Cloud-Based Student Engagement Platforms Can Help Instructors Reduce Cheating

Student cheating, most notably within higher education, has reached new heights. The speed in which students can access and share information is unlike any other time in our history.  Technology, specifically mobile devices such as smartphones, laptops and tablets, has changed the way people view, consume and share information. Today’s college students grew up during the digital boom and tend to be very tech savvy individuals.  According to a 2012 eMarketer study, by the time the class of 2016 graduates, close to 90% of college students in the U.S. will own a smartphone, compared to 58.5% of the total U.S. population.

In August 2012, Harvard University made headlines for a huge cheating scandal involving 125 students in an undergraduate government class. The full details of the case weren’t disclosed but school officials have sighted electronic communication between the students involved as the root of the cheating. Also in 2012, the University of Florida reported 242 instances of cheating in a computer science course. In this instance, project files submitted by students had hidden markers that helped identify documents used in previous exams.  More than one marker was found across multiple student submissions, which was how the cheating was uncovered. This type of cheating isn’t exclusive to higher education. High school students in Newport Beach, CA purchased information designed to help teachers assess student learning on  This information included answers to an upcoming history test, enticing some of the students involved to try and sell the answers to other classmates.

With research stating as high as 75% of college students have admitted to cheating, one must focus on how they are cheating.  One of the biggest shifts in student cheating is the practice of purchasing everything from question banks to lecture notes online. Teacher’s edition textbooks are very difficult to purchase in the US, but there are dozens of international trading sites that sell these the same day the publisher releases the student edition textbook. Crowd sourced sites are another culprit, as they organize and sell questions banks, course documents and lecture notes. They do this for any textbook or test based on the information uploaded by members.

Google Docs has often been the go-to platform for cheating. With Google Docs, students can collaborate within the same document in real-time. As one scenario was shared with The Chronicle of Higher Education, students would alternate who would go first for each test in the online course they were taking. The Google Doc would be updated with the right and wrong answers after each person completed their turn. Subsequently, the grades would improve for each new person taking the test.

So how did we get here? As I mentioned earlier, today’s students view the internet as an open information market.  With so much information readily available, free or otherwise, academic integrity is often hard to classify. Some students feel that if they can find course information online, it is okay to use and don’t consciously view it as cheating. Others knowingly cheat by taking advantage of social sharing to deliberately get ahead. Either way, instructors have a difficult time trying to stay ahead of the latest cheating methods.

Instructors looking to expand beyond the publisher’s question bank can find the process challenging to manage across multiple classes and terms. With cloud-based student engagement software, instructors can now easily create and manage a single master question bank.  By developing their own question banks using software that works across any mobile device – i.e. laptop, smartphone or tablet, instructors can keep content fresh which helps keep students more engaged and honest during the learning process.

These new question banks also provide a lot of flexibility; questions are created once, and can be used across any section or term. When needed, questions can be easily edited, remixed and reordered from class-to-class and/or across students within the same class. This process makes it harder for students to know which questions they will be asked for any given homework, quiz or major exam.  If they do not know the specific questions, or even the order of the questions ahead of time, they will have a much harder time trying to cheat the system.

Other benefits of cloud-based student engagement software include the ability to push questions both in and out of the classroom.  Asynchronous homework can be deployed based on synchronous in-class polls, while instructor-to-student communication occurs in real-time. In addition, attendance and assessments are easily integrated with the school’s learning management system.

As long as there are students, there will always be some level of cheating within our education system.  However, if instructors and school administrators leverage the same technology platforms used by students to cheat, they will have a better chance of helping reduce the number of instances that occur.

Posted in 21st century classroom, audience response systems, BYOD, classroom response systems, cloud based polling, education, Higher Education, Hybrid Classrooms, mobile technology, Student Engagement | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Transforming Educational Delivery Methods – Hype or the New Normal?

Student preference, financial performance pressures at higher education institutions, and the “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) explosion are transforming educational delivery methods at a disruptive pace. Technology innovation is fostering entirely new instruction methods.  For example, hybrid/blended learning, flipped classrooms and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC’s) are challenging both traditional and distance learning courses.

In the hundreds of conversations I have had with instructional designers, teaching excellence centers and instructors, I often end up resorting to colloquialisms and imagery to succinctly describe the relentless changes in student engagement and learning.   So what’s the big deal?  Do we really need all this change? And what will the “new normal” be for how instructors deliver content and teach with the rapid technological transformations that are happening? The reality is that the vast majority of students in today’s digital age have persistent access to the internet through a variety of devices. Therefore, we should leverage these devices as tools for learning.

The single largest driver in the “new normal” of learning is student preference. The Educause Center for Applied Research discovered that 64% of students agree or strongly agree that technology elevates the level of teaching, and approximately 75% of students have taken a class with online components. At Via Response, we have had universities state that large hybrid courses (500-2500 students) often reach maximum attendance levels, while the same course offered inside a traditional classroom struggles to get students. They indicated that 14:1 ratios are not uncommon.

Economic pressure faced by both students and educational institutions has been a catalyst for change. In today’s economy, more students are working while going to school, and thus have a greater need for the schedule flexibility offered by hybrid classes. A survey conducted by the Center for Teaching at Estrella Mountain Community College stated that 74% of surveyed students indicated that “convenience and flexibility” were what they liked best about hybrid classes. Students in these classes can attend in person, watch a live lecture from a remote location, or review the lecture at a later time if they have a schedule conflict, such as work. This revolution in higher education course delivery is all about choice.  The trends in hybrid course offerings is expected to see unabated growth because this new course delivery model enables students to experience on-campus life while leveraging technology to balance school, work and other life demands.

Financial performance pressures have also changed how public and private institutions support students. Administrators are grappling with the complex challenge of providing quality education and protecting their institutional brand while competing with for-profit online learning institutions that offer innovative course delivery models.  The past two decades saw tremendous growth in updated on-campus amenities and building infrastructure; however, now there is renewed fiscal scrutiny around the most efficient ways to deliver learning. Building new lecture halls and buildings is now secondary to technology innovations that deliver flexible, high quality education. To cover these growing costs while facing budget cutbacks, blended “Bricks and Clicks” learning environments are now the ideal solution.

There are challenges with hybrid course models however.  Instructors need to promote live student engagement and in-class assessment for all students, even those not physically present, to make these blended classrooms effective. While learning management systems (LMS) have robust asynchronous assessment capabilities, they are limited in their ability to engage students in live hybrid class configurations since they are passive in nature. In fact, some LMS-based asynchronous courses have students choosing to not watch the lecture at all; instead they focus on the information presented in the textbook to save time.

LMS platforms have limited capabilities on mobile devices, thus requiring students to use a computer to participate. In comparison, next generation BYOD student engagement platforms enable students to participate in class using any device they own, such as smart phones, tablets, eBook devices and laptops. These platforms can be seamlessly integrated with LMS platforms. BYOD-based platforms also provide instructors with blended synchronous/asynchronous tools that increase student engagement and content retention by as much as 37%, according to one University of Central Florida professor. They also help instructors and institutions measure active student participation. For example, these tools can take attendance, even from students attending remotely, enabling institutions to accurately document student participation. This is essential in situations where attendance confirmation is mandatory for students earning scholarship credits.

In addition to adding value in LMS-based courses, the benefits of using a BYOD student engagement platform in hybrid, online and flipped classroom configurations are significant. In particular, remote students can participate in live polls or assessments that occur in a live lecture from any device and location, alongside students present in the classroom. . Real-time access to poll, quiz, and assessment results are immediately available, and can be easily shared with the class as a kick-off for discussions. This capability provides both the instructor and students with insight in to how well the entire class, as a whole, is absorbing and retaining course content.

Top tier schools have recognized the ability to leverage their brand through these new educational delivery methods.  As a result, a student can now pick the brand with little or no regard to geographic location.  Will this trend stop? I think not. In the end, institutions should ask themselves whether it is better to board the technology innovation train as it departs the station, or after it is heading west at 80MPH. In my opinion, it’s far less painful to get on board now than try to catch this speeding train later.

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Blending Synchronous and Asynchronous Assessments in Large Hybrid Classrooms

Instructors have been using asynchronous assessments, in the form of homework, for generations. With the rise of learning management systems (LMS) over the past two decades, asynchronous homework, quizzes and now online assignments have become the norm. Clicker-based student response systems gained popularity during the same time period because they provided instructors with the ability to synchronously assess students in live classroom settings. While clicker systems originally enabled instructors to achieve higher content retention by students, they have become legacy systems with limitations in todays’ hybrid, online and massive open online course (MOOC) configurations.

Why? Economic pressure faced by both students and educational institutions has been a catalyst for change. In today’s economy, more students are working while going to school, and thus have a greater need for the schedule flexibility offered by hybrid classes. A survey conducted by the Center for Teaching at Estrella Mountain Community College stated that 74% of surveyed students indicated that “convenience and flexibility” were what they liked best about hybrid classes. Students in these classes can attend in person, watch a live lecture from a remote location, or review the lecture at a later time if they have a schedule conflict, such as work. This revolution in higher education course delivery is all about choice.

However, instructors have a key concern with hybrid course delivery; it’s the ability to track how many students are actually watching the lecture at home. Most fear students are only doing the assigned reading and homework without participating in the lecture sessions online. The complex task facing higher education institutions is determining how to take full advantage of the latest technology innovations, such as cloud-based student engagement platforms, to help resolve this concern. As a way to support the “Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement, student engagement platforms allow students to access their assignments from any location through smartphones, tablets or laptops. By blending synchronous and asynchronous assessments, even for large hybrid or online courses, instructors can ensure students are actively participating throughout the term.

Synchronous communication takes place like a real-life conversation. Students located remotely can watch the live lecture through a video-streaming platform alongside classmates located inside the lecture hall.  Student engagement platforms enable every student, no matter where they are located, to participate in synchronous polls and quizzes through any smart device. Because these devices are used (versus a legacy clicker), questions can incorporate images, essays, and other advanced media. Remote students are able to ask questions and participate in discussions alongside their on-campus classmates. Responses from polls and quizzes are available immediately for review, providing both students and instructors with real-time feedback on the content being presented.

Typical asynchronous assessments, such as homework case studies and take-home exams, are a great way to engage students on complex issues and verify deeper understanding of a topic. This process, however, tends to contribute to the common practice of students procrastinating to study and learn course materials until an assignment is due. They often neglect watching the lecture videos, and instead focus solely on these assignments, leading to limited participation throughout the term.

Robust student engagement platforms with both synchronous and asynchronous assessment capabilities, give instructors the right tools to encourage and measure student participation. For example, an instructor can launch polls and quizzes during a live lecture and leave them open for a set period of time, allowing students that are participating asynchronously to take the same assessments. In this case the student must watch the lecture to in order to know the material presented and accurately answer the questions to earn points. The University of Central Florida’s College of Business uses a student engagement platform in this exact way for a very large hybrid class with over 2500 students; most of which participate from several remote campus locations.

These innovative student engagement platforms are also used in traditional classrooms. Students prefer using the devices they carry every day, smartphones, tablets and laptops, instead clickers that they lose or forget, are problematic at times and expensive. Teachers often hear statements like “I forgot my clicker” and “did you get my response?” far too often. Students also dislike having to purchase multiple clickers based on the model a particular instructor chooses to use in a given class. At the end of the day, students want instructors to embrace technology innovations in their classrooms – especially solutions that leverage smart devices and provide flexible course participation.


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The Future is Now – Smart Devices will be Ubiquitous, Clickers are Dinosaurs

Present-day technology provides students with an opportunity to learn and engage in the classroom in ways that their predecessors could only imagine. The days of using a paper and pencil as primary tools to facilitate learning are long gone. The introduction of hand-held clickers in the classroom a decade ago allowed students and professors to communicate like never before. Clickers enabled professors to monitor student learning throughout the semester by awarding points on responses to live, in-class quizzes during lectures.

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) has forever changed higher education. Most college students carry one or more mobile devices with them to class, whether it is a tablet, laptop, or smartphone.  According to the Educause Center for Applied Research, almost 9 out of every 10 students own a laptop, and the ownership rates of technological devices among students continue to increase. BYOD has forced student response systems into the digital age where cloud-based platforms are rapidly becoming the new standard. Cloud-based student response systems provide a simpler, more effective way to engage students through the mobile devices they use every day.

Clickers were innovative devices that gave life to the student response phenomenon.  The problem, however, is that these devices are an unnecessary hardware for today’s tech savvy college students. Other issues such as cost, difficult implementations, no blended learning support and assessment limitations have become harder to overcome when competing with newer cloud-based platforms. These new platforms, especially those available as mobile applications, are inexpensive, easy to set up and support a variety of assessments to keep students actively engaged in and out of class.

A clicker device can cost students anywhere from $30-$65, and often times aren’t transferrable from class-to-class if instructors are using different devices, whereas a subscription to cloud-based student response systems can be as low as $10 a year and have options to pay for single semesters and available  across any class. The implementation process for clickers requires hardware and cables, which can make it a confusing process for professors to tackle alone. Cloud based systems are really student assessment systems and go far beyond 1st generation student response systems.  Through mobile devices cloud-based assessment platforms require no additional hardware and the setup process can be completed in as little as fifteen minutes. Additionally, clickers are limited to only a few, multiple choice question types. Professors using student response systems on mobile devices can create and share a wide range of assessments both synchronous and asynchronous across sections such as live in-class polling, quizzes, homework, free form text responses, image displays, and much more.  Another very important differentiator is the student’s ability to review their responses to study for higher stakes tests.

If the costs and limited functionality of clickers aren’t enough to showcase why they are an outdated option for enhanced student engagement in higher education, data privacy will most certainly be the final nail in the coffin. Until recent years, data privacy issues weren’t a universal concern. When clickers first hit the market, no one worried about the security and safety of student data that was stored on each professor’s computer. Today, virtually every industry has explicit data standards – higher education is no exception.  Cloud-based student response systems upload data automatically in real-time and are immediately available to both the professor and the student to review and confirm. The data is securely encrypted and stored, eliminating all of the common FERPA violations found with clicker systems.

Only time will tell how long it will take for clickers to be replaced entirely by cloud-based student response systems, specifically those that also have native applications for smartphone and tablets. One can bet, however, that BYOD will help to expedite this switch. In fact, the U.S. Department of Education’s 2010 Technology Plan states that leveraging these advanced technologies results in improved student learning, accelerated adoption of effective practices, more engaged experiences and content, complements measurements of student achievement and collaborative teaching strategies, along with data that can be used to help improve the education system over time.

Posted in 21st century classroom, BYOD, classroom response systems, cloud based polling, Formative Assessment, Higher Education, Hybrid Classrooms, mobile technology, Student Engagement, tablet technology, TechEd, Virtual Clickers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Education Shift to BYOD

Bring your own device, or BYOD, isn’t just a workplace phenomenon. It is also finding strong legs in education. The U.S. Department of Education’s 2010 Technology Plan, ‘Transforming American Education: Learning Powered by Technology’, states that leveraging the advanced technologies we use in our daily personal and professional lives within the education system has many benefits.  It lists some of the benefits as improved student learning, accelerated adoption of effective practices, more engaged experiences and content, complement measurements of student achievement and collaborative teaching strategies, along with data that can be used to help improve the education system over time.

A recent whitepaper published by states, ‘postsecondary students once looked to academic departments for recommendations on which computing products to purchase and bring to class. But today’s generation of college students is far more technologically savvy.’ The whitepaper goes on to discuss that student’s feel technology is as a key component of their overall success and have an expectation to have their technology needs supported by their chosen college or university. According to the 21st Century Campus Report, 87 percent of current college students considered technology offerings when deciding which institution to attend. And 92 percent of current high school students said that technology will be key differentiators during their university selection process.

Of course as with most things, there are two sides to any issue. Supporting faculty, students, and staff in BYOD-mode has become an increasingly demanding challenge in higher education. Opposition typically is encountered by those who are worried about security breaches and the potential catastrophic impact to a university’s network infrastructure. Critics do often agree that defining and implementing a BYOD strategy is the best way to ease these concerns.

A multitude of online resources exist to help develop an effective BYOD strategy. Cisco outlines three steps to success as being strategy and governance, network readiness, and security in a recent blog. CDW-G’s three step approach includes securing faculty support, deploying virtualization and rethinking support policies. Cherwell advises that higher education institutions should create clear data policies, ensure no student is disadvantaged by the lack of available technology, secure sufficient investment in infrastructure and implement appropriate security measures.

Regardless of one’s position on BYOD, it is clear that it will not be an option much longer, but rather a requirement. The sooner higher education institutions develop and deploy effective BYOD strategies the better. They will be able to remain competitive in recruiting students and producing a high percentage of graduates.


Posted in 21st century classroom, audience response systems, classroom response systems, clickers, education, Formative Assessment, mobile technology, tablet technology, TechEd, technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blended Learning – Education’s Bricks and Clicks (Clicks and Mortar)

Blended Learning – Education’s Bricks and Clicks (Clicks and Mortar)

Posted on August 1, 2012 by viaresponse

The concept for this post has been swirling around in my head for more than six weeks.  After a lunch with a Director over Instructional Innovation last week, the parallels came fully into focus.

So what are Bricks and Clicks and how does it apply to Higher Education?  In 1999, the Co-CEO of Charles Schwab, David Pottruck, coined the phrase to reflect a business model that integrates offline retail with a modern online presence.

On the surface, this strategy seemed like a logical push as there were many explicit strengths to this business model. The most prominent being the ability to leverage brand and increase revenue for the organization without incurring the fixed costs of opening additional retail locations. In addition, the retailer was able to leverage the long tail, which is a retailing strategy that focuses on selling a greater number of unique items but in smaller quantities.  This allowed them to offer an expanded assortment of goods without physically distributing those goods to each “brick” location. Finally, there was the ability for the consumer to buy online and return items as necessary to a physical store.  However, like most channel augmentations, the model also had some unintended complexities.

The most pressing issue of online expansion mandated the need for new technologies and capabilities. Retailers needed to be able to merchandise vast assortments of additional SKU’s and expand their presence to fully embrace an online strategy. Methods were also required in the physical store for customers to order from the increased product breadth. There was also significant investment around distribution centers and introducing single unit economics and distribution. New distribution methods were built and new customer service centers were staffed.  The service teams accessed a far more complex software to accommodate a bricks and mortar operation. Returns in the physical location also created the need for centralized systems to accommodate the customer in both the physical and online world. So, what are the results?

The strategy has worked extremely well for the retailers who had a strong focus on distribution software technology and were interested in growing their business. For example, Walmart and Target have effectively leveraged this strategy and Home Depot continues to improve on it. Others struggled or folded. To further complicate the issue, all bricks and mortar operations were competing with pure-play companies like Amazon who excelled in technology innovation and leveraged existing unit driven distribution systems in place like FedEx, USPS and UPS.

Now fast forward to the higher education market of 2012.  Some of the parallels are striking. First, universities are trading heavily on their brands and spent the last two decades attracting students by constructing amenity rich campuses.  This increased infrastructure has placed tremendous financial performance pressure on both private and public institutions.  The marketing has created demand but has pushed required courses into large lecture halls. This leaves the institution in a dilemma. Do they build more physical buildings and lecture halls or do they leverage their brand and the abilities of the internet to create a blended/hybrid delivery system?  Does this bricks and clicks solution address the needs of these students? What is the outcome? Do the students achieve equivalent subject level mastery as the traditional class lecture?

The early data being reported, almost daily in educational journals, supports equivalent student outcomes.   In many cases, there is also a strong student affinity to hybrid delivery. The preference is also confirmed by institutions who offer both an in class version of a course and a hybrid course augmented with lecture capture’s participation, and assessment/collaboration technology like Via Response.  A recent project Via Response was involved in demonstrated a 7:1 preference for hybrid delivery.  What is interesting is that student preference is extending into smaller sections of more advanced course material. In all cases, the student wants the choice to attend physically some days and remotely live or asynchronously on other days.  That is a topic for a subsequent post.

Second, the long tail discussed earlier allows for very specialized courses to be taught to a much broader audience of students.  The explosion of MOOC’s (Massive Open Online Courses) serve as a brand extension of the most prominent universities in the country.   MOOC’s center around very advanced course material that requires a population of tens of millions to fill a class of 2500. Prestige is not lost for the students who are actually enrolled at the university and in the course. In fact, the prestige may even be enhanced as the extended classroom includes hundreds of passionate learners who could never attend the university but wish to participate. I believe, ultimately, that the extended open population will add value to the course as technology tools advance. In a worldwide system, leading authorities can co-teach in lecture halls with students and allow students to join from anywhere. The barriers of space and time have been effectively obliterated.

Of course, education has also evolved with the University of Phoenix and others being the Amazon of education.  The online only delivery model is here to stay and is a viable option for many adult learners.  So, where does this leave us?  What are the differences? Although no one is sure, there is no doubt that we can look at the 12-year expansion of retail delivery and apply it to education.

Like retail, higher education delivery models will continue to proliferate. Technology will be at the forefront of this expansion as the construction of physical buildings slow. The buildings that are constructed will feature multi-media and advanced technologies to bridge remote and live audiences as well as provide a strong suite of tools for asynchronous learning that mimic the live classroom experience.

It is my belief that students still crave connectedness.  Students want a physical campus home and brand but also want flexibility. This bodies well for blended learning and it is Via Response’s mission to help.  The world’s most complex transaction is the transfer and creation of knowledge. One could argue that education may be even better suited to a bricks and clicks model than the retail industry. Only time will tell!

As always, we love to hear from you. Drop us a line anytime.

Derrick Meer

COO Via Response Technologies

Posted in 21st century classroom, ARS, audience response systems, BYOD, classroom response systems, clickers, clickers in the cloud, cloud based polling, CRS, education, Formative Assessment, Mobile Clickers, mobile technology, MOOC, personal response systems, PRS, Smart Clickers, SRS, tablet technology, TechEd, Virtual Clickers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pedagogy in Peril

Bring Your Own Device Modernizes Audience Response In and Out of the Classroom

For all intents and purposes, smart-phones have been active in the market for five years. That’s five years of explosive growth accompanied by five years of “struggle” between instructor and student over the role of these devices in class. The struggle of the now ubiquitous smart phone has now largely, albeit not completely, been settled in Higher Ed. They are part of the landscape and they are here to stay.

Students equate smart phones to breathing and have been caught being social instead of being attentive to acceleration vectors or the history of genetics.

How surprising.

New student response systems like Via Response introduce expanded capabilities that allow you instructors to work with students in and out of the classroom on a single system. Asking your students to push a button on a battery-driven remote control, aka clicker (that they forgot today, or had their friend bring to class) isn’t going to get them to participate. Engaging them on their medium, on their terms will.  You get out of the device management business.  You have a double win! Networking is how today’s students communicate, and they need a networked educational platform and Via Response gives you the tool to engage the “app generation.”

By leveraging student’s smart phones, tablets, and laptops/desktops, Via Response includes every student. Currently in deployment in classes supporting from 30 to over 1,000 students, Via Response can handle any course load.

Not only do you leverage the Internet, but also your students will immediately and inherently alter their in and out of classroom participation by leveraging their always-on and highly mobile devices.

Imagine having the same input from your pensive students as you do from the vocal ones.  Everyone’s ideas, participation and opinions are counted.  With 20+ years of research, instructors see increases in class attendance, participation and most importantly in student retention.

We want to offer you a free trail to see Via Response in action.  We can have you up and running in 15 minutes.

Derrick Meer

COO, Via Response Technologies


Posted in 21st century classroom, ARS, audience response systems, classroom response systems, clickers, clickers in the cloud, cloud based polling, CRS, education, Formative Assessment, Mobile Clickers, mobile technology, personal response systems, PRS, Smart Clickers, SRS, TechEd, technology, Virtual Clickers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

## 4 HigherEd “Clicker” Terms ## Audience Response System, Personal Response System, Student Response System, and Classroom Response System, Clickers

Destined for the Dustbin of History

Never have I seen a market more fragmented by terms describing/defining the same exchange/transaction between an instructor and a student. After years of market positioning and millions of dollars in term differentiation, the market defined response systems as “clickers.”

In 2012, all legacy clicker-differentiating terms for in-class response systems are rapidly heading toward extinction.  The death is not a result of lack of effort but simply a result of smart devices steamrolling expensive single-purpose, TV remote like devices. Let’s look for a moment at why these clickers and the resulting terms will not survive.

Audience Response System, ARS – This definition is probably the broadest of the proprietary 1st generation terms.  ARS successfully defines the legacy software to include learners both in and out of academic institutions.  In other words, the concept includes corporate, training and government markets where participation and audience response can be utilized to validate learning objectives.

Unfortunately, Audience Response Systems are hardware based and confined to a single location.  Organizers of short events like corporate meetings and symposiums summarily dismiss ARS as a viable option because they are very time intensive in their administrative set-up tasks.  Add to that the complexity of an unfamiliar location and ARS is simply not viable for many market sectors.  It makes much more sense to have a cloud-based system, like Via Response, that runs on any browser and allows attendees to vote on their SMART PHONES to really broaden out the conceptual thought of multi-sector “audience response.”

Personal Response System, PRS – I like what is being described here.  Everyone’s vote counts!  These real-time results around participation and interaction are personal and useful. The efficacy of clicker based personal response system is undisputed with nearly thirty years of research.  However, results are locked up in one class and one place and rolling up aggregate data across many classes/sections is impossible.   Want to leave the artificial barrier of the four walls of the classroom behind? Not with these systems. PRS also completely misses the power of participation and interaction. This is the COLLABORATION that a web based learning platform like Via Response offers.

Student Response System, SRS – This term looks good at first blush.  However, it begs the question — who is a student?   Isn’t everyone a life long learner?  Why limit the platform to a single location on proprietary hardware? The term is confining as a stand-alone concept.  Utilize Via Response, which leverages the ubiquity of the Internet, and allows students to BRING THEIR OWN DEVICES.

Classroom Response System, CRS – CRS, like it’s SRS brethren, is OK on the surface. But on closer examination, we find ourselves defining a “classroom.”   It is certainly no longer a single location defined by four walls.  CRS is just too limiting heuristically to be useful. A system like Via Response is immediate and flexible and extends well beyond the four walls of the “new” classroom.

So –

How do we define a platform that is not limited by location, time, or distance?

How do we define a platform that can be used on virtually any device?

I saw a great twitter post today where a Harvard Professor defined this new space as “Connected Learning.”  Viola!  That is what we do at Via Response.  We enable  instructors to bridge active learning in lecture halls with live remotes as well as through passive assessment activities that happen after the learning event.

So for now, CONNECTED LEARNING, it is.  So what do you think? We love to hear from you.  We are continually amazed and humbled at how engaged the instructor community is on active participation tools that span in and out of classroom learning.

Via Response, Connected Learning Now!  I like the ring of that!

Derrick Meer

COO, Via Response Technologies

Posted in 21st century classroom, ARS, audience response systems, classroom response systems, clickers, clickers in the cloud, cloud based polling, CRS, education, Formative Assessment, Mobile Clickers, mobile technology, personal response systems, PRS, Smart Clickers, SRS, tablet technology, TechEd, technology, Virtual Clickers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Instructional Design: Mobile Device Clickers/Smart Phone Clickers/Virtual Clickers, “Just In Time, Just Enough and Just for Me.” (Peters, 2007)

Weekends are a time for family and recreational reading.  This weekend was no exception.  I put my feet up and turned on the prequel to “March Madness” for ambient noise and began cruising around through my favorite blogs and journals on my iPad.  Within minutes I found myself engrossed in a fantastic e-journal from IRRODL on “A Pedagogical Framework for Mobile Learning.”  Even the tag cloud grabbed my attention.

As discussed in the last blog, instructional designers and lecturers are searching for tools to engage their learners.   Class sizes in higher education continue to grow and most eclipse 50 students with many running in the hundreds.  There is also tectonic shift in delivery of information through hybrid and flipped classrooms. Combine class growth with smart phones and mobile devices with near ubiquity, and you have problem/potential solution set.   The e-journal’s clarity rings true and matches the response we have received from the education community on Via’s Response’s participation, collaboration and assessment platform.

The first thing that jumped off my “virtual page” was a nuanced definition of mobile learning.  “It has been widely recognized that mobile learning is not just about the use of portable devices but also about learning across contexts (Walker, 2006).” Winter (2006) reconceptualized the nature of mobile learning and addressed “mediated learning through mobile technology” . (emphasis added) What visionary thoughts for 2006!   Mobile technology and the use of smart phones and devices as an assessment, participation and assessment vehicle just makes sense.  In Via Response’s small part of this continuum, mobile clickers or virtual clickers allow response to be extended both in and out of the classroom.  The mobile device or smart device mediates the learning no matter where the student is located.

I paused and my thoughts centered around the mind numbing speed of data evolution on mobile platforms. Four short years ago, less than 10 percent of all mobile phone utilized data on their phones.  Now the number is above 70 percent in the general population and nearly 100 percent for higher education.  Students can’t and some might argue, won’t put their devices down.  The shift from mobile computational power to mobile communication and socialization through data has created a very unique and powerful continuum.

Back to the journal, my mind was traversing the same path as the author.  Mobile learning spans personal/individual data intensive tasks such as calendaring, and contact data all the way to real time data and communication like classroom response clicker systems.   The journal then spent time breaking down “trans-ACTIONAL distance” learning into four categories as one would view a pyramid from the top down with the mobile device mediating the type of learning activity.   The depth of the discussion would not be done justice in this short blog.  The full work can be found here.

More than anything else, the journal solidified some of my many random thoughts into a much more cohesive structure and the author nailed it with this statement.

“…When the transactional distance is defined as a psychological gap between instructor and learner, it still contradicts definitions of structure and dialogue. Due to the recent developments of emerging communication technologies, structures of learning are built not only by the instructor or instructional designer but also by collective learners; and dialogue is also formed not only between the instructor and learners, but also among the learners themselves.”
A pedagogical framework for mobile learning: Categorizing educational applications of mobile technologies into four types, 2012

We have entered a new era where mobile technology mediates asynchronous individual learning tasks to flipped classroom collaborative work that is synchronous and constructive. Systems must match the instructional design and pedagogies, which are rapidly emerging.  Via Engage is attempting to match these changes stride for stride to provide tools to meet the time distance challenges of today.  With more than 30 pilots and betas going on, we are learning exponentially from all of you at this point.  We always look forward to hearing from you at any time.

Derrick Meer, COO, Via Response Technologies

Posted in 21st century classroom, audience response systems, classroom response systems, clickers, clickers in the cloud, cloud based polling, education, Formative Assessment, Mobile Clickers, mobile technology, Smart Clickers, tablet technology, TechEd, technology, Virtual Clickers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Instructional Delivery – The Waffle House Way

Within a week of moving to Atlanta, Georgia in the summer of 1991, I distinctly remember walking into a Waffle House and hearing a new language. It was the language of “breakfast food.” I yearned to participate in the hubbub of the tiny diner and in no time was asking for my side of grease errrrr… hash browns, “scattered (spread on the grill), smothered (with onions), covered (with cheese), and chopped (with ham).”

Lately, I feel like I am walking into the Waffle House of instructional delivery, but this time the terms are not clearly defined and, thus, difficult to navigate.

At Via Response, we believe that we will succeed by listening to lecturers’ needs in new instructional delivery methods and varied pedagogies. As a result, we have had over one hundred meetings with lecturers, professors, deans, and educators. As we listen to lecturer challenges, it is clear that there is a crisis in defining burgeoning delivery methods. We find that we are defining instructional delivery terms, in each conversation, to establish common framework for that discussion. We know that we are not alone.

Some of the more lively discussions on Twitter and LinkedIn of late have been a rigorous definitions process on instructional delivery options. We love interacting and listening to others who are also actively involved in the defining process utilizing heuristic techniques. Together, we can all build the terms for implementing the solutions of tomorrow!

With Via Response’s focus on bridging formative participation, collaboration and assessment in and out of the classroom, we thought it would be helpful to put together, to our best ability, a brief description of each and combine where possible.

21st Century Learning and Education

We see this as an umbrella term. We often hear about “digital learners” and, in our discussion, it appears most new delivery methods and designs discussed fall under this term. In a sentence, 21st century learning helps define the collaborative learning environment that no longer has to be defined as a single physical location. Time constructs and distance become increasingly irrelevant.

Blended Learning and Hybrid Learning

These two terms are the most defined and accepted. Wikipedia does an excellent job of defining them. In a nutshell, it is instructional delivery utilizing classroom, online(e-learning), and increasingly mobile learning(m-learning). Unlike the 21st century learning term, blended learning doesn’t seem to sufficiently define a physical class that utilizes Interactive Classroom Technology (ICT) but does not necessarily utilize online and/or mobile learning technologies.

Flipped Classroom

Probably the hottest, least understood and most varied term currently being discussed. Flipped learning was “coined” in 2004 by Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams. The lectures are recorded through lecture capture software and constructivist formative learning tools are utilized to help establish a baseline for students when they arrive to the physical classroom. It is a way to engage digital learners. The class time is utilized for student interaction and group activities. While the term has been applied to Khan Academy, it is unfortunately a misapplication. While the Khan Academy lessons can be incorporated into the lecture capture and learning tools, it is a component of the instructional design of the flipped classroom. Peer-to-Peer learning is emphasized and this model works well for classes that utilize labs. It is also possible that Flipped Classroom delivery will work equally well with much larger classes with the integration of technology and solid professional development for instructors.

We welcome your input as we relentlessly push for brevity and clarity. You can post a comment in this blog or send us a tweet at ViaResponse. Our goal is for all of you to have the confidence I had walking into any of the 128 Waffle Houses in Atlanta and ordering in the language of breakfast food. We need to work together to develop the language of the 21st Century Classroom.

Derrick Meer, COO, Via Response Technologies

Posted in 21st century classroom, audience response systems, classroom response systems, clickers, education, Formative Assessment, mobile technology, tablet technology, TechEd, technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments