Web-based student response systems (ala clicker?)

I’ve been looking for something to fill this need for awhile now, but haven’t found a decent solution.

We’ve got students coming to class with web-enabled devices (laptops, iPod Touch, iPhone, smart phones, etc…) and it makes sense to take advantage of this stuff wherever possible. Instead of making students buy and lug around yet another piece of gear, I’m looking for an effective way to provide assessment and response functionality via a web browser.

I don’t care if it’s a custom app that needs to be installed on a server, or a third party thingamawacky. Just that it’s accessible by a browser, and can be used in the context of a class (so, One Big Shared App would need to have rooms or classes or something to help organize the communication). The web interface for the student responses needs to be lightweight – no java, no flash – so that it can run anywhere (or as close to anywhere as is physically possible) and must be easy to use.

Ideally, the web app should do handy things like collecting stats from responses, charting the breakdown of the responses, letting people ask questions to be answered by the class, etc… It should be displayable on The Big Screen from a computer so the class can see the results in a presentation format. Bonus points for storing the responses for later use as well, and providing a downloadable dump of the data for crunching if needed.

Has anyone found anything that serves this purpose?

34 thoughts on “Web-based student response systems (ala clicker?)”

  1. Did you try the survey functionality of Google Spreadsheets? I don’t have cellphone but in normal browsers anyway it looks pretty useful.

  2. Google Spreadsheets comes close, on the data tracking side. And with the graphing/charting widgets it could be REALLY powerful. But the UI for providing the data by the students is a bit off. It’s purely text-based (I couldn’t see a way to just set up a list of options, so students would have to type out their answers).

  3. This is going to sound really odd coming from me, I know. So brace yourself:


    Install the Advanced Poll module, or Webform. Or even use the core poll module.
    Perhaps, use the Framework or Mobile theme, although that wouldn’t be necessary for one of those iPhone thingamabobbers.

    Then, use the Exhibit module to visualize the data.

    Just thinking out loud here, but that’s what I’d probably look at to start.

  4. There are a number of solutions that are due out this summer from iClicker and the other SRS providers. I’ll try to dig out some information (email me Monday) and I’ll see if I can’t get something for you.

  5. Drupal… hmm… I’m wondering if that would be able to handle on-the-fly addition of questions. Ideally, an instructor (or TA, or student, etc…) could add new questions that get pushed to the class for responses. after a given amount of time (or everyone has responded) the results are shown on the Big Screen. Discussion. Next question… Drupal (and some of the other survey tools) seem more rigid in that a survey/questionnaire has to be prepared ahead of time, and questions all answered lock step.

    Also, for completion, Doug Symington suggested TooFast as a possible solution. It offers some REALLY nice visualization of the results, and great support for different question types, but also falls into the prefabricated static questionnaire model…

  6. Is Bill Fitzpatrick, that Drupal junkie, dealing his warez in your comments again?

    I got a post about your little bitch Drupal application in the works that is going to silence this nonsense once and for all, because I am mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.

    You hear me Fitzpatrick?

  7. Great idea! Do your students access the web via wifi or some cellular standard? I’m waiting for the wifi in our building to be accessible to students (high school), so in the meantime, in order to use your excellent idea, is there something that could be accessed via cellular network? Or does the browser matter more than the connection?

  8. @Ian H — if the a mobile device can connect to the internet via the wireless plan (like most cell phones do) then the browser is the issue.

    @JIm — please, if you’re going to taunt me, could you at least get my name right? Or have you been drinking the WP Koolaid again?

  9. @John Bloom um… I think it’s time to change the bong water…

    @Ian Our campus offers wifi everywhere, so the students are likely connecting over it, but it’s entirely possible that they’d be just as happy to use their own data connections over EDGE or 3G etc… I think, as long as the solution is web based, it hopefully doesn’t matter how they connect.

  10. Let me know what you find out. I am thinking about taking on a single grade 5 science class next year. I get to teach it in the lab, and so it would be entirely computer based. Well, except for the demonstrations and hands on stuff, of course. I would obviously need a secure evaluation tool (I’d want to do conventional testing as well, just to compare the two systems).

  11. Sorry Bill,

    I come from a pretty much all Irish neighborhood in NY, and everyone was named Fitzpatrick, my bad. I have changed the bong water, we should be good from here on out.

    John Bloom

  12. I was going to send this via twiter but you arent following me soi t would be useless. D’arcy, check out http://www.polleverywhere.com see if it fits the bill. I’m heading to freshmeat.net and sourceforge to see if anything is out there.

  13. Though I have no idea of a cool app that would help you to get a response system going, I just ran across two articles discussing such response systems. Maybe they are helpful to you for some background reading if you have not already read them.

    Both appeared in: Educational Technology Research and Development

    Teaching with student response systems in elementary and secondary education settings: A survey study
    DOI 10.1007/s11423-006-9023-4
    William R. Penuel, Christy Kim Boscardin, Katherine Masyn and Valerie M. Crawford

    Student evaluation of audience response technology in large lecture classes
    DOI 10.1007/s11423-007-9053-6
    Erina L. MacGeorge, Scott R. Homan, John B. Dunning, David Elmore, Graham D. Bodie, Ed Evans, Sangeetha Khichadia, Steven M. Lichti, Bo Feng and Brian Geddes

  14. Hi D’Arcy,

    Have you tried the TooFAST survey tool?


    I’m not sure how it would look on web-enabled devices, but the developers (Z Patz and Bruce Ravelli) would probably be extremely interested in your thoughts on this.


  15. How about an electronic “scan tron”? Another idea would be an RF enabled device. The only problem is that you would have to have the school create the code. It seems to me that this is where good ideas go bad. We always start with, “create a simple efficient, fast platform”. Unfortunately, developers get greedy and want to put in java, advertisements, self promotion, and other elements that tank the response time and ultimately undermine the original mission.

  16. Maybe Limesurvey ?

    It’s a solid survey tool, admin UI is not very friendly, but there is a lot of features; and stats.

  17. I might be misunderstanding you, but Google forms will let you do multiple choice menu answers. There’s a quick sample at this link and a little more in depth talk about pushing that data into Exhibit here. That would give you some functions that google widgets lacks at this point.

    When I was working in a k12 one to one I always wanted a website that people could join on the fly via password or url invite- essentially performing the basic clicker functionality. Didn’t seem like it’d take a skilled coder too much effort but then (total coding) ignorance is bliss.

  18. Lots of great options! Thanks everyone! I’ll be checking them out in depth ASAP 🙂

    @Tom one thing that Google Spreadsheets misses is the more ad hoc type of feedback – a full questionnaire needs to be created and responded to, rather than a simple “what do you think about what I’m saying now…” kind of thing. Not sure how to better describe what I’m meaning – the teacher/prof/instructor needs to be able to ask questions on the fly, without everyone having to track down the new survey and respond. Ideally, some kind of ajax website that would allow questions to be pushed to the student for response, and then have that response pushed back to the server for display on the big screen…

  19. D’arcy,
    These instructions will work with Moodle CMS ( http://moodle.org ).

    Here are the steps required to use Moodle for student response polling:

    1. Log in to Moodle
    2. Log into your course main page.
    3. Turn editing on.
    4. Add an activity by choosing, “Choice.”
    5. Create and type a choice name such as “Question 1.”
    6. Type the question in the large, white box.
    7. Type the answer choices in the smaller white boxes.
    8. Make sure that “Publish results” is set to, “Do not publish results to students.”
    9. Save changes.

    Repeat steps 2-9 for each question/poll you would like to create. Once all of the questions are created, you have the ability to hide each of them by clicking the eye next to each question on the main page of your course.

    10. Have the class log into Moodle and your course main page.
    11. Un-hide question 1 and have the students reload the browser page. They will now see question 1. Have them answer the question.
    12. Once all of the students have completed the question, click the “edit” symbol next to the question (it looks like a hand holding a pencil).
    13. Set “Publish results” to, “Show results to a student after they answer” and save changes.
    14. Go back to your course main page and change your role to student.
    15. Click on the question and tell the students the correct answer. Enter the correct answer and view the results of the poll.
    16. Un-hide question 2 and have the students go back to course main page. They may have to reload the main course page to see the next question. Repeat steps 12-15.

    Here are the steps required to view how each specific student answered the poll.

    1. Switch your role back to teacher.
    2. Click on a question that you wish to view the results of.
    3. If you had 20 students take your poll, click the link for “View 20 responses.”


  20. hey, we are developing a bluetooth based e-learning system. The central idea of this project is quite similar to what u want…teacher sends a question paper sorts to the students and they solve the paper and submit the answers. for this the students as in ur case already have pda’s laptops(which are usually bluetooth enabled)….for further information you can contact me thru my email: dodgeviper.vishav@gmail.com or vishav_kapoor@daiict.ac.in

  21. Have you given any thought to the Turning Technologies’ ResponseWare Web product? (http://www.turningtechnologies.com/interactiveaudienceresponseproducts/responsewareweb.cfm) This allows you to use exactly what you’re referencing; web enabled devices such as iPod Touch, smart phones, PDA’s, Laptops, Desktops…etc. This interactes directly with Microsoft PowerPoint or outside of PowerPoint allowing you to poll any application.

    I am the K-12 sales manager for Turning Technologies and would be more than happy to discuss with you in further detail your goals and objectives and how our tools might meet your specific needs. If you would like to schedule a time to talk email me at tcraig@turningtechnologies.com

  22. Actually, you can try a 30 seat license out for 30 days at the following link (http://www.turningtechnologies.com/highereducationinteractivelearning/responsewaretrial.cfm) You will also need to download our presentation software – TurningPoint which is native to PowerPoint at the following link (http://www.turningtechnologies.com/groupresponsesystemsupport/downloads/softwaredownloadsregistration.cfm?type=21&y=2008)

    Once you install the software and receive the demo license via email, you should be ready to go. I am available to walk you through how it works, or if you prefer, you can sign up for one of our web base training presentations at the following link (http://www.turningtechnologies.com/audienceresponsecommunity/onlinetraining.cfm)

    I’m interested in hearing your thoughts after you’ve had the chance to use it. Would you mind emailing me those at tcraig@turningtechnologies.com?

    Hopefully this information is helpful. Thanks!

  23. I recommend LectureTools (http://www.lecturetools.org). Not only allows multiple types of questions (multiple choice, rearrange list, column association, free response and image-based) but students can take notes synchronized to instructor slides and pose questions during class. At the moment it’s free for college instructors and students to try in the U.S. or Canada.

    1. Perry, that looks very promising. It’s affiliated with the University of Michigan – is it an open source project? I’d love to run a copy of that here.

  24. Hi Darcy,

    One of your other comment contributors suggested polleverywhere.com. This is a pretty decent option. We are trying it out at the University of Lethbridge. The service itself is very reliable, but answering can be a little tricky without giving your audience instructions.

    One other option I just came across is liveclasstech.com. I have not idea if this product/service is reliable, but from what I have seen on their website it looks promising.

    We have also used Interwrite PRS clickers and iClickers, but I still am partial to the web and mobile accessible applications/services instead.

    1. Yeah – Monocle sounds great. I had hoped to make it to the demo on campus, but that didn’t work out. Have you had a chance to use it?

      1. Not used in a classroom situation. Not sure our University wireless infrastructure can handle the class size, but it is something some of us want to be able to use.

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