Submitted by Betsy Jamieson / Smith College on Mon, 07/13/2009 - 14:03

I'm thinking about using "clickers" to get students to respond to questions during class this fall in my general chemistry section.  I'd be interested in hearing from people who have used them and in what ways they were used most successfully.  

Adam Johnson / Harvey Mudd College

I am not a fan.  In theory, I think they are great.  Get rapid anonymous feedback with low barrier to participation and no shame if you get it wrong. 


In practice, since our setup was not hard-wired into the room, we had to cart around all this cable and wire and pass out the clickers and it was a PITA to get it set up.  As a result, I never really used it.  If it was hard wired into the lecture hall, I think its a no brainer.  Or if I had a legion of cheap labor.....


Mon, 07/13/2009 - 14:36 Permalink
Lori Watson / Earlham College
I'm a fan!  We used them for the first time last year in our gen chem sections (2 sections of about 55 people each).  We used the iClicker brand (cheapest and easiest set up) and provided each student with a college-bought one (they were charged if they did not return them at the end of the semester).  It worked every single time for me (it was the most reliable tech I've ever used in the classroom).  We probably asked about 3-5 questions on probably about 75% of the days.  I used them in a variety of ways--sometimes as "review" at the beginning of class (and used some of the textbook provided CRS--classroom response system--questions sometimes for this), sometimes as a "check" in the middle of lecture, and sometimes as reporting out from group activities.  A few times I also used them to survey the class about something.  I found the "check" in the middle of lecture the most helpful for me--depending on the responses I could either speed up or slow down (especially when I got basically equal responses across all the answers!).  The students loved them! I'd be happy to share some of the comments and survey data with you if you'd like.  Most liked the "game" aspect, it made them feel that they were more involved in the answering of questions, and made them feel that they were responsible for trying to answer the questions.  You can set up "grading" in a variety of ways.  I chose to basically give credit for attempting an answer (no penalty for incorrect answers) and at the end allowed them to add in an extra 100 as a homework grade if they had answered at least 75% of the problems in the semester (this cut out the "but I was HERE I just forgot my clicker!" excuse).  I don't have hard data on attendence, but I think I had somewhat better lecture attendence, and it seemed to really help the quieter students gain some confidence and become willing to speak up in class and ask questions.  I'm using them again in the fall's general chemistry class as well.
Mon, 07/13/2009 - 15:34 Permalink
Betsy Jamieson / Smith College
Thanks for the input so far!  I just got the device from our IT people.  I don't think we'll have the set-up issues since the receiver is just something that plugs into a USB port.  No wires to connect.  Our students also will be able to check out the clickers for the semester.  We're using the "TurningPoint" brand, so we'll see how that goes.  I'm looking forward to trying it out.
Fri, 07/17/2009 - 09:47 Permalink
Andrew / University of Hawaii at Hilo

In reply to by Betsy Jamieson / Smith College

We used the iClickers for my general chemistry course about four years ago.  They were nice for gauging how much of the class had understood a concept or had actually even looked at the book, but in my class the instructor also used this as the attendance for the day.  The result was that a lot of people got up and left the lecture hall after answering the questions.  Also a funny note, a friend of mine who was always late to class would simply stand outside of the classroom window, smoking, and answer the questions from outside before coming in.  I would only use clicker questions towards the middle or end of a class period.

I love using the word 'Nitrate' as a verb!

Sun, 07/19/2009 - 03:30 Permalink
Barbara Reisner / James Madison University

I agree with Lori's comments. I teach a general chemistry course with ~150 students and I rarely get negative feedback about the clickers. I have always gotten the sense that my students fell less bad about having difficulty with some of the material that we cover by knowing that their classmates are struggling as well.

Earlier this year, Derek Bruff, an Assistant Director of the Vanderbilt Center for Teaching and a Lecturer in Mathematics published a book on teaching with clickers called Teaching with Classroom Response Systems: Creating Active Learning Environments. He provides additional resources for using clickers on his website. I have not yet read the book (it's on my reading list), but it has been favorably reviewed and I expect to get some good ideas for when I return to teaching General Chemistry this fall.

In the nature of full disclosure, I was one of the many faculty that Derek interviewed for his book. I received no compensation for my participation in interviews.

Wed, 07/22/2009 - 06:10 Permalink
Anne Bentley / Lewis & Clark College

I got a set of clickers on loan from einstruction last fall to use in the last few weeks of my general chemistry course - students were assigned a number and picked up the clicker at the beginning of each class.  Before the arrival of the clickers, I periodically quizzed students and had them either raise hands to vote or write their answers on notecards.  (So old-fashioned!)  With clickers the response was much more immediate, anonymous, and allowed the students to also see the range of answers.  It seemed to me that students were more willing to explain the reason for their choice if they could see they weren't alone in choosing it.

Of course, the quality of the questions you ask is more important than simply using a new-fangled piece of technology.  Maybe we should generate a clicker question pool here on VIPEr. 

In surveys, the students were mostly positive about clickers, but extremely upset about the cost.  I am hoping to find some department funds to buy a set of ~85 clickers that any of us could use in any of our courses with the pick-up-and-drop-off approach.  A colleague of mine in the bio. department says that they would choose to go that route if they were starting over again.  (At this point they sell them to students for $15 and buy them back at the end of the semester, but students still have to pay to register them online.)

Right now I'm considering einstruction (very pricey) or turning point (much cheaper).  Any other suggestions?

Fri, 01/22/2010 - 17:14 Permalink
Barbara Reisner / James Madison University

In reply to by Anne Bentley / Lewis & Clark College

­I agree about the price effect. Our students are also very upset about this, especially when you add together the price of the text, lab manual, online homework, and clicker.

We have been using einstruction for 3 years and I can't wait to switch to a new system next fall! We've had many headaches with einstruction. The one that particularly annoys me is that the mac (me) and PC (classroom) versions are not compatible. Every year, about 10% of my class seems to have registration problems.­ I don't yet know what the new system will be, but I'll post more information when I find out. Technology decisions about systems like this are made at the university level at JMU to standardize things across campus. (We have lots of large enrollment courses where clickers are used.)

My contact at our Center for Instructional Technology has told me that some of the response systems allow students to use their cell phones! This sounds like an excellent thing because students don't have to purchase extra technology, a student is unlikely to let the battery in their cell  run out, and they never leave home without them (cell phones)!

Mon, 01/25/2010 - 21:44 Permalink
Anthony L. Fernandez / Merrimack College
For the past several years, I have been teaching general chemistry to between 70 and 100 students in a lecture section. For several years, the faculty members in the Division of Science and Engineering had discussed using clickers in a number of courses, but our plans were never implemented. After continually being dissatisfied with student participation, my general chemistry colleagues and I decided to use a classroom response system in the course. We got together a bunch of faculty within our division and researched a number of systems. We ended up choosing the CRS system from TurningTechnologies as the standard clicker for our division. (We have been actively trying to get all of the divisions to adopt this clicker system - no faculty in any of the other divisions currently use clickers.) The students purchase a RF Response Card from our bookstore for $50, which is treated as a textbook, which means that the bookstore will buy it back as a used item for about 50% of its value. Each faculty member who teaches with clickers gets a USB receiver (cost ca. $200, but you can get some for free based upon the number of clickers purchased by your bookstore) for their classes. This setup removed most of the startup cost for the institution, although some departments purchased some clickers as "extras" that could be brought to class in case a student forgot his/hers. We had looked at other systems, including ones that utilize cell phones, but we did not want students to use cell phones in class and there was a per semester/per year cost for registering the cell phone with many of the companies we investigated. In general chemistry, my colleagues and I use the system with Tablet PCs. Students have to register their clicker with the TurningPoint online registration system, and we download the class list so that we can correlate responses with particular students. Each lecture, we embed between 3 and 5 clicker questions which are spread out over the entire lecture. We do not take attendance, but instead give students credit for responding to clicker questions. If they respond (either correctly or incorrectly) to 80% of the clicker questions asked over the course of the semester, they get the full 5% allotted for class participation. We also allot 5 points for "graded" clicker questions which are used in the following ways: as parts of clicker quizzes following reading assignments, to collect responses for a problem that was assigned at the end of the previous lecture, or we randomly insert graded questions into the regular lecture material. This forces students to stay for the entire lecture and participate. (When I ask the first clicker question of the day, I count the number of students in the class and make sure that the number of responses matches the number of students. This ensures that someone is not bringing in someone else's clicker and responding for them.) We encourage the students to discuss and work together when they respond to clicker questions, but insist that they work alone on the "graded" ones. This technology, in combination with the ability to save my annotations on my PowerPoint slides, gives me an excellent representation of what transpired in lecture. At the end of last semester, my colleagues in Science and Engineering conducted a survey of all of the students enrolled in classes where clickers were used. The responses were overwhelmingly positive and the students felt that the use of the clickers enhanced their learning experience. They were unconcerned with the additional cost of the clicker because they only have to purchase one clicker for their four years at Merrimack and they used them on a regular basis in their courses. One drawback is that students do sometimes have issues registering their clickers. I add them manually and I have not had to do this for more than 2 or 3 students either semester. The bigger problem is the software issue - TurningPoint point software comes in two flavors: one that runs as a add-in in PowerPoint, or as a free-standing application that "floats" over any piece of software (a.k.a. TurningPoint Anywhere). The embedded version only works in the Windows version of Office or in Office 2004 on the Mac. (Microsoft stripped all the underlying code that the TP add-in used from Office 2008 on the Mac.) TPAnywhere is not as easy to use as the embedded version. I am a die-hard Mac user and I use the TabletPC only for class. I author the questions on my Mac and import them into the PC version of PowerPoint and convert them into interactive slides. There are many excellent resources out there and I would recommend the following: - Derek Bruff's text (referred to elsewhere in the responses) and his website ( - "Clickers in Action: Increasing Student Participation in General Chemistry" by Margaret R. Asirvatham (W.W. Norton) - I hope this information helps!
Mon, 02/22/2010 - 17:25 Permalink
Sheila Smith / University of Michigan- Dearborn

I use (and love) the eInstruction Interwrite PRS system.  I teach about 120-180 students at a time in a large lecture hall (General Chemistry).  I use the clickers multiple ways.  I give a three minute MC question at the beginning of each lecture on the content of the previous lecture.  This helps to train students the timing for MC questions, which is so important not only in my class but also on the standardized exams most of them need to pass for their professional goals.  Going over this question then provides a good segue from one lecture to the next.  


I also use it in the middle of lecture to ask questions about material I'm currently covering.  Especially good for tricky concepts.  If a majority of students are missing the point, I can see immediately and try a new tack.

Finally, and this is something unexpected, a colleague turned me on to using them for testing.  I teach typically 2 sections each semester with common exams.  As much as I hate MC exams, I have no graders and no grad students, so I have adapted to partial MC tests.  Using the clicker, students can input their answers, at their own pace, in any order, and I have the MC portion of the exams graded 15 minutes after the exam ends.  Students actually report that they find reviewing their answers on the clicker easier than reviewing a scan-tron.


Why the Interwrite PRS?  It allows both letter and numerical, it is robust, there is no per course fee associated (students only buy the clicker, never anything else), and it is not permanently associated with a particular student, so students can share/ resell/exchange amongst themselves.  In this way, they can recover a significant part of the cost (as long as they cut the bookstore out of the buyback loop). 

Mon, 05/24/2010 - 10:57 Permalink
Hilary Eppley / DePauw University
Thanks to a faculty development workshop I went to today, I found out how to do a version of this via the Forms application in Google Apps.  Just design a survey form, share the survey document with students.  If students have smart phones or laptops, they can complete the survey and then you can chart the data from the spreadsheet as it comes in!  
Tue, 06/01/2010 - 21:30 Permalink
Kurt Birdwhistell / Loyola University New Orleans

We have been using clickers for a couple of years now.  Last year several us did a comparison study of several clicker systems.  We decided to make iclicker the university standard.  It is the least expensive system($35 ea for student).  It is a very simple system.  The iclicker software will float above any software such as Word , powerpoint, Reader or whatever.  The receiver base is about the size of a small modem.  Iclicker gave us several receivers; so, there was little university investment. 

 Last Fall I used clickers in my one semester inorganic class.  I gave one or two clicker questions a class.  I will post my clicker questions later.  I think about 50% of the questions are good.   Maybe we can put together a set of clicker questions for a one semester inorganic class.  I used the Miesslar text last fall and will use it again this fall. 

Thu, 06/10/2010 - 22:22 Permalink
Maggie Geselbracht / Reed College

Kurt, I think it would be great if we could start a collection of clicker questions for Inorganic on VIPEr!  Maybe as a "Problem Set" type learning object so that students would not see them (only registered Faculty users can see the Problem Set activities).  Anybody else could add them as well!  Maybe if we all put Clicker somewhere in the title of the learning object, then they will be easy to search for.

My colleagues and I are in the process of evaluating and choosing a clicker system to try in Gen Chem and the fall semester of Organic Chem. Once I get the hang of using them in Gen Chem in the fall, I hope to also use them in my Inorganic class in the spring.

Fri, 06/11/2010 - 00:29 Permalink
Joanne Stewart / Hope College
I was just showing VIPEr to our seminar speaker and she wanted to know if it had clicker questions. Sounds like that will have to be part of VIPEr 3.0 (or whatever version we're on).
Fri, 11/12/2010 - 15:44 Permalink
Sheila Smith / University of Michigan- Dearborn

I use the eInstruction PRS clicker in my gen chem classes.  It is not permanently linked to one student so we have a brisk trade among the students in used clickers.  It is durable, and allows numeric answers in addition to MC.  Most importantly, it allows self-paced exams, so I now use this in place of scantrons.  Students can answer questions in any order, review their answers and change them as many times as they like (within the time set for the exam).  With a key input beforehand, exams are scored before I even get back to my office.  

 And to Adam's comment above, the receiver is the size of a thumb drive and has worked flawlessly for in 300 seat auditoriums.  


Wed, 04/06/2011 - 21:15 Permalink
Sheila Smith / University of Michigan- Dearborn
I should add that I would not use the clickers for exams if I did not use them regularly in class.  I find that the students get used to them on in-class clicker quizzes and are comfortable with them on the exams.  (but I do collect a backup hardcopy of their answers.)
Wed, 04/06/2011 - 21:17 Permalink
Nick K / University of Michigan-Flint



I just got a grant funded through the Technology Committee hear at Flint to purchase a large number of clickers for the chemistry department to implement into classes.  We will be able to distribute them to the students to use all semester and then collect them at the end of the semester, kind of like a loan program.  


I am looking at a couple of dfferent options for clickers.  One is the ones they used at the University of Toledo when I was there and I am very familiar with.  I am intrigued by the ones that you are using but I am cautious about what the reps tell me about what their product does and doesn't do.  I am more of an application person and people who have been using them can tell me more about what works and doesn't work.

 Do you have any time either the last week of april or first week of May for me to come  to campus and talk to you about your experiences with those clickers and exaclty what you can do with them. 

Fri, 04/08/2011 - 10:04 Permalink
Jen Look / Mercer University

I've used iClickers with my gen chem classes (60 - 90 students) for the last several years. I love it, although it does definitely take careful planning to come up with good questions. One issue I've had is that it's very easy for students to see what their neighbors are clicking. I've just encouraged collaboration and told students to work with their neighbors beofre clicking in. Anyone have a better strategy for avoiding cheating?

Mon, 07/30/2012 - 11:16 Permalink
Jane Bush / Olathe North High School

I think this would be an easy way to get feedback if the kids are "getting it"--I usually have them put up 3 fingers for got it! 2 for ball park, 1 for no clue.  They sometimes don't respond or lie, using clickers for that kind of review would give them a chance to be more anonymous.

Sun, 08/03/2014 - 15:18 Permalink
Anne Bentley / Lewis & Clark College

I thought I'd check back on the clicker forum here.  We ended up buying two sets of 100 clickers each from Turning Technologies and have been fairly satisfied with them. The hardest part for us is the logistics of having students pick up their personal clicker (assigned by number) at the beginning of class and drop them off at the end of class. 

Yesterday I learned of a new free app some of you may be interested in - plickers!   The idea is that everyone in the class holds up a card with a QR-code type of symbol on it while the instructor takes a photo of the class with their smartphone. The app then uses recognition software to tally up the votes. It may only work for 2-answer questions, but it is completely free for all and only requires one smartphone for the instructor.  Has anyone tried plickers?

Tue, 07/14/2015 - 13:24 Permalink
Barbara Reisner / James Madison University

This summer I was able to participate in a "technology sandbox" at JMU. I wanted to share two other ways that my colleagues from other departments use to answer the question, what are my students are thinking.

Kacie in education is a big fan of Nearpod ( I haven't used it myself, but what I like about it is that students can photograph whatever they've been working on and submit it to the instructor who can view it on their device. (The workshop focused on iPads, so Kacie was controlling and projecting everything from her ipad using an apple TV.) Kacie projected our (student) work and discuss what we were thinking as a group. Students download an app for their smartphone, tablet or computer - iOS, chrome, windows, android, amazon. They can vote in polls, photograph work, and more... You can have a presentation with up to 30 students for free. With creative groupwork, it's possible to use it in a class that's much bigger.

Another great voting app that I learned about from Bob in the B-school is Socrative ( This app also works on iOS, chrome, windows, android, amazon. You can put together quizzes (multipe choice, T/F, short answer) and students can answer a quick question or a series of questions as a race. The maximum number of students on this app is 50.

Mon, 08/10/2015 - 12:11 Permalink
Joanne Stewart / Hope College

This question was prompted by a POD listserv post, and much of it is borrowed from that post.

Does anyone know of a good research-based set of clicker questions for general chemistry? By "research-based" I mean questions that:

Elicit/reveal pre-existing thinking 
Test conceptual understanding
Apply ideas in new context/explore implications
Predict results of lecture demo, experiment, or simulation, video, etc.
Draw on knowledge from everyday life
Relate different representations (graphical, mathematical, …)

That list came from The Clicker Resource Guide:

Of course the Guide says that the kinds of questions I typically use--do a calculation, test recall--are less effective.



Sun, 04/17/2016 - 09:29 Permalink
Anne Bentley / Lewis & Clark College

I'm logging in to update information about Turning Technologies. Our chemistry department bought 200 clickers from them a number of years ago and have been using them without any problems.  However, they are now instituting a license fee (up to $9 per clicker per year) and updating the software so that it is no longer a free download. A colleague in another department here had a very difficult time getting any attention from their sales reps.  We in chemistry are stuck with what we have for now, but if I were making the decision again today, I doubt I would go with Turning Technolgies.

Thu, 05/05/2016 - 15:53 Permalink
Barbara Reisner / James Madison University

I keep hearing people talk about having students use their phones to repsond for questions. I've seen Poll Everywhere used in smaller classes since it will accomodate up to 40 students for free.

Are any of you using phone response systems? If so, what are you using? And how many students can be accomodated on the system? (I'm particularly interested in systems that could accomodate ~150 students.)

Thu, 05/05/2016 - 20:17 Permalink
Gerard Rowe / University of South Carolina Aiken

Due to a series of unfortunate events, I was tasked with teaching the organic sequence in the 2015-16 academic year.  I wanted to use a free, phone-based system to keep students engaged and to take attendance.  I decided to go with Kahoot.  In theory, it is unlimited in how many users it can accomodate, and the results can be downloaded as a spreadsheet after the quizzes are ended (they're not archived, though).

One thing I like about Kahoot is that it is laid out like a game, complete with sound effects.  Everyone signs into the quiz with their username, and when they answer a series of multiple choice questions, they are awarded points based on how long it takes them to come up with the correct answer.  The scoreboard is displayed after each question, too, though I think you can turn that off if you want.  The question creation interface is a little frustrating.  Uploaded images have their top margins chopped off sometimes, forcing you to add in a little whitespace at the top.  It's not possible at this time to allow for direct numerical entry of answers; only multiple choice.  

Mon, 05/09/2016 - 15:25 Permalink
Anthony L. Fernandez / Merrimack College

In my department we used TurningTechnologies for many years. The students purchased clickers and we were very happy with them. All of our students now have iPads so we transitioned to the web version (ResponseWare) for which the students paid a licensing fee (about $20 per year). This was not as good of an experience. 

Given the nuber of lecture and lab instructors we have, we transitioned to Socrative. It is easy to use, but the question types are limited (as noted in an earlier post). [TT could accept numerical responses and that was great!] You can have up to 50 students for the free version and more for the paid, which is relatively inexpensive (<$100 per year).

We have talked about Nearpod, but have not moved to it yet. This is a discussion that is going to come bask this semester. I will keep you all updated.

Fri, 01/04/2019 - 11:30 Permalink
Anne Bentley / Lewis & Clark College

We are still trucking along with our old TT clickers and receivers.  I'm sure something will happen at some point in the next n years to make this system obsolete for us, but in the meantime, we aren't doing much planning for the future.  I know our IT dept is doing a lot to try to get the whole campus on board with one program.  I am strongly opposed to both having the students pay for the service (we already ask them to pay for online homeowrk) and requiring the students to have a functional cell phone. But at some point, our old system will die and I'll have to weigh the options.  (And at that point, I will definitely come back to this forum for advice!)

Fri, 02/15/2019 - 11:04 Permalink