Learning and Teaching Investment Fund 2008

Summary of Projects

Project Title

e-Innovation in large lectures: student response meters

Project Leaders

Jeremy Keens

Funds Approved

$11,780

Summary of the project, outcomes, impacts and dissemination

Students have difficulty engaging in large lectures, and staff cannot easily gauge student’s understanding. As one tool to help overcome this, Student Response Meters (SRMs) were installed in one of RMIT’s lecture theatres. These allow the lecturer to present multiple choice format questions and combine the students’ responses graphically. Each student had access to a keypad, permanently installed in the theatre, through which they registered their preferred answer/s. The system then tallies the responses and creates a combined graphical/numeric output so that the total response of the class is displayed. Depending on the teaching format, lecturers can explain the correct and incorrect answers and re-cover material that may have been misunderstood. Students can gauge their progress and understanding while staff have the opportunity to immediately determine the effectiveness of their teaching.

In the second half of semester 2 2008 three courses trialled the system: Biomedical and Physical Sciences, a first year Nursing course; Principles of Human Biology, first year laboratory Medicine, Biomedical Science, Pharmaceutical Sciences and Human Movement; and Body Systems combining students from 6 different programs. Staff teaching these courses were trained in using the system and all included SRM questions within their lecture presentations using a variety of models.

In a survey carried out at the end of the semester, over 94% of students reported that having the SRMs had made the learning experience more enjoyable and that they had participated more in class. There was also strong agreement that the SRMs had helped them gauge their own performance and in comparison to other students’. Almost half said they came to class more frequently or came more prepared.

Their written comments confirmed the numerical component, showing that they liked the fact they could review material and participate anonymously getting immediate feedback, that lectures were more fun and that it helped them understand material better, and pay more attention. Lecturers were also able to understand what they needed to understand better. What they didn’t like was some distraction from other students and the lost time.

There was an increase in the value of a number of questions in the Course Experience Survey for the two first year courses, though it is not possible to determine causality.

Staff found the system easy to use and generally did not find it time consuming to modify their lectures to include questions. They structured their lectures differently – some spreading the questions others having a block – and student responses indicated support for both formats.

In conclusion, the project has demonstrated that SRMs can be installed in a large lecture theatre and that they improve the student’s learning experience.

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