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Clickers:  New Way to Point and Click
by Reba Leiding

Carrier Library’s instruction room is now equipped with “clickers” that enable library instructors to ask their students interactive questions or to conduct quick, real-time evaluations at the end of their sessions.


clicker used for instructionThe clickers, acquired in cooperation with the Center for Instructional Technology, are part of what’s known as a Classroom Response System or CPS.  This system was first adopted at JMU by some instructors in the Psychology department, who use the clickers in large lecture classes for short quizes, quick review to see if students have grasped salient points, and to take attendance.  In most cases, students purchase the clickers (which are fairly low-cost, usually around $20*), and register with the system.  The clicker can be used throughout a student's college years.  Several types of these clickers are on the market, but because of the need to unify registration, institutions need to standardize which system they will use.  JMU is using hardware and software from eInstruction.


The clickers use a radio frequency that is picked up by a receiver connected to the instructor’s computer.  CPS and another software application, like PowerPoint, can be run simultaneously, allowing the instructor to integrate questions into their lecture slides.  Students can tell by their registration number whether their responses have been recorded, but otherwise individual responses are anonymous to the group.  The system provides immediate feedback for the instructor and the class by displaying a graph of the results. 


Because students are usually in library instruction sessions for a particular course only once or twice during a semester, the Library’s clickers are based within the classroom and handed out to the students during the session.  The amount of time for library instruction is limited, so the clickers provide a quick way for librarians to assess how well students have absorbed the main points from the session.  In an initial training session on using CPS, librarians found the clickers useful for reviewing session highlights, and to go over relatively technical questions like identifying citations and using different citation styles.  The clickers also provide a quick, fun way to gather class evaluations without taking up much instruction time.  As an added bonus, the CPS system also stores response information and generates reports, increasing the opportunities for assessing instruction over time.


Below is a library instruction review question from English Librarian Melissa Van Vuuren:


Screen shot of library instruction question using CPS

*Clicker costs were underestimated in an earlier version of this article.  As of Fall Semester, 2006, the cost of a clicker for a JMU student is $20.25, plus $10 to register for a semester with eInstruction.  Registration fees are capped after four semesters ($40), providing a lifetime registration. --ed.

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