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Ideas and reflections from UCL's Digital Education team


Archive for the 'Electronic voting systems' Category

Electronic voting at FameLab & why this matters

Matt Jenner22 March 2012

Electronic voting systems are a curious thing, first they run under many guises (EVS, PRS, clickers, doofers, voting pads – to name a few), they show strong signs of increasing engagement for learning and they are successful all over the college. They’re often well below the radar and often spread within departments harmoniously between technology evangelists, rather than just a central supporting team. Sometimes they even bust out of our little campus and make it to some faraway lands. One of these places is Cheltenham and the Science Festival which is held each year. Last night, the clickers were being used by FameLab over at the Royal Institution.

Usually used for promoting and engaging student learning this time they were used for an audience vote. There were ten scientists who presented their research/idea/area of interest and at the end of the evening the audience cast their vote, using the clickers, and the winner was Andrew Steele.

FameLab contestants all lined up

Why this matters

First of all it’s a real logistical pain having to drag 380 handsets across London. These things are small, credit-card sized devices. A single one is OK but once you start carrying two hundred+ they become a burden. We already know this but by remaining active users of the technology ourselves, we can ensure that people who use them across UCL will get the best method possible for having hundreds of these things for a large session – as this is when they can be most useful. To help address this we’re looking at more permanent installations actually within the Lecture Theatres – and we shall be releasing more information on this over the coming months.

Carrying 380 handsets - not ideal & could be better!

Secondly it’s another user-case challenge. You can usually use up to 1000 clickers with one laptop, usually enough, and it’s all radio frequency and the only problem we’ve had before is two rooms interfering with one another. We found that the environment rarely gets in the way, but last night it did. Upon testing the Lecture Theatre at the Royal Institution had a huge black spot in the middle. Luckily we tested the voting and moved the laptop into a position where everyone could vote and the results could be read.

Lastly, we had an open vote. This meant that people could vote at any time throughout the evening. If another talker swayed them, they could always change their mind – a standard feature of the clickers. But this meant running a laptop for hours with an open vote – and we’ve never tried this before. Further experimentation could have made this even more exciting, for example there’s a ‘point to point’ option in the voting which allows a heart-rate monitor style open question and it can show the results of the buttons at set intervals. If, for example, teams were up against one another and the audience could continually vote, this would have provided some interesting longitudinal results. Maybe next time?

So the reason why FameLab matters, isn’t necessarily that it’s good outreach (Cheltenham Science Festival has an established relationship with UCL) but that it provides yet another testing environment for creative uses of the voting and this will come back around into the teaching and learning for the institution.

Feedback clickers research at the University of Bergen

Jessica Gramp9 August 2011

Feedback Clickers (which many in the UK refer to as Electronic Voting Systems) are being used at the University of Bergen to:

  • encourage students to attend lectures;
  • hold the attention of students during lectures; and
  • tailor the lecture to meet the needs of the students.

In one subject, the lecturer inserts no more than 5-6 exam questions into the slides of his PowerPoint presentation. During the 2 hour lecture students use their feedback clicker to anonymously “vote” on the correct answer to the multiple choice question. A graph of how many students selected each option is displayed next, followed by the correct answer. The lecturer provides positive feedback to students who answer questions correctly, as well as providing advice to those who answer questions incorrectly on where to learn more about the topic.


The ‘backchannel’ to the fore

Clive Young4 July 2011

The ‘backchannel’ has emerged over the last two years or so as a major component of any technology-related conference. The backchannel is the stream of real-time online Twitter ‘tweets’ from participants, commenting on, critiquing and sometimes criticising the presentations. For the first time we can find out what (some) of the audience is thinking while the event is actually taking place. This can be refreshing, illuminating or sometimes plain irritating, depending on the quality of the input. How could this be used in education?

Last year Cliff Atkinson’s The Backchannel: How Audiences are Using Twitter and Social Media and Changing Presentations Forever began to explore the implications for higher education and the first chapter is available online.

Educational blogger Derek Bruff’s thoughtful post Backchannel in Education – Nine Uses includes note taking, sharing resources, commenting, ‘amplifying’- highlighting and spreading important comments, asking questions, helping one another, offering suggestions, building community and ‘opening the classroom’. He believes it can promote active reflection and constructive discussion, but admits it can be overwhelming – maybe frightening – for the teacher.

In terms of technology, Twitter can be a bit restrictive so Purdue University have developed their own application Hotseat where students can post messages using their Facebook or Twitter accounts, sending text messages, or logging in to the Hotseat Web site

Popular web-only backchannel tools are TodaysMeet, where you can set up a room in seconds and make the URL made available to the audience, and Google Moderator which has a ‘ranking’ facility to help popular questions/comments to be voted to the top.

Provost announces this year’s teaching awards – using learning technology?

Matt Jenner8 February 2011

This week the Provost has requested nominations for this year’s teaching awards to ‘recognise those who make an outstanding contribution to teaching at UCL.’ This year there will be ten awards handed out and the winners receive some well-deserved respect for the hard work they put in. The deadline for nominations is 15th March.

But how does this relate to Learning Technology? Well, in addition to the innovative thinking, hard work, extra time, dedication and commitment to excellent teaching at UCL many of the winners from the past years have been leading the way forward by incorporating e-learning or learning technology into the heart of education. Past winners have made particularly good use of technologies such as Moodle or Electronic Voting Handsets and embedded them right into the curriculum.

The Learning Technology Support Service would always welcome anyone from the UCL community to get in touch with us and see how we can work together to try new things, or perhaps even try old things which we know work well – but still might be new to you!



Provost Teaching Awards


Electronic Voting Handsets