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Since the beginning of the academic year, several LSA classes have been participating in a pilot program of iClicker Reef, a new student response system from Macmillan Learning, to ask a wider variety of questions than traditional iClicker remotes. This pilot program is being used to help the LSA Instructional Support Services weigh in on what advantages the system brings, as well as any problems that may arise.

Students in the pilot classes can access Reef through an app to answer an instructor’s prompted questions. In addition to handling multiple choice questions, Reef allows students to write short responses and use a target picture to drop points on a chart — something the iClicker remotes cannot do. The app also confirms if the instructor has received the response and records the response feedback for later access.

Statistics 250 is one of the classes participating in the Reef pilot program. According to Brenda Gunderson, statistics professor and coordinator for Statistics 250, the class usually keeps up with new learning technology, as it was also an early adopter of the original iClickers. Gunderson said she appreciates the way the app anticipates her questions.

“You can come up with some very good true-false and multiple choice questions, but it also really does help to mimic sometimes the ways you’re going to ask questions in assessments or make them think and type up an answer,” Gunderson said.

Statistics 250 has been piloting Reef for two semesters. According to Gunderson, her students told her they found Reef to be more engaging than traditional remotes. LSA freshman Hannah Albee, a student in Gunderson’s lecture, said she enjoys the accessibility and wider variety of questions.

“(Reef) is pretty straightforward,” Albee said. “Honestly I don’t really have any complaints with it. It’s convenient.”

Albee added she hopes more classes use Reef. She was required to buy a remote for her comparative politics class last semester, but never used it because there were problems integrating it in the class. According to Albee, Reef seems easier to implement.

Senior Instructional Consultant Anthony King approached Gunderson as well as other professors to offer the opportunity to participate in the pilot program. He explained how LSA started supporting iClickers 10 years ago and is cooperating with Macmillan Learning to test out Reef in 14 pilot courses within the Statistics; Biology; Psychology; Sociology; and Film, Television and Media departments.

LSA freshman Adam Ross’s biology courses this semester and last semester both used iClicker remotes. Ross expressed interest in using Reef.

“(Reef) sounds like a great idea,” Ross said. “It seems more convenient instead of having to worry about the batteries forgetting the clicker device. I’d totally be down to try it.”

However, Reef also presents some challenges that could prove problematic for learning environments. Ross noted how Reef might disrupt grading systems.

“I had friends that would use Reef and not go to lecture and would just answer the questions from their computer when it was lecture time,” Ross said. “I could see why that might pose a problem in grading for attendance.”

Gunderson said Reef’s interface wasn’t too complicated, but some technical challenges came with its implementation last semester. Since the course is designed so students may attend any lecture during the week, Reef synced all students to the course rather than to each class section, creating some lag in the response system.

“In order for me to give good feedback, I want their thinking, and I want to see the results of the poll in real time, not after the fact,” Gunderson said. “There were a few glitches because of how big the course was. Many of these glitches were fixed for the current semester.”

The pricing model also varies between Reef and remotes. Whereas students can buy a iClicker remote for $39 at the Computer Showcase or get one used for a lower price, Reef is available for use free of charge in the pilot program. King explained students would have to pay a one-year subscription fee of $23.99 to use the app if it were officially integrated into LSA classrooms.

“The business model for the cloud-based iClicker Reef assumes students pay for the software they use on their own laptops, tablets, or phones — this means paying for both a subscription and needing to have a compatible device,” King said. “We are currently exploring with Macmillan Learning whether institutional licenses might be an option and what the financial impact could potentially be. It’s premature to speculate on how much students might pay.”

King explained how LSA ultimately needs to weigh in on the different effects of student response systems before deciding if the system should be implemented.

“I want to be clear that there is no University-wide ‘transition’ to iClicker Reef,” King said. “Individual schools and colleges determine what student response system is most appropriate for their faculty … for a variety of important reasons, some instructors may prefer to stay with the traditional iClicker device-based version.”

Correction: a previous version of this article stated King was both an LSA Senior and Instructional Consultant.

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