Update: iClickers may be replaced by cloud technology

Daniela Navarro

Essential for recording attendance and quiz answers in a multitude of courses at Colorado State University, iClickers are evidently the subject of a love-hate relationship with students, and they may be going the way of the dodo.
 
CSU is in the process of conducting a pilot of iClicker Cloud, with a goal of evaluating the performance and effectiveness of iClickers, reflecting the University’s pursuit of becoming more innovative with the ways in which technology is used in the classroom.
 
“At the November 27, 2018, University Technology Fee Advisory Board (UTFAB) meeting, a unanimous decision was made to proceed with a pilot of iClicker Cloud in the spring 2019, fall 2019 (and) spring 2020 semesters,” states CSU’s iClicker webpage.
 
Mike Hooker, director of public affairs and communications at CSU, wrote in an email to The Collegian that the results of the iClicker Cloud pilot will determine whether iClickers will be replaced by iClicker Cloud. 
 

“The … cloud-based iClicker system … lets students participate using their mobile devices and laptops in place of iClicker remotes,” Hooker wrote. “If after the pilot CSU decides to go this direction, students would no longer need a hardware clicker remote and would instead be able to leverage a smartphone app or the iClicker website to submit their responses.” 

Hooker wrote that the primary stakeholder for this initiative is the University Technology Fee Advisory Board, and a decision from the board about moving forward with iClicker Cloud technology is expected to be made by early April.

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According to iClicker’s webpage, iClicker Cloud is different from other iClicker apps because it allows for GPS attendance, advanced question types, constant online grade book access and cloud backup/storage. It does require an internet connection.
 
But with these new changes and additions come new questions and concerns.
 
An issue some students identified with relying on technology — especially in the classroom — is how accessible it is to students. For instance, if someone does not have access to certain technologies, how can they use such technologies to fulfill class participation?
 
“If there are students that don’t have a phone or device that it would work on, then I think CSU should be responsible for providing them a way to complete the questions,” said Grace Benson, a first-year equine science major at CSU.
 
iClicker Cloud allows students to use mobile devices, laptops or even iClicker remotes, according to the iClicker webpage. Instructors have the option to indicate how students participate.

I feel … (iClicker Cloud) is really inefficient because sometimes it doesn’t load or connect to Wi-Fi in the building you have class at, so you miss points or attendance.” -Nizhoni Valdez, first-year student, CSU

“If you are using an iClicker remote, you still need to create a Reef account and sync that account to your Canvas course,” states the iClicker Cloud pilot student resources webpage. “You will need to add your iClicker remote ID number to the profile section of your iClicker Reef account. This will ensure your clicker responses show up in your iClicker Reef account and in the Canvas grade book.”
 

For college students, the cost of textbooks and school supplies can be a big concern. The price of iClicker Cloud is $15 per semester, whereas the iClicker+ remote is a one-time $24 purchase, according to the iClicker pricing page. However, there is the possibility that the remote becomes damaged, broken or lost, and the owner would ultimately need to get a new remote.

“I use the CHEM 101 app in my main lecture for CHEM 111 and find it much (easier) to use and (more) convenient than the physical iClicker,” Benson said. “It was significantly cheaper and one less thing that I have to carry around with me.”

There are always complications when it comes to using technology, such as dead batteries, slow-loading internet connections and systems shutting down. Students explained how, at times, servers have been so slow that they made the iClicker Cloud process longer. In some cases, the slow servers even made students miss out on points.
 
“I feel … (iClicker Cloud) is really inefficient because sometimes it doesn’t load or connect to Wi-Fi in the building you have class at, so you miss points or attendance,” said Nizhoni Valdez, a first-year undeclared student at CSU.
 
With slow connections, students may sometimes become easily distracted by other notifications or apps on their phones.
 
“I’ve (seen) some teachers show us studies on how focused students are with each type of clicker and how effective they are,” said Sophia Thomas, a first-year student. “The regular iClicker had a higher observer focus, probably because students are distracted by phones, and requiring them to be out just makes it easier to be distracted.”
 
Daniela Navarro can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @thedanielazahra