The clicker scam at Kent State

Mike Crissman

A few days ago, I was looking through my desk and found something that I haven’t seen in months, something that instantly brought about feelings of anger and regret. Something that reminded me of the power a college has over its students.

It was my clicker.

Lying there in the drawer beneath an old notebook, a TI-84 calculator and a large bouncy ball was an object that turned out to be a complete waste of money.

For the reader who may not know, the classroom response systems (commonly referred to as “clickers”) are small wireless electronic devices that send students’ responses to a professor’s question through radio frequency signals to a computer, which immediately displays the results. They are intended to encourage more student participation, especially in larger classes. However, it has been a lack of participation by professors that have left a large number of Kent State students feeling ripped off.

This year’s freshman class has been a test group for the university when it comes to fully integrating the clicker technology into classes at Kent State. Last summer, my fellow freshmen and I were mandated by the KSU administration to each purchase a $45 clicker from the university bookstore.

We were told it would be used in most of our classes as a way of increasing student interaction in the classroom. Professors would use it to take attendance. We would also be given quizzes or polls using the technology. It was something that was going to be a necessity.

We would soon learn the folly of such a statement.

As the first week of classes went by last fall, I quickly found out that only one of my professors would be using the clickers. That class was American Politics. At the start of the semester, my professor told everyone they needed to have a clicker for the class. Many of the students were upperclassmen who either didn’t have a clicker or had an older, now obsolete one. It was no excuse; they had to buy the new one that the administration deemed the university’s “official” clicker.

In 15 weeks of classes, we used the clickers maybe three times. My professor had little quizzes set up for the class in his PowerPoint presentations. There were multiple-choice questions about boring things like the electoral system or whatever. He would usually throw in a funny choice that was clearly wrong. I’d always choose that one. It felt like being in the “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” audience.

Anyway, it definitely didn’t seem like something that was worth $45. It made me feel as if our school, which we already pay many thousands of dollars to, had scammed us. Seeing my clicker for the first time in months earlier this week, in my mind, turned that opinion into fact.

None of my professors have used the clickers this semester. Considering that the vast majority of my friends have never used them since purchasing them last year, I guess I’m lucky to have used it the three times that I did. But I still feel cheated.

Honestly, I have no problem with using clickers. I can see the potential the technology has. For example, in a large lecture class, it can be intimidating for students to raise their hands and ask questions if they don’t understand something. Clickers allow professors to poll their students anonymously to make sure everyone understands the material, before moving on.

As someone who makes an effort to attend class as much as possible, I encourage the use of clickers in taking attendance. My Music as a World Phenomenon professor does a roll call to check the attendance of my 125-student class. It takes an incredibly long time. Clickers would go a long way in cutting down wasted class time such as this.

If the Kent State administration, in essence, forced thousands of naïve freshmen, and countless others, into buying this expensive “learning device,” then the least they can do is make sure it is being used. Those in charge have to make a better effort to ensure that more professors incorporate the technology into their classes.

I am one of many students who are deeply dissatisfied with this situation. Fix it.

Mike Crissman is a freshman journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].