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Considering clickers in classes

Veronica De La Cruz

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Math professor Mark Wilpolt thinks clickers are the most effective way to gauge his many students’ understanding.Photo credit: Shayla Ramos

Many students wonder if the almost $7,000 they pay to attend class every year is spent wisely by the professors who offer the courses.

Several courses do not take students’ attendance into consideration but many Chico State professors have resorted to using clickers, hand-held remotes that allow students to answer multiple-choice questions in classrooms.

Some professors, such as math professor Mark Wilpolt, believe that using clickers is an effective way for their students to get involved in lectures. Wilpolt has used the devices for several years now, as his Math 101 lecture gradually grew to a class of 300 students.

“It’s no longer a situation in a small classroom where I could look someone in the eye and say, ‘Do you understand?'” Wilpolt said. “This way I could get feedback from the students right when they answer the question.”

Wilpolt believes that the use of clickers is the only way he’ll know how many students understand the material. After students answer the clicker question, he instantly learns how many students gave the correct answer.

Through this process, he is able to figure out what topics he needs to return to and explain in more detail. Wilpolt even posts all of his PowerPoint lectures online, with every clicker question available, for his students to review for upcoming tests.

Regina Fitzpatrick, an undeclared sophomore who took Wilpolt’s class, believes clickers are beneficial for both professors and students.

“I think it’s the easiest way for professors to find out who’s attending class and by having clicker questions, we’re all engaging in the same material at the same exact time,” Fitzpatrick said.

Clickers can be an incentive to go to class, since participation and attendance will affect a student’s grade. Students may rely on those few extra participation points to help boost their grade, especially if the class doesn’t offer a lot of points to earn.

“Anytime you award points to anything that is not a test, it makes it more possible for students to pass that do terribly on tests,” Wilpolt said.

Some students like Alayna Asuncion, a sophomore nursing major, feel that more focus on participation is a good thing.

“I took Chemistry 107 my freshman year and all of the points in the class consisted of three tests, so I felt obligated to study as much as I could because every test could make or break my grade,” Asuncion said.

She hopes that more professors will take participation into consideration, especially in subjects like science and math, for which there is only one right answer to most questions.

However, some students find the use of clickers to be ineffective. Eddie Sanchez, a sophomore Spanish and sociology major, finds the reliance on presentations to be troublesome.

“Not everyone likes using PowerPoint slides to learn, and it makes it difficult for me to keep up,” Sanchez said.

Not all professors believe that clickers are essential to use in their class. However, many still rely on the devices to know how many students are actually understanding the material.

“Is that the best way to do it?” Wilpolt said. “Well, it certainly is when you have 350 students in the class.”

Veronica De La Cruz can be reached at [email protected] or @verodelacruz_ on Twitter.

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