Personal Response Systems (PRS)

Students at an audio mixing desk in Minghella buildingPersonal response systems (PRS) allow students to respond to questions via specific PRS hardware, usually in the form of a wireless remote or 'clicker' or another networked device such as a laptop or mobile phone. You can use PRS to encourage student interaction with spoken or on-screen questions in class; as a means of answering questions on paper or on-screen either in class or as homework. Questions are usually in the form of multiple choice, ranged response or true/false formats, allowing you to conduct in-class polls.

Pros

  • Provides you with a way to promote student interaction within class; this is particularly important if the class size is large and/or is new to the topic.
  • Can allow you to quickly identify gaps in student knowledge that can inform the content of future teaching sessions or be addressed 'on the fly'.
  • Provides students with instant graphical feedback that allows them to compare their performance with that of their peers.

Cons

  • May require a time limit to be set for responses, which can put students under pressure and have accessibility implications.
  • Susceptible to hardware/software problems.
  • Due to their expense, institutions will often have a limited number of PRS and as such the system may need to be booked and set up in the room in which it is to be used.
  • Supports limited question types.
  • It is not always possible to identify student's individual responses and so monitor the progress of individuals.

Examples:

Clickers

'Clickers' are wireless devices, much like a television remote, that allow students to respond to questions by touching the relevant button (e.g. 1-5, a-f, yes, no, true, false). The disadvantage of clicker based systems is that they require advanced planning and preparation to set up the questions, and to book and install the relevant equipment in your teaching room.

Mobile devices

Increasingly, PRS are doing away with the bespoke response devices and are instead leveraging technology that is already present in the classroom, such as mobile phones, PDAs and laptops. With these students are able to respond to your questions through a variety of means, such as texting (SMS), email, online votes and even twitter. This removes the institutional/departmental cost of purchase and problem of requiring specific technology to be booked in advance of a class. However, use in class is at the mercy of network access and may not provide immediate responses.

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