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YACRS at ALT-C 2015


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YACRS was introduced at the University of Glasgow in September 2014, initially with two first year computing science classes with a total of approximately 170 students. The initial pilot introduction was extremely successful, and the software is now in use with a wide range of courses. While the key purpose of YACRS was to replace the classroom response clicker systems, which were mostly limited to multiple-choice interactions, the use of students Internet devices allows a greater range of interactions to be possible. YACRS also allows text response questions, and can also support multiple questions being active at the same time, which can be useful as a means running quick class tests or collecting student feedback responses.

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YACRS at ALT-C 2015

  1. 1. Click to edit Master subtitle style YACRS: A new open-source classroom response system Niall Barr, Learning & Teaching Centre Quintin Cutts, School of Computing Science
  2. 2. Introduction  Clicker systems using dedicated infrared or radio handsets have been available for several years.  Various issues have restricted their use:  Handing out and collecting in handsets takes up valuable teaching time  Very big classes (~600)  Batteries running out (and logistics of replacing them)
  3. 3. The alternative • Smart phones are a suitable replacement for clicker handsets • Over 90% of new first year students in 2013 had a smart phone. • A web application designed for smart phones can also be used from a laptop or tablet computer • Advantages / disadvantages • Cost; Batteries; Richer interactions possible • The ~5% who say they don’t have a smart phone
  4. 4. Newsflash!  2015 Student IT survey currently running of first 271 respondents  Devices I have with me all the time / if needed / never
  5. 5. Newsflash!  2015 Student IT survey currently running of first 271 respondents  How happy would you be using these in class?
  6. 6. Why develop in house?  Initially we tried a third party solution:  Issues with scalability on our infrastructure  Difficulty getting it to do what we wanted  A quick look at commercial options wasn't inspiring  High prices for something that's really very simple  Inflexible  Data location / security  We (the LTU) like open-source and it seemed like an interesting challenge...
  7. 7. YACRS (Yet Another Classroom Response System)  Remit:  A system that works well with the University’s infrastructure  Easy for teachers to use so it doesn’t interfere with teaching  Easy for students to use  No actual budget for development...  Solution  A ‘LAMP stack’ web application (like Moodle)  Students use a web browser (no mobile apps)  A simple floating control application for teachers (Windows & Mac)  Worry about long term support and management buy-in once we've shown it works!
  8. 8. The development process  Started with me developing simple web application  Input from Quintin initially about ease of use for the teacher  Led to control apps (Windows and Mac)  Further input from Quintin about report generation  Pilot started with 2 CS classes (~90 students each) Sept. 2014.  More lecturers joined pilot during year (~25 classes, over 35000 student responses.)  'Beta' service started Sept 2015.
  9. 9. Let’s try it out  A car rounds a curve while maintaining a constant speed. Is there a net force on the car as it rounds the curve?  A: No, it's speed is constant  B: Yes  C: It depends on the sharpness of the curve and the speed of the car. From “Peer Instruction: Getting students to think in class” by Eric Mazur, 1997
  10. 10. The teacher’s view of YACRS
  11. 11. Conclusion  At the University of Glasgow YACRS has been a success  Teachers like it – the design was guided by one of them  Very high student response rate  Not as 'shiny' as commercial alternatives, but  Integrates with University login systems  Doesn't require students to install anything  Very light on the wi-fi network
  12. 12. Contact and URLs  Niall Barr (  