Monday, October 21

Clickers should be streamlined to save students money and effort

Exclusive deal with one brand for the device would save students money, effort


Conor Bell / Daily Bruin

Professors across the country are using clickers in the classroom.

Brown University
Gwynedd-Mercy College
Kansas State University
Rutgers University
Temple University
University of Colorado, Boulder
University of Denver
University of Southern California
Ursinus College
Vanderbilt University

SOURCE: Inside Higher Education, Seattle Times, Engaging Technologies, Vanderbilt University, MSNBC
Compiled by Andra Lim, Bruin senior staff

If you’re the kind of consumer who doesn’t mind paying a little extra to get more choices, then you’ll love the UCLA Store.

Currently, they carry four varieties of in-class clickers from three different companies. Each has essentially the same features. A small, handheld keypad with six to nine buttons allows students to respond to questions proposed by the professor via a radio frequency or wireless connection. New clickers can cost anywhere from $35 to $60.

There is nothing wrong with any of these clickers individually. The problem is that, depending on what classes students are taking, they might have to buy any of the four different clickers of the InterWrite, TurningPoint or i>clicker brands. And if they have another clicker-enhanced class the next quarter, they may have to buy another of these equally useful devices that all perform the same task, regardless of subject material, class size or nature of multiple-choice question being presented.

UCLA needs only one clicker on campus, because paying for multiple devices is just the beginning of the headache that comes with the current laissez-faire approach.

The UCLA Store, an institution that deserves praise for its reasonable prices and flexible textbook buyback program, only buys back a set number of clickers each quarter. Once that number is reached, a student has to wait until next quarter to return the device.

Clickers can and should have a place at UCLA. They allow professors to measure class participation for each student, even in a large lecture hall setting.

It’s obvious that it would be easier for students if there were one clicker campus-wide.

Robert Gould, undergraduate vice chair of the department of statistics, uses the Turning Technologies brand clicker for his classes. He said he would be fine with an all-campus clicker, even if it meant he had to switch products.

“As long as it was compatible with all of our computers, from a stable company and from a company with a record for keeping on top of software upgrades … absolutely,” Gould said.

Cornell University is one school that has already settled on a single brand. They use the i>clicker, one of the several brands carried at our student store.

The advantages of having an exclusive provider have already been well documented at UCLA with the athletic program’s exclusive deal with adidas. The company gets thousands of students to buy their product, an opportunity they are willing to pay for. In this case, adidas has a lucrative, nearly $7 million annual contract for the school.

While it’s unlikely a clicker company would pay such an exorbitant sum, they would likely offer students a discount if assured that UCLA students would buy only their product.

As it is, the cost of clickers is a major deterrent for professors concerned for students already paying for expensive books. Peter Nonacs, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, taught a class with a colleague who used clickers in 2009, and said price is one reason he doesn’t use clickers.

“I don’t find their value worth the cost,” Nonacs said. “Students have to buy them, and I just haven’t integrated them into anything I do.”

Then again, the discussion of which physical clicker the university should adopt may soon be rendered moot.

Internet based systems for laptops and Web-enabled cell phones are available, which would save students the cost of those pesky little remotes.

However, some worry that such technology would be distracting.

“That would require everybody to have a computer or an iPhone they bring to class, and in a way that would be more troublesome than a clicker,” Nonac said. “If you can use them for (Web-based participation) they’re also distracting for other things.”

Whether the future lies in physical clickers or an app on your iPhone, an exclusive deal would save students money and inconvenience.

E-mail Bell at [email protected] Send general comments to [email protected]

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