The system has been used in over half of the lectures of the 24 that I give in this 48-lecture year-long module, every year since session 2001-2. The class has ranged from 250-400 in enrolment. At any one time, the maximum group size in a single lecture theatre has been 300 students.
Equipment considerations: the handsets are distributed to students in the first week of term and they retain them for the semester, on the understanding that they will be a bad debt to the university if they don't return them at the end. The lecture theatre used has receivers wired into the ceiling. Hence using the equipment simply requires me to plug my laptop into the fixed wiring.
My aim is to increase the level of activity in the class, by using the system 2 or 3 times in each session, to break up the flow a little and give the students an opportunity to reflect on and act on what they've just been listening to. I engage in class discussion on the basis of the students' responses, and occasionally get the students to discuss the answers amongst themselves.
Using the class test feature available in QRS, I have occasionally set this class a test during the semester. The questions for the test are handed out on paper, and the students can complete the test in their own time during the session, submitting answers with their handsets as they go. In the last 20-25 minutes of the session, I go over the answers, with the response graphs on display, and can ignore any questions that were answered correctly, focussing on those questions that obviously caused the students most difficulty. The system produces a mark for each student at the end of the session, viewed on screen, and the students enjoy the immediate production of both formative and summative feedback.
This is a Professional Issues class, and the aim is to encourage the students to think and discuss deeply about such issues arising in Computer Science. The handsets are used in two ways in this class:
The system used here has been entirely portable, and distribution and recovery of the numbered handsets has been acceptably fast. The velcro sheets allow an immediate check on whether all the handsets have been returned. Attendance checking has been successful, no students have objected to this method.
The system has been used on a number of occasions with school students visiting the University. They have enjoyed using them, and in general have looked much more attentive than sessions without this kind of interaction. The questions have typically been designed to get them thinking about exciting issues in Computer Science, a subject that they typically know very little about.
I have used the handsets in a number of seminars on handsets! The aim here has been to show as many different styles of use of the system in one presentation, with reasonable success.
In an afternoon session at Lochaber High School in Fort William, we used the handsets in two different ways. First, they were used in much the same way as the Open Days described above - to get the pupils thinking about issues in Computer Science. Second, the pupils, all studing Computing and conversant to varying extents with Visual Basic, were given a primitive interface to the physical PRS hardware, developed as part of the QRS software. This interface allowed the students to poll the hardware to find out how many responses had been received in the different response categories, and also to assign a procedure that should be activated every time a response was received. One group connected four handsets to a simple space ship program, such that one handset made the ship move north, one east, one west and the last, south. Hence four users holding the four handsets could work collaboratively to fly the ship around the screen. It took the students about 40 minutes to connect up the software components and gives an idea of how simply small applications driven by the handsets can be constructed using the QRS interface.