BY ELIZABETH LAI
Daily Staff Reporter
Published February 6, 2008
Qwizdom, a company that specializes in providing interactive classroom response systems, has made its way into University lecture halls.
Since the University signed a five-year, $40,000 contract with the company last year, the quiz-taking devices that often draw comparisons to remote controls have become increasingly popular on campus.
This semester alone, the Information Technology Central Services Computer Showcase store has sold more than 7,000 Qwizdom clickers to University students enrolled in humanities, engineering and public health courses, said Eileen Cicotte, an employee at the showcase.
The trend is also taking hold at colleges nationwide. Qwizdom spokeswoman Jaci Hendricks said the company has sold more than 50,000 remotes to American universities like the University of Southern California, the University of Iowa and nearby Eastern Michigan University.
Qwizdom remotes are meant to increase student participation during lectures by allowing instructors to quiz or survey students during class.
Professors generally use PowerPoint presentations and projection screens with Qwizdom remotes. Instructors project multiple choice questions onto the screen, and students respond by using the remotes. Quizdom allows students to know instantly whether they've answered the question correctly or not. The remote features "T" and "F" buttons for true-false questions, as well as letters and numbers for different types of quizzes.
LSA senior Erik Larson, who is taking a psychology class that uses Qwizdom, said the remote helps him pay attention during lectures.
"You can check to see if you are understanding the main concepts of the lecture," he said.
Some professors say that Qwizdom clickers help them measure their teaching performance.
Statistics Prof. Anil Gore said Qwizdom feedback allows him to focus on concepts he needs to explain more clearly.
"If people are getting confused and lost, then I should spend more time on it," Gore said.
However, the clickers do come at a cost.
Mathematics Prof. Stephen DeBacker said there's a definite tradeoff when using Qwizdom remotes.
"We don't have as much time to explain the material," DeBacker said. "It is a delicate balancing act."
Many students also don't like that some instructors are choosing to grade students based on their use of the clickers.
DeBacker said he's received complaints from students who say that using Qwizdom forces them to attend lecture.
"They say they are adults and should be free to skip class if they wish," he said.
Some students also don't like being required to spend essentially the cost of another book when a professor requires Qwizdom for a course.
New Qwizdom remotes cost $35 at the Computer Showcase.
Used clickers are sold at a cheaper rate, but less than 10 percent of students sell their used clickers back to the Showcase, Cicotte said.
Monika Dressler, the senior manager of LSA Instructional Support Services, said the price University students pay is heavily discounted because of the contract between the College of Literature, Science and the Arts and Qwizdom. Dressler said the remotes can reach are normally sold for about $60 in other locations.
The University chose to use Qwizdom after a number of faculty members asked LSA administrators for funding for interactive technologies, Dressler said. To prevent students from having to purchase different types of clickers for different classes, LSA officials eventually chose Qwizdom.
In addition to experimenting with a number of different vendors in courses during the spring and summer 2006 terms, LSA researched schools like Michigan State University, Indiana University and the University of Southern California fared with similar systems, Dressler said.
She said LSA faculty and administrators presented the results of last year's pilot program and student and faculty feedback to the LSA dean before the Qwizdom contract with LSA was approved.
Depending on faculty enthusiasm and technological advancements, Qwizdom may not be at the University to stay.
"Technology is changing so quickly, one can imagine faculty wanting to move to different methods of interaction in the coming years," said Dressler.