Online Student Response Systems – Claire’s Story

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Claire Moscrop is a Senior Lecture in The Centre for Learning & Teaching. Claire was until recently a Senior Lecturer in Computing, as a result of the continued increase in student numbers in this area, Claire was intent on maintaining student engagement for her sessions, particularly as the increased numbers meant moving from small seminar rooms to larger lecture theatres.


Claire is an advocate of technology, as long as it helps to get the best from her students. Claire wanted to utilise students own devices in her sessions to encourage students to be engaged and responsive during lectures. An online solution was sought to minimise the impact on growing numbers, and also due to lack of suitable in-house clicker systems.

This is Claire’s story; her experience of researching and using online response systems.

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“Given the growth in student numbers in the Department of Computing, we were forced to move back to a more traditional lecture/seminar model for our first year cohort. My immediate concern was to ensure that the levels of student engagement did not suffer in the traditional lecture theatre environment with over 200 students.

BW Clickers

I started to investigate the options for increasing engagement in this kind of environment and first considered the use of the clicker systems available at Edge Hill. These were quickly ruled out due to the logistics of transporting them, and the fact that I immediately had to leave at the end of the lecture to teach another session. This led me on to the idea of using the students’ own devices such as their mobiles, tablets and laptops. A number of academic papers were available on the efficiency and effectiveness of this method so I began to identify and trial different student response app’s. I settled on Socrative for a few reasons, firstly it was free, I was going to have to use the application within weeks so I knew I would not get any funding within that time period. Secondly, the Socrative interface was very clean and intuitive, both for the students and the teacher.

socrative teacher logo

Socrative was implemented from the first lecture with the first year cohort in semester 1. Students had no issues downloading the app and were able to start using it immediately. My method of using the app was simple, I decided before the lecture at what points in the lecture I would like to test understanding or to encourage discussion. I then entered the questions in to the Socrative Teacher app before the session, meaning I could just click on ‘start’ on my phone when I wanted to release the first question. Moving between the questions within the lecture was simple and I was able to see responses from students in real time. I included roughly 2 or 3 questions per lecture across the 10 weeks of lectures.

This method had a number of benefits:
• It allowed students to respond anonymously, which was a very important factor for the increased engagement as it removed the fear of responding in front of peers that usually exists in large lectures.
• It allowed me to test the student’s grasp of certain concepts immediately, and allowed me to save reports to follow up later.
• It allowed real time interaction with minimal disruption on the flow of the lecture.
• It allowed students to discuss what was being taught and work in groups to answer questions, thereby increasing their engagement.

socrative student logo

The student response to the use of Socrative was very positive, the data collected for the study demonstrated that students felt more engaged during the lectures, in comparison to the more traditional lectures they were also having that semester. It was clear that students very much linked the interactivity (with me, and also during their peer discussion) to their increased engagement. Anonymity was also a key factor that gave students the confidence to respond.

After this initial trial I continued to use Socrative in lectures and also started to implement it in to end of Seminar mini tests after students requested it. I would encourage any tutors to have a go at using the students own devices in this way, my initial aim to increase engagement in lecture theatres was very easy to achieve with this method.”

Claire Moscrop

Claire Moscrop
(Senior Lecturer – Centre for Teaching & Learning)




If you feel inspired by Claire’s story and want to use this or another technology to help you enhance and support your own teaching, please get in touch with the Learning Technology Team in Learning Services. We would be very happy to work with you.

logos for 3 clickers systems

There are a range of response systems that you might want to use with your students, including online ones like Socrative and Kahoot, handset based ones like TurningPoint, and even paper based ones like Plickers, which can work in situations where you don’t have access to a wireless network. Learning Technology Development have sets of Plicker cards which you could borrow.

Using Classroom Voting Systems

Optivote HandsetsLearning Services have been supporting the use of the Optivote and TurningPoint classroom voting systems over the last eight years. Recently the sets have been moved from the Learning Technology Development offices in the LINC to the University Library.

This change means that the systems can now be booked via the Loaning Equipment page on the Learning Services Wiki and you will need to go to the Ground Floor helpdesk in the University Library at Ormskirk to collect and return the sets.

Please get in touch with us in Learning Technology Development if you need any help or guidance on the use of the systems. Our contact details and our voting system guides are available on eShare.

Finally, if you are interested in using these systems you might enjoy the recent post by Elaine Hughes about her experiences using Optivote, and I’ve recently put together a video looking at the use of Kahoot as an example of a system that allows the use of student mobile devices.

Using Optivote in Large Lectures for Student Engagement and Enhancing Learning

Optivote HandsetsIn this post Elaine Hughes, Senior Lecturer in Adult Nursing and a SOLSTICE Fellow, tells us about her experience using an Optivote voting system. If you are inspired to think about using this type of system in your own teaching, there is plenty of support and information available to help you get started.

Could you set the scene for us?
“As Kurt Lewin said ‘Learning is more effective when it’s an active rather than a passive process’. Therefore maintaining student engagement and enhancing learning in lecturers of around 140 students can prove to be very challenging. Other than written formative tests there are limited ways of assessing whether learning has taken place at the point of contact. Yet, it is well documented that when learning is fun then it can prove to enhance memory and thus stimulate learning.”

What did you do?
“Before the Optivote system was available for use I still used quizzes in the classroom with rewards for the right answers, usually Quality Street, which proved to be very popular with the students. It clearly helped focus their concentration as they were able to give the right answers after a taught session but whether learning had taken place throughout the class couldn’t be evaluated. What you also couldn’t see were how many got the answers right as not all students would attempt to verbally answer. Cue Optivote.”

Why did you do it? What were the drivers?
“The use of a voting system allowed greater student engagement and allowed me to evaluate whether students had understood the key messages in a lecture. It moved the delivery of sessions forward and I think there are probably many other ways to use this in class which could be measured over a period of time.”

How did you use the voting system?
“Because I teach anatomy and physiology initially Optivote lent itself to these sessions. However I have now used the Optivote system in large groups for a number of years across level 4-6 for sessions for different purposes:

  • for formative quizzes following anatomy and physiology sessions where the end of module assessment included a summative exam
  • as an alternative method of teaching anatomy and physiology, using the questions as a focal point to discuss the reasons for the answers
  • in clinical decision making and delegation sessions where students are asked to rationalise their decisions in practice and used as discussion points”

What was the outcome?
“The use of the Optivote handsets really promoted student engagement with the session content and generated discussion among the groups. In terms of ‘did deep learning take place?’ this is much harder to quantify. However in the module where there was a summative exam the pass rates were higher. To make real claims as to whether this was directly related to the use of technology research would have to be undertaken. However what is evident is the students enjoy this engagement as these sessions are consistently highlighted in module evaluations.”

What were the issues and concerns?
“With any technology within the classroom, especially with so many pairs of eyes watching, the fear is always ‘will the system fail’ and ‘have I programmed this correctly?’ There’s a handy guide to setting up your database and loading in your presentation and questions/responses but I think the first time I used it it wasn’t so simple! Although with practice it’s easy to set up and use, but like everything practice makes perfect – however I still always test it before each use!”

What ‘unanticipated outcomes’ were there?
“I wasn’t sure how the students would react. Would they think it was childish to press the button and vote? Would they want to get involved? Would they see it just like ‘who wants to be a millionaire’ and jump in with their answers? I needn’t have worried. What I actually saw at one point was probably the most disengaged group I’d ever taught sit on the edge of their seats, pointing their handsets at the screen and pressing buttons before the voting timer had even started! I did think that this was just a one off response from this particular group but when I demonstrated the use of the equipment to staff I had exactly same reaction! When students go off task in a class they talk. What I also tend to see with Optivote is lots of chatter with their neighbours, but it’s quite obvious they’re discussing the question that’s been posed to them, especially during clinical decision making as this can get quite animated.”

Did the use meet your expectations?
“In terms of student engagement it certainly has met my expectations. Keeping such large groups engaged and interacting, not just with me but with each other and on the subject content, can be difficult. However assessing if learning has taken place is more difficult. The students certainly remember the sessions but do they remember the content!”

What would be your advice to others trying to do this?
“I’m no techno expert by any means but if technology scares you then just speak to someone who has used it. It literally takes 20 minutes to set up your database and then it’s done. After that it’s a couple of minutes to set up in class. Don’t use it too frequently as it becomes too familiar: that way the students continue to engage with the process. Don’t use too many questions and change your format, it keeps the audience on their toes.”

BestofTEL_SMALLElaine Hughes
Senior Lecturer Adult Nursing & SOLSTICE Fellow

Using Clicker Systems for Classroom Interactivity

For those who couldn’t make it to this week’s session on using ‘Clickers’ in teaching and learning, I thought it would be worth making the session notes available.

The notes introduce Clicker systems, how they are used, benefits and challenges related to their use, and practical information on using them in the Edge Hill University context.

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Peter Beaumont
Learning Technologist

Monday 8th October 2012: Using Clicker Systems for Classroom Interactivity

An Optivote brand Clicker handsetThe next session in The Digital Classroom series of staff development events will be an overview of using Clicker systems (such as TurningPoint and Optivote) with your students. It will take place between 1:00 and 2:00pm on Monday the 8th October 2012, at the Ormskirk campus.

You can book on the session by going to the Staff Development section of the Human Resources wiki.

Clickers are also known as Audience Response systems and are used in a variety of ways, with aims such as increasing engagement, allowing students to answer questions in class anonymously, to check understanding of concepts, or to start group discussions.

In this session we look at examples of the use of Clickers, explore reported benefits and challenges related to some of their uses, and ensure that you know how you could get started using these systems (for example Optivote and TurningPoint) at Edge Hill University.

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Peter Beaumont
Learning Technologist