A wireless personal response system (PRS) consists of a number of handheld response devices through which individuals can make different types of responses (e.g., multiple choice, true-false, numerical), a receiver, and software that allows for the almost-instantaneous compilation of audience responses that can then be presented graphically. Individual responses can be anonymous or tagged so that the presenter knows how each person has responded. Manufacturers of these systems, commonly known as "clickers," market them as a means of engaging students more actively in learning, motivating student attention, and providing feedback that allows instructors to tailor presentations to students' level of understanding.
The personal response feature most likely to be assessed is the one that presents students with a multiple choice question based on material just covered so that both the students and presenter have immediate feedback about students' levels of comprehension. In a comparison of two sections of introductory psychology using clickers to answer multiple choice questions for extra credit with two sections not using clickers, Morling, McAuliffe, Cohen, and DiLorenzo (2008) found that the clicker sections performed slightly better on exams, but did not report being more engaged in class.
Burnstein and Lederman (2001) included a keypad system in their introductory physics class in order to provide students with "interactive engagement" in a large lecture class. They used the system in a variety of ways, including assessment of students' levels of preparation for class, their understanding of lecture material, and as a means for presenting the results of group work they conducted during class. The authors reported that students were much more likely to attend class and participate when keypad scores counted for more than 15% of the final course grade. Also in a physics department, Hake (1998) compared student gains in conceptual understanding across 62 classes enrolling 6542 students. He found that courses using interactive-engagement methods (of which wireless response systems were one example) produced a level of improvement almost two standard deviations above what occurred in traditional (non-interactive) courses.
In a case study of the use of a personal response system in economics courses, Elliott (2003) reported the only drawback was that use of the system reduced the volume of material that could be covered. This disadvantage was offset by a greater awareness of students' level of understanding, as measured by periodic, content-based multiple-choice questions. Using the graphing feature also allowed students to compare their performance to the class average. Finally, Elliott found that the personal response system stimulated student interest and concentration and was easy to use.
In an extensive study of the use of wireless response systems in statistics tutorials at the University of Glasgow, Wit (2003) reported that 74% of the students thought that use of the wireless technology helped them understand statistics and that 87% thought the benefits of using the wireless technology outweighed the limitations. Wit did note that the results came from students who attended the tutorials, approximately one-third of those enrolled. Wit concludes on the basis of his experience that use of wireless technology breaks up lecture monotony, allows everyone to participate, encourages students to respond without fear of being publically wrong, allows students to see how their performance compares to others, and gives instructors a better idea of how well students comprehend the material.
Roschelle, Penuel, and Abrahamson (2004) reviewed 26 reports of the use of wireless technology in a variety of settings and found the most commonly reported outcomes to be greater student engagement, increased student (self-reported) understanding of the material, increased enjoyment of the class by students, better group interaction, help for students in gauging their level of understanding, and information for instructors about student level of understanding. …