Improving Classroom Dynamics: Click’N’Gage,                 a Mobile Audience Response System                  Ivo Neskovi...
2.   AUDIENCE RESPONSE SYSTEMS                                      ClassTalk used scientific calculators with data ports c...
While evaluating the above systems, a few drawbacks have          Connectivity: Due to the high cost of SMS messages, theb...
Figure 1: Architectural overview of a mobile clickers audience response system.a different user group, leading to design de...
Connectivity. One of the goals of Click’N’Gage is to allow                                                                ...
Figure 4: Detailed architectural diagram of the core Click’N’Gage system.Figure 5: Example of a time-series statistical ch...
which include asynchronous AJAX communication with the            ate feedback from students to be very helpful. They can ...
education technology. Journal of issues in Informing       Science and Information Technology, 1:747–752, 2004.[12]   E. S...
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Improving Classroom Dynamics: Click’N’Gage, a Mobile Audience Response System


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The problem in communication between students and lecturers in large classrooms has increased substantially in last couple of years because many students do not participate in classroom discussions. To engage students into dynamic classroom participation, universities often encourage students to use audience response systems (ARS). By increasing the interactivity between lecturer and students, the dynamic student participation improves and the learning outcome is expected to rise.

The progress in the mobile technologies has influenced new approaches in developing ARS. In this paper, we discuss the need for mobile ARS and we propose a new architecture for developing those systems. Furthermore, we present details from our reference implementation of the proposed architecture, named Click’N’Gage, together with some of the crucial design decisions we took while developing the system. The paper closes with a short evaluation of the system, together with few ideas on how the system could be improved in the future.

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Improving Classroom Dynamics: Click’N’Gage, a Mobile Audience Response System

  1. 1. Improving Classroom Dynamics: Click’N’Gage, a Mobile Audience Response System Ivo Neskovic ∗ Dragan Bisercic Mitko Zafirovski City College City College City College 3, Leontos Sofou Street 3, Leontos Sofou Street 3, Leontos Sofou Street Thessaloniki, Greece Thessaloniki, Greece Thessaloniki, Greece mitkozaf@yahoo.comABSTRACT KeywordsThe problem in communication between students and lec- Audience response systems, classroom dynamics, connectedturers in large classrooms has increased substantially in last limited device configuration, clickers, Java micro edition 2,couple of years because many students do not participate Java enterprise edition 6, mobile devices, student engage-in classroom discussions. To engage students into dynamic ment, sun Java wireless toolkitclassroom participation, universities often encourage stu-dents to use audience response systems (ARS). By increasingthe interactivity between lecturer and students, the dynamicstudent participation improves and the learning outcome is 1. INTRODUCTIONexpected to rise. With the increasing number of students in the classrooms, the classroom teaching is becoming more and more a oneThe progress in the mobile technologies has influenced new way communication between lecturers and students. Theapproaches in developing ARS. In this paper, we discuss the problem with the large classrooms is that the lecturers areneed for mobile ARS and we propose a new architecture for not able to engage in a discussion with every student. How-developing those systems. Furthermore, we present details ever, even when given chance, many students do not want tofrom our reference implementation of the proposed architec- get into discussion because they might be too shy, too tired,ture, named Click’N’Gage, together with some of the crucial or simply unconcerned with the topic discussed [11]. Suchdesign decisions we took while developing the system. The one way communication approach to teaching can lead topaper closes with a short evaluation of the system, together many undesirable consequences. For example, the lecturerwith few ideas on how the system could be improved in the in the classroom might not be able to always notice whatfuture. the students have understood in the lecture and what they have not understood. So, it might happen that the lecturer is moving too quickly over a difficult concept. The result isCategories and Subject Descriptors students loosing interest in the subject matter. Therefore,D.2.11 [Software Engineering]: Software Architectures— the communication in the classroom should be a two waydomain-specific architectures; H.4 [Information Systems communication between lecturers and students as often asApplications]: Miscellaneous; J.1 [Computer Applica- possible.tions]: Administrative Data Processing—education; K.3.1[Computers and Education]: Computer Uses in Edu- In order to enhance the classroom teaching and communi-cation—computer-assisted instruction; K.3.2 [Computers cation, many automated systems have been developed. Theand Education]: Computer and Information Science Edu- goal of such automated systems is to get student responsescation—self-assessment, curriculum as quickly and as cheaply as possible [5]. Also, the students are willing to participate more in classroom interaction when they can do it anonymously. Therefore, by letting all stu-General Terms dents answer questions in class anonymously, the lecturersDesign, Performance, Human Factors can get more attention from students and improve the class- room learning.∗City College is an International Faculty of the Universityof Sheffield. In improving the classroom dynamics [7], we have found the main motivation for developing our system, Click’N’Gage. The inspiration of this paper is to present our solution to the problem explained above. The remainder of this paper is organized as follows: section 2 describes the audience re- sponse systems in general, section 3 discusses the advantages and disadvantages of some of the similar systems, section 4 gives additional information on mobile clickers, section 5 talks about the Click’N’Gage in detail, section 6 provides the evaluation of our system, and finally section 7 provides the conclusion and possible future extensions of the system.
  2. 2. 2. AUDIENCE RESPONSE SYSTEMS ClassTalk used scientific calculators with data ports con-An audience response system (ARS) is a system that can nected to a basic network via wire [11]. It was a great sys-help lecturers initiate the two way communication with their tem for the time. However, nowadays such a system is notstudents. The basic idea of such system can be explained in considered appropriate due to high cost of the hardware andthree simple steps. Firstly, the lecturers introduce to stu- many possible problems that can arise when trying to set updents a question with the list of possible answers. Secondly, the system in the very large classrooms. Anyway, ClassTalkthe students choose the answer that they consider to be cor- provides very simple functionality to its users. For exam-rect. Finally, the answers are collected and the statistical ple, the lecturer prompts the question on the projector andresults in the form of graphs are displayed to students. the students answer the question via scientific calculators. When all the answers are collected by the system, the systemThe most well known ARS systems used in education are shows the graphs displaying the statistical results of studentclickers [15]. Clickers consist of three different parts. The responses. These graphs tell the lecturer how much materialfirst part consists of the hand-held devices (clickers) that has been understood by the students.are used by the students to communicate information tothe system. Furthermore, the receiver is a device that gets One of the first systems that used wireless communicationthe information from the clickers. Finally, the third part is between clickers and the system was EduCue’s PRS. Thisa software application that stores, processes, and displays system was developed at Hong Kong University of Sciencestudent responses. and Technology by Nelson Cue and C. K. Lee [11]. EduCue used a keypad and infrared technology for sending signals. ItThe clickers look similar to the TV remote control units has become popular at many Universities. However, infrared[15]. They can be hardwired to the receiver or they can technology is today rarely used since it has been overcomesend data to the receiver wirelessly (infrared or radio fre- by other modern wireless technologies.quency). Such clickers have been used in Universities sincelate 1990s. They enhance learning in class. Namely, by us- Another interesting system that has been developed anding instant feedback, the lecturers are able to identify any used is TXT-2-LRN. The system lets the students answerconcepts being misunderstood [13]. Also, they are fun to the questions via their cellular phones using built in SMSuse since the lecturer can start a new, interesting, and dif- technology. The only assumption that the developers madeficult topic by starting the anonymous discussion between was that most of the students actually own at least one cellstudents. However, clickers are not free. Considering the phone [12]. The system uses a sophisticated SMS filteringfact that students need to pay tuition fees and textbooks, tool on the server side. This approach leads to great avail-the clickers can be too expensive for students if required for ability of the system, which is easy to use since most of thelectures. Also, it can be too expensive for the University to students use SMS messaging facilities daily. The problemprovide clickers for all students. In addition to this, if click- with this solutions, however, is the high cost of the SMSers are hardwired to the receiver, it might even be difficult messages. It is a big burden for students when they needto set up the system for very large classrooms. to pay from their own pockets for the use of the system. A survey has shown that almost 65% of the students usingThe rapid development in mobile technologies has made pos- TXT-2-LRN spend monthly around 35$ for SMS, approxi-sible for developers to build cheaper ARS systems by using mately sending 2 to 3 messages per day [12]. But, even withcellular phones as the new development environment [12]. the high cost, 90% of the students had positive opinion ofThe rationale for developing ARS systems on mobile phones the system overall and they were happy to use it.lies in the fact that most, if not all, students nowadays ownthem [11, 8]. Modern mobile phones take all the advantages Furthermore, one of the most advanced ARS systems todayof the new technologies. Therefore, these phones have be- is VotApedia. This system is web based and gives its userscome more powerful than clickers. Not only that, mobile few alternative options when voting. Namely, the users havephones also do not require any installation process and they the option to register with VotApedia web site and vote on-do not distract students in classrooms while taking notes line. Also, VotApedia has a specific algorithm that crates adue to their small size [8]. The phones capable of running specific phone number for each answer from the given ques-Java applications using SMS, Bluetooth, or WiFi can signifi- tion. The voters can call this phone number and answer thecantly reduce the overall cost of the ARS system [3, 4]. Such question or simply send SMS message with the answer tomobile applications are fun and easy to use. However, the the same phone number [2]. Given these options, VotApe-possible drawback is that students might consume too much dia can be very dynamic in terms of effectiveness, cost, andtime doing other things with the mobile phones instead of complexity. Each of the voters can use anyone of the givenparticipating in class [12]. services. VotApedia seems to be a perfect system at the first glance, however, few flaws can be found when trying to3. SIMILAR SYSTEMS apply the system in the classroom. The Web based voting option, where students need to log in and find the questionMany systems that use mobile phones or similar handheld created by the lecturer, can take a lot of time, which, unfor-devices have been developed in recent years to improve the tunately, is a time that a class can not afford to lose. Theclassroom interaction in educational institutions. In this other option, which is calling a number in order to vote, cansection, we discuss advantages and disadvantages of some of be easy for the students, but it disrupts the class when 200these systems. students make a call at the same time. The SMS seems as a more discrete option than the previous two, however, theOne of the first ARS systems, developed in the early 1990s problems with SMS have already been explained Better Education Inc., is known today as ClassTalk [6].
  3. 3. While evaluating the above systems, a few drawbacks have Connectivity: Due to the high cost of SMS messages, thebecome apparent. The most notable disadvantage is the cost proposed architecture utilizes the Internet. It is im-of either setting up or using these systems. For example, in portant to mention that the system will require onlymost cases, the students are required to pay not only for the an active Internet connection, not needing the detailstuition and books at the universities but also for the accom- of how that connection is being established, whethermodation and food. Enforcing students to spend additional it is through WAP, WiFi, GPRS or 3G. The rationaleresources for extra devices or services, which are needed only behind this decision is that most of todays phones haveto improve the classroom participation, is considered as a at least one way of connecting to the Internet and thatbad idea. In addition to this, not all universities can pro- most universities offer free WiFi connection for its stu-vide such devices or services for all of their students due to dents inside its premises.high cost. However, the cost is not the only drawback. The Duplicate Answers: It is imperative to restrict the stu-lecturers need to put additional effort to design questions dent of providing more than one answer to a specificbefore class. Therefore, some lecturers might consider the questions. Failure to achieve this feature might re-benefits of using ARS negligible and continue lecturing in sult in inaccurate statistical charts presented to thethe traditional way. lecturer. The simplest method of achieving the de- sired effect is to assign user accounts to every stu-4. MOBILE CLICKERS AS AN AUDIENCE dent and restrict the accounts of providing more than RESPONSE SYSTEM one answer. However this conflicts with the featureAs we showcased in the previous section, mobile phones have of anonymity, thus rendering it impossible to use ac-been already an integral part of many of the most popular counts. The mechanism of achieving this feature with-audience response systems, albeit utilizing only the Short out violation students’ anonymity is left for the con-Message Service. Therefore, these systems generated high crete implementation of our architecture, although wecosts for its end users, the students, which ranged to 35$ provide an example in our reference implementationper month, a very high cost for the average student [12]. In of the mobile clickers audience response system in thespite of the high cost, most of the students were very happy next section.using their mobile device in the classroom [12, 15]. This Question/Answer Correspondence: Students need topaper proposes a new architecture for developing audience know which question they are answering to and shouldresponse systems utilizing mobile devices as their main com- not be allowed to answer questions they are not sup-ponent. The proposed architecture addresses the problems posed to. This problem is solved by assigning a uniqueraised in previous AR systems, introducing further improve- code to every issued question which the students willments in the process. input before they provide their answer. The code will be generated by the system moments before the ques-The abstract architecture of the mobile clickers ARS (Figure tion is answered and will be presented by the lecturer1) provides an overview of the proposed methodology: only to the class of students who should answer the question. 1. Students use their Internet powered mobile devices to Dynamic Number of Answers: Not all multiple choice answer questions [5] questions will have the same number of possible an- swers. Usually, they are in the range of two, for true- 2. Answers are sent over the Internet to the core applica- false questions, to six answers. The system should al- tion system (server) low the lecturer of specifying a concrete number of possible answers and this should be reflected at the 3. Data is analyzed and statistical charts are generated students mobile device screen. The way this could be achieved is by using a mechanism for dynamic genera- 4. Results are observed by the lecturer tion of the answering form on the mobile device which will provide custom screens for every amount of possi- ble answers.Using this architecture, answers are no longer sent via SMSand it introduces the concept of an answers storage place,which in turn provides the ability to extract statistical data Using our proposed architecture does not only solve theused by lecturers for self-improvement. Additionally, our problems identified in the reviewed AR systems, but it alsoarchitecture allows for implementing extra Quality of Service provides extra features that are crucial for the adoption of(QoS) [9] features into the system. We have identified five the mobile clickers audience response system.key features that every ARS should provide: 5. REALIZATION OF CLICK’N’GAGE Click’N’Gage is the reference implementation of the mobileAnonymity: The system does not use any student personal clickers audience response system, developed in partial ful- data. Anonymity and trust are two very important is- fillment of the Industrial Group Project module at City Col- sues that students have [1, 14, 6]. The reviewed AR lege. As the proposed architectural design implies, the sys- systems use the students telephone number for identi- tem is composed of two main components: the mobile client fication, which creates discomfort for them. The pro- and the main system dashboard. Design-wise, both of the posed architecture does not use any data which can be components were developed as separate systems in a vac- used to track back an answer to a specific student. uum [10]. Consequently, each of them has been targeted to
  4. 4. Figure 1: Architectural overview of a mobile clickers audience response system.a different user group, leading to design decision specific forthe targeted audience. The users of the mobile client are thestudents themselves, whereas the users of the dashboard arethe university’s lecturers.The mobile client has been developed for the Java platform,using the Java Micro Edition 2.0 SDK. Considering the factthat more than 2.1 million mobile devices are pre-installedwith a Java Virtual Machine (JVM), is a justification enoughfor choosing the Java platform. Additionally, this allowsfor easier distribution due to Java’s ”Write once, run any-where!” nature. The application is packaged as a standardJava Archive (JAR) file which is guaranteed to run on everyJava enabled mobile device.5.1 Students’ Mobile Client Figure 2: The main screens presented to the stu-Simplicity and usability are two invariants present through- dent.out the mobile client system. It is imperative for the studentto easily answer a given question, with minimal involvement.The only tasks required from the student are to enter the all of the steps performed by the system and the input re-question code and to provide the question answer. This is quired from the user for a successful execution.achieved by using only two forms which can be observed inFigure 2. Finally, all of the five key characteristics of a mobile audience response system with the exception of Question/Answer Cor-Internally, the mobile client is in a constant communica- respondence are developed exclusively in the mobile client.tion with the core Click’N’Gage application. This has been The following few paragraphs discuss each of them in greaterachieved with the use of SOAP-enabled Web Services (WS). detail.Part of the core functionality has been exposed on the In-ternet in a form of a WS, offering two operations: Anonymity vs. Duplicate Answers. Trust is one of the major issues that students have with audience response sys- • Validate the question code and return the number of tems used in educational settings. Their main concern is possible answers for the corresponding question that their performance, while answering the given questions in class, will affect their grade in an often negative way. For • Submit the student’s answer to the specific question this reason, the Click’N’Gage system does not use the usual notion of accounts which is present in commercial audience response systems. This however, conflicts with the necessityThe mobile client has access to the service endpoint and con- to control students to answer each question only once.nects upon initialization. The operations of the Web Serviceare then invoked as needed. The function flow diagram (Fig- The solution implemented for this two conflicting issues isure 3) provides a more detailed explanation, clearly stating the use a unique identifier of the mobile device. Every man-
  5. 5. Connectivity. One of the goals of Click’N’Gage is to allow students to use their preferred typed of connection (WAP, WiFi, GPRS or 3G) to connect their mobile clients to the core server of the application. Fortunately, Java ME offers an abstract way of establishing connections. Using Java’s Generic Connection Framework, the mobile client is devel- oped in such a way that it only needs an active Internet connection, without requiring the details of the type of the connection and how it is established. The framework auto- matically extracts this data from the native operating sys- tem of the mobile device. Because privacy is a crucial con- cept throughout the development of Click’N’Gage, this data is not accessed without the user’s consent. 5.2 Lecturers’ Dashboard Similarly with the mobile client, the lecturers’ dashboard has been developed with two invariants present in the system: intuition and innovation. The dashboard is developed as a web application which offers novel and innovative way of interacting with the lecturer and presenting data. It acts as a management portal of the core Click’N’Gage application. Click’N’Gage has been developed as a Java Enterprise Edi- tion (EE) 6.0 application. It runs on a Glassfish V3.0 ap- plication server, and is connected to a database stored on a MySQL Community Edition Server 5.1.47. The presenta-Figure 3: Function flow diagram for the mobile tion layer of the overall application is handled by the recentlyclient. updated Java Server Faces 2.0 technology, which now allows for clear web site development using XHTML, while at the same time exposing custom tags with the ability to access data encapsulated in the Java application. The flow of the internal execution of Click’N’Gage is depicted in Figure 4,ufactured mobile device, whether it is a GSM, WCDMA, which emphasizes the core steps performed when an answeriDEN or a satellite phone, has a unique International Mo- is submitted to the system.bile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number assigned to it. Thenumber is usually printed inside the batter compartment of Prior to using the system, lecturers must register and createthe mobile device. Using Java’s ability to read the properties their account with Click’N’Gage using the web registrationof the mobile device, the IMEI number is acquired which is form. In order to prevent misuse of the system, upon theprocessed by a hash function, together with the issue date of completion of the registration, the lecturer needs to wait forthe question, and sent with every answer to the server. This an official acceptance e-mail from the system’s administra-in turn ensures that no question will be answered more than tor, who is responsible for maintaining Click’N’Gage.once from a device with the same IMEI number and becausethere are no meaningful information enclosed in the hash it Once registered, the lecturer is able to:is impossible to track back the number to the specific user.The hash is computed on both the IMEI number and theissue date of the question answered to ensure that the same Enroll on a course - Enrolling on a course signifies thathash will not repeat itself on more than one question which the lecturer is teaching the specific course. Lecturer’swith some careful statistical analysis might lead to mapping can only browse, create and issue questions for coursesthe hash value to a student. that they teach. Create a course - If a lecturer starts a new course at the university, he/she must first create it in the system byDynamic Form Generation. Click’N’Gage offers lecturers specifying the course name and its unique code.the ability to specify the number of possible answers toa question, varying from the minimum of two answers, to Create a question - Creating a question involves the lec-the maximum of six. This feature however, leads to consis- turer stating the question, providing some keywordstency issues with the screens of the mobile device. The form which describe it (keywords are used in refining thepresent on the screen of the mobile device must offer the search results), providing the possible answers and spec-same number of choices as the question has. This has been ifying the correct one, and finally selecting the type ofachieved by modifying the Web Service operation, which chart in which the results will be displayed.performs the validation of the question code, to return thenumber of possible answers for said question. Afterwards, Browse existing questions - Upon selecting a course, thethe form of choices is dynamically generated, according to lecturer will be presented with a list of questions forthis number. the specific course. In the case of a long list, which
  6. 6. Figure 4: Detailed architectural diagram of the core Click’N’Gage system.Figure 5: Example of a time-series statistical chart. Figure 6: Sample chart types. would be the result of using the system for few years, the lecturer can refine the search by filtering the search Additionally, every issued question has a corresponding chart results using the keywords specified when creating the illustrating the results from the students answers (Figure 6). question. Clicking on an entry in the presented list The type of the chart is the one specified when the ques- will redirect the lecturer to the statistics page for the tion is first created, possible choices being Bar, Bar 3D, selected question, and clicking on the Issue link next to Pie, Pie 3D charts. An innovative feature implemented every question will generate the unique question code, in Click’N’Gage is the dynamic generation of the images used by the students to answer the question. representing the charts whenever they are requested from the browser or when embedded in a MicrosoftTM Power- Point presentation. When a user navigates its browser toUsing JFreeChart, an open source chart generation library http://x.x.x.x/clickngage/charts/IQC.png, the systemimplemented in the Java programming language, we offer a automatically locates the question specified with the code,variety of statistical charts to the lecturer. Every question recalculates the submitted answers and returns an updatedhas a time-series chart which represents the success rate of chart every time. The same holds for the time-series charts,the question over time (Figure 5). It calculates the amount with the only difference in the request URL which isof correct answers submitted to every question instance and http://x.x.x.x/clickngage/timeseries/QID.png. Thisit presents a graph where the domain axis is the set of dates feature is specifically useful when embedding result chartswhen the specific question has been issued to the students, in various presentations and reports.and the range axis is the set of percentages of correct an-swers submitted for the question. This type of charts is Last, but not least, it is important to mention that the webparticularly useful for the self-evaluation of lecturers. application has been developed using the Web 2.0 standards,
  7. 7. which include asynchronous AJAX communication with the ate feedback from students to be very helpful. They can useserver, full XHTML and CSS conformance and a design fol- feedback to reevaluate and improve their teaching methods.lowing the Web 2.0 guidelines. The students, on the other hand, can easily participate in classroom discussions while using this system. The system6. EVALUATION provides anonymity and it is simple to use, therefore, it en-Click’N’Gage has been demoed at the 9th Student Spring courages students’ engagement in the classroom. Moreover,Symposium, organized annually at City College, Thessa- lecturers have insights on statistical data that is generatedloniki. The presentation included a detailed discussion of the over significant period of time. This motivates lecturer tosystem. After the presentation, the students in the audience use the an opportunity to participate in the system evaluation.Over 30 students took part in the evaluation. Firstly, they The Click’N’Gage software application is built in a modularwere required to download the mobile application from our approach. The modularity supports extensibility. There-web site. Then, a question and a list of possible answers fore, many possible future extensions are possible for ourwere displayed on the projector. The students chose an an- system. One possible future extension includes porting theswer and submitted it via mobile application. After that, Java mobile application to both iPhone and Android. Thethe output was displayed in graphical notation. Finally, the current version of the Click’N’Gage does not support thesestudents gave us feedback on the system. The feedback was two popular mobile platforms. Furthermore, another possi-positive and few interesting observations were discussed in ble extension is the integration of Click’N’Gage with LMS.greater detail. Such integration would keep the overhead of creating and enrolling courses by lecturer minimized. Last but not least,Everyone at the symposium agreed that Click’N’Gage can the system could, in the future, support student assessmentimprove the traditional practices in education. Before eval- in the form of quizzes and tests.uation, many students considered that the system would beunnecessary. However, later they enjoyed using it and saw 8. REFERENCESthe benefit for both students and lecturers. What students [1] A. Abrahamson. Teaching with classroomliked the most was that everyone was welcome to participate communication system: What it involves and why itin class. Also, they liked the simplicity and usability of the works. In 7th International Workshop New Trends inmobile application. The lecturers were particularly satisfied Physics Teaching, Puebla, Mexico, number July 1992,with the instant feedback received from the student. 1999. [2] R. Alves. 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