By Will Norton-Mosher
Over 300 students shuffled into the cavernous UC Santa Cruz Media Theatre lecture hall and took their seats for a sociology lecture. Like clockwork, they opened their backpacks and took out the usual pens, pencils, notebooks, and something that looked like a remote control.
Although the companies that make them call these devices “response pads,” students have nicknamed them “clickers.”
The devices are called eInstructor Response Pads, and they are part of a new, computer-driven system that allows students to take quizzes and register attendance without talking to a teaching assistant or raising their hands.
The clickers have become popular in huge lecture classes where teachers may struggle to take attendance.
Among students, responses to the devices have been negative.
Leigh Weingus, a second-year literature student, complained about the clickers.
“I really hate them. All the lecture notes are online and it’s unnecessary to come to this class,” Weingus said. “When you forget the clicker, you get docked a percentage point for your whole grade.”
Sandra Bonilla, a third-year in the same class as Weingus, was unenthusiastic about the devices.
“I think it’s just a hassle to bring it all the time,” she said. “Plus, people can just give them to their friends.”
Amanda Knowlton, a student in Ravelo’s class, agreed. “It’s not fair that you could really go to class and someone could let their friend take [their clicker to class].”
Despite student opinions, the clickers are becoming increasingly popular among professors. Bay Tree Bookstore sold 60 units when they first appeared in the summer of 2005. Now 1,753 clickers have been sold.
Christine Harper, assistance course materials manager at Bay Tree, said that the devices started out in astronomy courses but have spread to a wide number of classes.
“They went to ocean [sciences], and biology and earth [sciences]. They’ve even come to sociology classes,” Harper said.
When representatives from education companies like McPhearson, McGraw Hill, and Interwrite came to campus and demonstrated the abilities of their product, many, like ocean sciences professor Christina Ravelo, were impressed enough to buy them.
“I used to give quizzes in my class anyway,” Ravelo said. “But when you’ve got a class of a hundred students or so, it’s a little hard to handle.”
Cost of the clickers varies based on the class. They cost $20 at Bay Tree and must be activated online for $15.
Ravelo’s class had a coupon which made the clicker registration cost only $6, but that isn’t the case for all courses. The iteration of the clicker that is being used in the Sociology 1 class in the Media Theatre costs $43.75.
“They’ve spread, but I can’t see it taking over literature classes,” Harper said. “It depends on how professors like them.”