One clicking problem after another with iClickers

iClickers. Most students here at Rensselaer will have at least one class that requires their use at some point before graduation. RPI is not alone in this, with—according to the iClicker website—the technology being trusted by over 1,100 institutions and used by over 5,000 instructors and seven million students. Are they really worth all that hype, though?

The iClickers sound great in theory. They promise a way for students to become more actively engaged in lectures and provide a chance for instructors to immediately receive feedback on how well students are understanding the material that was just presented. They also provide a handy way to verify attendance. Professors can easily see who answered the clicker questions for that day.

Unfortunately, there are some pretty sizable downsides to iClickers. For example, you can only answer multiple choice or true/false questions as opposed to more meaningful and impactful discussion questions. In addition, if the instructor is unfamiliar with the technology, the clicker questions can actually detract from the flow of the lesson. In terms of verifying attendance, problems arise when students attend class but leave their iClickers at home, resulting in potentially unfounded grade point deductions.

The biggest problem with iClickers, however, is pricing, which is the main thing that students will complain about. Right now, the cheapest version you can buy through Amazon is $41.79. However, if you’re willing to buy it though a different seller, it’s $35.00 plus shipping. If you were to pick one up at the bookstore, you would have to be prepared to part with $51.00. Unfortunately, you’re not done once you have the iClicker itself; you still have a one-time fee of $6.99 that’s necessary to create an account and actually use the clicker.

Despite the benefits and additional insights that these devices provide to professors, they just aren’t worth the expense and the downsides that come with them. As to what could possibly replace them, that I don’t know. But right now it would be better to remove them and save the future student population the expense, rather than continue to waste money on positives that don’t outweigh the downfalls.