By Justin Chandler
Thousands of Ryerson students are required to obtain i>clickers for use in class this semester, but there are more affordable ways in which the university could implement a question-and-answer tool.
i>clicker 2, the model on sale at the campus store, looks like a TV remote. Students use the tool to electronically respond to questions their teachers ask in class. The device carries a $69.95 price tag at Ryerson’s Campus Store. The official retailer lists it for $53.64 on Amazon.
About 70 instructors currently require students to use i>clickers in their classes, Restiani Andriati, manager of Ryerson’s Digital Media Projects Office (DMP), said.
The DMP consults teachers on using instructional technology in the classroom.
Teachers do not need to go to the DMP before mandating i>clicker use for students, so Andriati does not know what the true number of i>clicker users is. Their use has increased in the last decade, she said.
Ryerson English student Steve Duffy is required to buy an i>clicker for the sociology of gender class he’s enrolled in. This is the first time he’s needed to buy one. He said he only needs the tool for participation, which is 10 per cent of his final grade. “I think that’s a bit corrupt, paying $75 for 10 per cent of your grade,” he said.
Duffy said he doesn’t understand why more teachers don’t use Brightspace’s quiz platform, which allows students to log in and answer pre-prepared questions at no additional cost to students.
Brightspace, or D2L, is the online system through which teachers can post course assignments and information for students. In April 2015, Brightspace replaced Blackboard, which Ryerson used for 12 years.
In 2015, Ryerson signed a three-year contract with D2L, said Jim Buchanan, director of client services at Ryerson Computing and Communications Services. The university agreed to pay an average of about $383,000 per school year for the duration of the contract.
Andriati said i>clickers are typically used by professors to poll students. Instructors can prepare questions in advance, but they can also ask questions and solicit responses on-the-fly—something they cannot do with Brightspace.
“If an instructor has to ask a quick question and you have to go into D2L Brightspace and take that, it’s not conducive to the learning. It might even interrupt the learning process,” Andriati said.
A system in which teachers signed out and lent i>clickers to students for use in one lab or lecture would work for engagement purposes, such as anonymous polling, Jim Buchanan, director of client services at Ryerson’s Computing and Communications Services (CCS), said. The CCS provides IT services to the university.
Andriati said that system, which was similar to how RTA and journalism students get access to equipment, was tried “many, many years ago.”
That stopped once that clicker set was outmoded and the university started using clickers from a new vendor.
An i>clicker sign-out system would not work for weighted activities such as testing, collecting participation marks or taking attendance because students would need to be registered to an i>clicker.
But Andriati does not recommend i>clickers for testing or attendance. “Pedagogically it’s really an engagement tool,” she said.
“I think that the school should try and provide a service to the students at least at a better cost [than i>clickers],” Duffy said.
In a statement to The Eyeopener, Marcus Dos Santos, the associate dean of undergraduate science in Ryerson’s Faculty of Science, said personal response systems such as i>clickers “are more useful for the effective delivery of our programs at this time” than Brightspace quizzes are.
“Students don’t need to buy a new clicker, and there is no service fee if they are using a second-hand device. We have been using i>clickers for several years now and there is a used market out there. Students may also opt to buy a mobile app for a fee of about $10 for six months or $16 for one year. We revisit this approach regularly as technology develops and according to pedagogical needs,”Santos said.