e-Learning Case Studies

University of Bath

Tagged: sms

Using audience response systems and sms to increase interactivity in face to face teaching

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  • Name & email: Andy Ramsden (a.ramsden@bath.ac.uk)
  • Keywords (pedadogical): large group teaching
  • Keywords (technical): audience response systems, sms, wordclouds
  • Discipline: n/a
  • Year / ability: n/a
  • Course title: n/a


Aims and objectives (what were you trying to do?)

A concern with many presentations at conferences (and lectures) is that they tend to be very didactic. Information flows from the presenter but there is little effective feedback from the audience during the session. If feedback opportunities to exist then these tends to be a few people who are comfortable with asking questions during the session. Also a problem in many situations is when to do ask from audience input it is very unstructured so this makes it very difficult for the person presenting to be able to process this in a meaningful way.

My intention was to use a combination of simple technologies to encourage audience participation and ensure that the feedback loop was in a place and effective.

What actually took place (describe what you did)?

As mentioned I used a number of technologies. In many cases I used an audience response system. This was used to gather information about the audience as well as ask specific questions. I used the TurningPoint Audience Response System which allowed me to include questions (and published the results) within my existing powerpoint slides. This was very useful at gathering objective data where I had structured the responses. However, on some occasions there is the need to ask more open questions. In this situation then the audience response system could not be used. On these occasions I encouraged students to text the responses. I use the Edutxt SMS Service with an incoming number. I put the number of my slide and asked the question. I also told students to use a keyword in their responses which was the question identifier. This menat when I logged into the web interface to get the replies I could quickly filter for just those which addressed the question asked. I then cut and paste the responses into the powerpoint slide to present to the audience.

The third approach was to use the SMS route but phrase the question to encourage people to give a lits of one word answers. I then filtered, and cut and paste the responses into a word cloud generator (www.tagcrowd.com) which gae a visual display of the responses.

What was the role of the technology (what did the technology add?)?

The technology enabled this activity to work effectively and ensured a high level of participation. I could have used simpleir technologies (such as colour cards) but this is much more difficult to quantify during the session, and suffers from problems with audience herding. Therefore, alothough there existed established approaches they would not have been as effective.


Were the objectives met?

I'd argue that the objectives were met. The technology was deployed to increase the degree of audience involvement in one of my presentations. There was a high level of responses using the Audience Response System that continued throughout the lecture. Audience involvement with the texting was significantly lower (less than 50% participated). However, one of my objectives was to trial its use. Therefore, I gained a significant insight into its potential.

How did the students find it?

I did get some feedback afterwards, generally, people found the approach very engaging and they thought that they benefited from the experience. However, due to the nature of a one-off presentation at a conference this has not been followed up. It would be very interesting to see how students found it after a number of lectures.

Were there any unexpected outcomes?

I'm not sure it was unexpected, however, I was surprised at how easy it was to use the technology in the session.

What tips do you have for others?

  1. remember when designing your session to give yourself time to be able to move the texts into the word cloud software or into the powerpoint. For instance, it might take a few minutes to cut and past, remove unwanted text and then paste into a word cloud generator. You'll want the audience to be doing something, not simply watching you.
  2. a really obvious point is you need to actually feedback on the results. It is really important that people are motivated to participate. If the response rate starts to decline then the activity becomes less effective. Therefore, to maintain engagement you have to use the SMS approach selectively and spend time discussing the results and contextualising within the lecture.

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