Universities have experienced increased numbers of students resulting in large class sizes in some popular subjects and this has had an inevitable impact on how students are taught and consequently how they learn. Ideally, any teaching session should include three elements: content (or knowledge), interaction (or engagement) and practice (or application). In most cases , especially with content-driven lectures, there is little time for interaction, a situation compounded  by having large numbers of students in a class (Blackmore 2010, 122). Lack of engagement can seriously affect the student experience, enjoyment of the learning material and academic performance. Technology can address some of these issues, one such being  personal response systems (PRS) which enable lecturers and students to interact. PRS  involves a hand held remote known as clicker which is used by the students to answer questions set by the lecturer, depending on the particular model it can include a keypad for more sophisticated responses. This development in technology has enormous potential in education especially in universities, in courses comprising large classes.

Moreover, transformative learning theory seems  to significantly reiterate the importance of PRS since if  facilitates an  integrated approach towards interaction between the lecturers and students in the universities lecture halls. Hence, in its attempts of fostering critical evaluation of responses and arguments presented by the students immediate response is warranted thereby indicating the importance of applying this theory in this system of learning which is involving the use of clickers in personal response (Joosten and Kaleta 2007, 16). However, previous research indicates that immediate feedback is very crucial in any learning process since it facilitates improvement in performance through drastic changes on the weakness points while at the same  time promoting interaction among the students  band the lecture within the lecture hall settings. Therefore, clickers can electronically play a crucial role in facilitating instant feedback through stimulating the response of students at personal level which results to increased response from the students and  adequate feedback from the lecturer. Hence, this situation leads to a conducive learning environment which encourages participation of all the students in the process of learning (Blackmore 2010, 120).

Purpose of the study

The purpose of this study is to examine the effectiveness of personal response systems in the student experience in higher education, retention and academic performance. It will focus on the improvement of performance through interaction of students with learning material, knowledge retention and overall exam performance.

Objectives of the study

  1. To evaluate the use of personal response systems on student engagement
  2. To evaluate the effects of personal response system on the  academic performance of the students
  3. To evaluate the effect of the personal response level on levels of knowledge retention among the students
  4. To evaluate the effect of the interaction levels of the students and the lectures
  5. To compare PRS with non-technological forms of encouraging student interaction

Project description

There has been increased interest in using student response systems in the universities in the recent times. This can be attributed to the increased rate of the enrolment of students in universities thereby culminating in large classes. In the absence of other systems, lecturers interact with students in more physical ways such as asking students to raise their hands in response to questions (Leonard 1998, 33). Not all students want to respond in this manner especially if they are unsure of their answer. PRS is a more anonymous way of responding without being recognised by staff or peers. The project will evaluate the effectiveness of PRS and other alternative approaches to encouraging student interaction. There are cultural considerations in student interactions. In some countries, such as the USA, clickers have been used for many years and have become standard issue to students. This project will focus on two countries, the UK, particularly Bristol University and King Abdu Aziz University in Saudi Arabia. The King Aziz University has been chosen as the Saudi government is sponsoring this work. Also, education is segregated in Saudi on the basis of gender so I will be able to see the effect on male and females separately.

A research methodology will be designed with rigorous statistical measures in place to produce a quantitative study. Questionnaires will also be used to determine staff and student perceptions.

As indicated by Banks (2006, 151) the student response system mainly contains three components. A system of software for lecturers to design and deliver questions for students. The second component is the handheld student response unit known as the clicker. It is designed like a remote control with a keypad to key in a response. The third component is the receiver which contains software that captures the responses as they are answered by the students.

Uses of the clicker in the classroom

As indicated by Buff (2009, 14), one of the uses of the clicker is to stimulate class interaction class, feedback and discussion. Students answer questions on their own or small groups and no one sees their answer. The work Gomez et al has been with using clickers for summative assessment. This has involved continuous summative assessment, a process which would be difficult to do through traditional paper-based methods. The approach using clickers allowed for constant correction of mistakes by students and encourage students to learn continuously rather than just for revision and exams. As students entered their university registration numbers, students could be identified and remedial instruction offered if underperforming rather than waiting for the end of module exam when it was too late to get feedback on their performance.

Research by Pitler (2007, 48), in four universities in Wisconsin showed that both students and lecturers were contented with the use of the personal systems invention. The faculty appreciated the fact that they were able to evaluate the student mastery of the content and concepts of the course during learning sessions, on the other hand, the students were able to evaluate their own comprehension capabilities.

The increased number of students who enrol at university each year and the resultant increase in class size make it difficult for students to amicably interact with lecturers and their colleagues in class. As it has been found by Rebel (1998, 433), that for students to assimilate knowledge  they need to interact with the content and teaching in class. Learners need to interact with fellow students too. This has been shown by Blackmore (2010, 122), who holds that learning is a social process. In this respect use of personal systems should be capable of bridging this gap. It has also been shown that clickers have a positive influence on the students’ attentiveness. Joosten and Kaleta revealed in the study they did in White Water University in Wisconsin that most of the students agreed on the notion that clickers have improved their active engagement in class discussions. Clickers require the students to be attentive to the lecturers’ questions and press the buttons to signal their answers. This requires high attentive levels on the side of the student.           Several studies have also shown that clickers have positive influence on the retention of knowledge.  A study showed that the use of the interactive response process increased the retention rate of the students by 50% in a micro biology class in the university of Ohio (Pitler 2007, 49). The same trend was reflected in a study at the University of Maine on a mathematics course whereby the student retention rate increased by 23% (Rebel 1998, 435).

The trend of performance of students in large classes after using the student response systems shows that the influence of the systems has been positive. Several case studies by various scholars have shown that the use of the same has increased mean grades especially in arts and biological subjects. As indicated by Blackmore (2010, 122), interactive learning is very important when teaching art oriented subjects and biology whereby the learners are required to discuss  both with the lecturers and among themselves. In this context the use response systems facilitates socialization and consequently enhancing the levels of performance by the students.  A comparison was performed at the University of Ohio between two classes of mathematics of which one was using the response system whereas the other was using normal class lecturers without the system. The accumulative means of the classes was taken and the results showed that the class that was using the response system performed better than the other one which was not using the same mode (Buff 2009, 14).

As indicated by Shapiro (2007, 405), recording class attendance with high population densities can be very daunting and sometimes it can prove to be next to impossible. But with the introduction of clickers the lecturers can easily record Individual attendance. As indicated by Blackmore (2010, 119), in the courses which require full attendance of the classes in order for the students to get the full grip of the subjects it is paramount that lecturers are punitive and strict   with the attendance. This has been well affected by the use of the clickers.

Some of the opponents of PRS point out that they are very expensive for standard level universities. In this case they have demonstrated that the gadgets’ maintenance requirements are demanding and hence universities of limited resources cannot match the requirements.


The target population is the students and lecturers of the Bristol University and Saudi universities from different faculties.

Research design

Questionnaires and interviews will be conducted in current approaches amongst staff and students. Interviews will be recorded then transcribed and content analysis will be conducted to look for trends. The research will be deductive whereby the researcher will be working from general to more specific concepts.  For instance, it will start with thinking of a theory related to the topic of interest, then the researcher will narrow down into hypotheses which are more specific and can be tested (Sapsford and Jupp 2006, 154).

For the purpose of this study, both primary and secondary research will be used. Moreover, some extent of descriptive research methods will also be utilized. This method enables the possibility of the study to be quick and cheap. There is also the possibility of suggesting on the anticipated hypotheses (Sapsford and Jupp 2006, 165). Thus, the descriptive approach will be used in the study, which utilizes the study observation however; descriptive method of study mainly gathers information about the present condition.



Data collection

Data will be collected from both primary and secondary sources, in case of the primary data questionnaires will be formulated whereby they will be distributed among the target population. In each of the institutions, a sample population of 80 people will be used. Secondary data will be collected from available researches done by various scholars in the topic as literature reviews.

Data analysis

After collection of all the questionnaires, the researcher will be in a position to statistically analyze the data with the assistance of SPSS (Sapsford and Jupp 2006, 186).  Comparisons will also be drawn considering overall questions response as well as the differing responses and also the percentage and weighed mean will be determined using the following statistical formulae:

1).percentage which is used for determining questionnaire response magnitude.

% =n X 100          where;         n= no. of responses

N                                         N = total no. of respondents

2). Also the weighed mean will be determined using the following statistical formulae.


X = x1f1 + x2f2 + x3f3 + x4f4 + x5f5       where; X= No. of responses

Xt                                         F= Weight given to each response

Xt= total No. of response


The researcher will also be assisted by SPSS software to summarize statistical procedures, examining variables relationships for example, multiple regression and correlation as well as determining significance differences existing between groups, that is, through ANOVA and t-tests (Sapsford and Jupp 2006, 250).



Table 1: Gantt Table

Prepare proposalOne month1-28 
Identify the proposal supervisorOne week
Meet with the supervisor and agree on the datesTwo weeks
Consult with the supervisor and make contacts with the universities to be interviewed in this research.Two months
Draw and distribute the questionnairesThree months
Combine the data both in hard and soft copies, code it, tabulate it, analyze and interpret it.Three months
Submit the draft and make necessary changes as per the supervisors commentsTwo weeks
Submit the researchTwo  weeks



List of References

Banks, D. (2006) Audience Response Systems in Higher Education: Application and Cases. New York: Wiley Publishers. 12-17

Blackmore, C. (2010) Social Learning and Communities of Practice. New York: Oxford Press

Buff, D. (2009) Teaching with Classroom Response Systems: Creative Active Learning. Massachusetts: Sage Publications 6-100

Gregory, I. (2003) Ethic in Research. New York: Oxford Press. 20-25

Joosten, T and Kaleta, R (2007). Student Response Systems: a University of Wisconsin System of Clikers, a Journal on Education research Bulletin, 7 ( 10), 11-21. Retrieved on 11th April 2011, from:

Leonard, W. J. ( 1998) Classtalk: a classroom communication for active learning. Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 66(7) 29-47. Retrieved on 11th April 2011, from:

Pitler, H. (2007) Using Technology with Classroom Instruction That Works. Ohio: Sage Publications . 40-50

Rebel, E. J.(1998). Students education technology assessment and faculty issues, Journal of Accounting Education, 36(3), 430-439. Retrieved on 11th April 2011, from:

Robens, E. (1998). Physics learning with audience paced feedback. American Journal of Physics, 16 (2), 179-183. Retrieved on 11th April 2011, from:

Sapsford, R. and Jupp, V. (2006). Data Collection and Analysis, 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications Ltd.

Shapiro, A. J. ( 2008). Electronic student response found feasible in large science lecture halls. Journal of College Science Teaching. 26, 408-421. Retrieved on 11th April 2011, from:

Silverman, D. (2009) Doing Qualitative Research. London: Prentice Hall Press. 80- 104

Thomas, M. (2003) Blending Qualitative & Quantitative Research Methods in Theses and Dissertations. California: Crown Press. 10-200.



















Ethical issues

The research will adhere to general principles of ethics and etiquette. First, timely notification of the administration and the authority of the institutions which shall be visited will be undertaken. In this regard, the research will be conducted in accordance to the agreements that are established with the authorities and hence, guide lines have been drafted to guide the data collectors how to behave during their data collection process. In this case data will be collected in accordance to the time that has been allocated and also the questions should be limited to the sensible information which will not rub the shoulders of the universities administrations. The behaviors exhibited inside the institutions compounds should be beyond reproach and any other business other than data collection will be suspended. The information that will be sought will be highly confidential and the data which shall be collected will be used for research purposes only. The confidentiality of the information will be assured and the interviews will not be recorded to assure the respondent that the information will not be used for purposes of advertisement or reference to specific individuals.  Further there is need to adhere to the authenticity and avoid plagiarism. The ethics in writing requires that the data collected should not replicate other persons work and hence the research will adhere to the principles of valid research. Any work that has been retrieved from other sources will be acknowledged through relevant citation procedures (Gregory 2003, 28).







Risk management

Several anticipated risks may threaten the viability and success of the project and therefore it is paramount to put into consideration how to prepare for such uncertainties. Among the risks that may be encountered include failure by the respondents to give the correct information due to either unwillingness or lack of interest. In this regard it has been thought that there would be selection method whereby the persons who are willing to participate in the questionnaires will be given some riders.  These include some monetary rewards for every questionnaire that is filled. Second the time for taking the data may be limited because of the technicalities that accompany the institutions of higher learning. It is important to note that the institutions have very tight schedules which they adhere to on daily basis. The administration therefore allocates limited time for the research of which might lead to incomplete information. In this regard, adequate familiarization with day to day curriculum of the institutions and have come up with the amicable schedule for each and every institution that will be visited for data collection. Thirdly, the administration might limit the nature of information that is supposed to be collected from the institutions whereby they are against asking of sensitive information. Therefore the questionnaires have been drafted professionally and sensitive information has been avoided and the sensitive questions have been reserved to the interviews to the administrators whereby they can answer at their discretion. Further, research may be limited by lack of enough finances which might culminate to the stopping of the process because there is nothing that can progress amid financial crisis. Importantly, mobilization of sufficient financial resources will also be undertaken to counter any financial constraints. This will help in ensuring that all budget requirements are met (Silverman 2009, 88).






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