Connecting pedagogical practices in highly engaging lectures and features of web-based student response systems

Andrew Kwok-Fai Lui and Sin-Chun Ng
The Open University of Hong Kong

Hong Kong SAR, China

A web-based student response system (WSRS) is a cost-effective and convenient tool for facilitating student engagement in lectures with a large number of students. In-class questions or polls designed to promote active learning are conducted anonymously to alleviates hesitancy among the shy and timid. Instructors are also able to exploit other computational features to achieve pedagogical objectives, such as tracking progress, mediating discussions, and providing timely feedback. The majority of studies on the effectiveness of WSRS have reported increased classroom interaction, improved student motivation, and better performance. However, the positive effects are susceptible to petering out after the initial novelty period. The integration of WSRS into lectures demands additional effort from not just students, whose attention is needed in an active learning process, but also instructors in implementing opportunities for engaging students. Without a sustained positive impact on student learning, both instructors and students will show reluctance to continue using WSRS.

One key factor for successful application of a WSRS is whether its system features satisfy the operational requirements of the intended pedagogical practices. The core features, such as question creation and management, a mobile interface for student responses, and data visualization are identified with minor but key variations that hamper any pedagogical function supposedly offered in WSRS. For example, limitations in the type and format of questions can make an active learning activity unattainable or require a less-than-ideal re-design.

The aim of this paper is to outline an organizational framework for identifying the pedagogical functions afforded by WSRS. The framework connects relevant system features to common pedagogical practices. With this framework, instructors can select the most suitable WSRS and recognize the limitations. They can also derive system requirements from the framework if they decide to develop a custom-designed WSRS with dedicated features.

The methodology for developing the organizational framework consists of three stages. In the first stage, a review of the use of WSRS for active learning in large-enrolment lectures was carried out, the outcome being a hierarchical catalogue of pedagogical practices. In the second stage, a review of two general WSRSs and two custom-designed WSRSs was conducted to develop a universal list of pedagogical functions. The final stage involved developing an organizational framework of WSRS pedagogical functions by making logical connections between the outcomes of the first two stages. The paper ends with a discussion of Likeclass, an in-house custom-designed WSRS that serves as a case study of using the organizational framework.