Editorial: Clickers only benefit classes if used properly

Esteban Diaz | Editorial Cartoonist
Esteban Diaz | Editorial Cartoonist

In a world filled with technology, it seems as though the practice of pen and paper has begun to disappear. Homework is turned in online, notes are taken on laptops, research is done online and quizzes, tests and participation points are taken with clicker devices.

Over the past few years, Baylor and other universities have transitioned to using technology clickers in several large classes to poll, quiz and test students on the class material. The clickers are sold in the bookstore or online from clicker manufacturers.

Although these response devices allow students to engage in classes with more than 100 students, the manner in which they are used in some classes diminishes their effectiveness and allows students to take advantage of the system.

Clicker devices make it easier for students to cheat off what other classmates press into their device, or by answering for another student if he or she was unable to attend class.

“The Chronicle of Higher Education” also believes clickers give students more opportunities to cheat and abuse the system.

In a Sept. 4 article, the Chronicle’s Jie Jenny Zou writes, “Students purchase remotes and register the devices in their names. Those who choose not to attend large classes can simply ask friends to bring along their clickers and get whatever credit the instructor assigns for showing up,”

Cheating is obviously a violation of Baylor’s Honor Code, but despite the university’s faith in each of its students, cheating still happens. If it never did, we would not have need an Office of Academic Integrity.

If classes account for a majority of the grade to come from clicker responses, students will either answer for themselves, or for their friends, which constitutes cheating.

Even situations where cheating is not an issue, such as tests where the number of students is counted beforehand, clickers present a problem in terms of practicality.

Taking a test on a clicker, especially when students must use the clicker to spell out words and figures, is distracting and unnecessarily time-consuming.

Rather than having clicker responses account for most of the points in the class, professors ought to use them for polling responses and engaging students throughout the lecture to grasp their full understanding or misunderstanding of what is being taught.

It is wonderful that in a class of 200 students, a professor can monitor what each student understands or needs help in; this interaction usually only happens with smaller classes.

If professors instead use the clickers for students to provide feedback on what information they understand or what information they would like more explanation on, then clickers can help guide the class in the direction they need to go.

An assistant professor at Trinity University, Benjamin Surpless, told the Chronicle that he uses the clicker devices to assess how much the students understand in the class so he knows what needs to be focused on more in class. He used to use clickers for graded assignments but no longer does.

At this point, there is no way for clickers to ensure the authenticity that tests and quizzes on paper can provide. It is too much work for a professor to keep track of who is honestly answering questions and who isn’t.

For now, keep the clickers and focus on student interactions without a grade.