Providing feedback in the classroom is another technique that has been found to enhance learning (Bangert-Downs, et al., 1991). Successful feedback in the classroom refers to providing information to the student that draws attention to the learning process, thereby improving performance in the classroom (Kluger and DeNisi, 1996). Not only is feedback important, the timing in which the feedback is given is also important. A number of studies have found that immediate feedback is more effective than delayed feedback (see Azevedo and Bernard, 1995; Kulik and Kulik, 1988). The process of giving feedback repeatedly can also help maintain student attention span.

Attention span deals with selectively attending to and extracting information from the environment (Bandura, 1986). …