Rob has used GoSoapBox as a way to interact with his students during large lectures for several years. Rob finds it useful for several reasons, such as being able to check student understanding, quickly correct misconceptions and to engage with students who would otherwise be too uncomfortable to speak out.
“I used to think that I was technologically up with the play, but realised I was a luddite. With students these days, we need to keep up with the play. With GoSoapBox it’s really easy – it’s intuitive to use. I think we’d be doing the students a disservice if we didn't use something like this”
Rob was one of the early adopters of GoSoapBox, first using it in a run of four first year lectures in T2 2014. He has since used it in all of his first year classes, which each have around 100 students, and also uses it in his bigger second year classes, those with around 50 students. While Rob does not use GoSoapBox in his third and fourth year classes, he feels that there is no fundamental reason why he couldn’t. Before he started using GoSoapBox, Rob had been using ‘clickers’, hand-held polling devices which are distributed to students during the lecture. Rob found that using GoSoapBox was similar to using the clickers, though GSB tended to be more reliable and offered some additional features that he found extremely useful.
GoSoapBox is a web-based tool, which means that students use the web browser on their own devices to connect to the polling session. Initially, Rob was concerned that equity issues could mean that not all students would have devices to use. While Rob acknowledges that this may still be the case for some students, he has found that the numbers of those with the right devices is high enough that this is no longer a good excuse for not using a tool like this. It is particularly helpful to move away from the idea that each student needs to make their own response, and instead have students without devices working together with those that do. The main features of GoSoapBox are polls, quizzes, and discussion/question tools. Initially, Rob wanted the ability to do on-the-fly polling to find out if he was reaching students. These polls get instantaneous feedback about whether the material is making sense, and can show if you need to adapt the rest of the lecture to accommodate that feedback and to diagnose misconceptions. The polls also allow the students to practice the concepts that they have just been taught, helping to reinforce their learning, and shows the students where they are with their understanding, which they appreciate.
Rob has continually tweaked and updated the way he uses GoSoapBox. In his first time using GSB, Rob made the mistake of setting up quizzes rather than polls. The quiz feature does not display the whole class responses in real time as polls do, which means that it did not work as Rob wanted. Despite the mishaps, Rob received positive feedback from students in that class, who said that they could see the value of GSB, had it worked correctly. Other changes he has made include the way he puts the polls into GSB. Initially, he put all of the question detail and images into GSB, but has since found it more efficient to keep most of the detail in his Powerpoint slides. After some trial and error, Rob has found the right method of easily swapping between the poll results and his Powerpoint slides. He has also added breaks and pauses for checking student responses into his lectures.
Crucially, Rob has discovered that the feature that allows students to anonymously ask questions is very powerful, especially at first year level. This question feature (called ‘Social Q & A’) allows students to ask questions without feeling uncomfortable or scared and enables the more shy students to have a voice. GoSoapBox has a ‘like’ feature for the questions, which means that other students can indicate that they have the same question, helping Rob to know what is important to them. Rob has found that around half the time, other students in the class respond to questions, usually with the correct answers, which is a great example of peer-to-peer instruction and helps those who answer questions learn better. In these cases, Rob likes to acknowledge both the right answer and the student who gave it.
In Rob’s case, it is hard to tell if there has been an impact on student grades, as he previously had been using clickers which have a similar function. When Rob first started using GoSoapBox, the students were very excited to use it. Now that it is becoming more widely used across the university, the novelty has worn off and it has become an expected part of the lecture experience for the students. For Rob personally, there has been a huge benefit to his enjoyment of teaching, allowing more interactions with the students in the larger classrooms. Student feedback has been either positive or neutral, with no negative feedback thus far. Rob considers it important to adapt to changing student expectations, and finds GoSoapBox useful for forcing him to think more digitally.
Commentaries on the pedagogical ideas behind this case study, written by academics from the Centre for Academic Development
Learning Design and Application
GoSoapBox is an example of a range of technologies that are known by many names including ‘clickers,’ ‘classroom feedback systems,’ and ‘audience response systems’ and which use a wide variety of hardware and software in broadly similar ways (Good, 2013). Initially created as physically wired systems embedded into classrooms controlled by dials and lights, the system was consequently expensive, inflexible and cumbersome to use (Littauer, 1972).
In its simplest form, a clicker provides a mechanism for each person in an audience or student in a lecture to choose from a number of possible responses and provide information to the presenter or lecturer. This can be collated if a poll is being taken, or recorded as an individual response if it is functioning as a multiple choice questioning tool. The obvious use of clickers as a tool for such multiple choice exams (essentially as Rob did in this case), allowing immediate marking and removing the need for processing forms, was the first use of clickers. For thirty years clickers remained a curiosity at best. Multiple choice tests delivered in a form of programmed instruction were popular as a cheap and time efficient examination technique (if nothing else). Pedagogically, the early uses of these devices in this way were unimpressive and resulted in no significant benefits to student learning (Judson & Sawada, 2002).
The revolution in clicker use came from the work of teachers adopting active learning techniques explicitly to support more productive discussions between students in large classes (Dufresne, et al. 1996) and further benefits became apparent when these systems were combined with a formative pedagogical approach intended to expose students’ misconceptions by asking carefully crafted questions (Abrahamson, 1998; Dufresne, et al. 1996; Crouch & Mazur, 2001). The literature is now full of examples of the range of positive pedagogical outcomes arising from the use of clickers in the context of an active learning approach (Kay and LeSage, 2009; Good, 2013).
Harvard physicist Eric Mazur’s Peer Instruction (Crouch & Mazur, 2001) pedagogical design is a very effective way to use tools such as GoSoapBox. In this model, students are provided with a conceptual problem and asked to collaborate with other students in class and predict an outcome. Student predictions are collected with clickers and then an experiment is performed illustrating that the student’s intuitions have (most likely) mislead them to the outcome. The combination of evidence from the clickers that most students were wrong, combined with their own experience of the problem results in students becoming significantly more motivated to understand how different formulae could be used to analyse the problem as physicists do, generating the correct answer and greatly improving subsequent performance in similar tasks.
Similar approaches can be used in a wide variety of subjects through careful design of questions aimed at generated open-ended discussion or exposing ambiguity or diversity in student positions, knowledge or experience. With practice and experience, it is also possible to use these tools to redirect the focus of class or lecture in real time, responding to the students immediately.
Crouch, C. H., & Mazur, E. (2001). Peer instruction: Ten years of experience and results. American Journal of Physics, 69(9), 970-977.
Dufresne, R. J., Gerace, W. J., Leonard, W. J., Mestre, J. P., & Wenk, L. (1996). Classtalk: A classroom communication system for active learning. Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 7"(2), 3-47.
Good, K.C. (2013). Audience response systems in higher education courses: A critical review of the literature. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, 10(5), 19-34.
Judson, E., & Sawada, D. (2002). Learning from Past and Present: Electronic Response Systems in College Lecture Halls. Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching, 21(2), 167-181.
Kay, R. H., & LeSage, A. (2009). Examining the benefits and challenges of using audience response systems: A review of the literature. Computers & Education, 53 819-827. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2009.05.001.
Littauer, R. (1972). Instructional implications of a low-cost electronic student response system. Educational Technology: Teacher and Technology Supplement, 12(10), 69-71.
Rob Keyzers’ use of classroom response systems (starting with Clickers and moving on to GoSoapBox) makes lectures a more interactive, engaging and personalised learning experience, which leads to better learning (National Research Council, 1999). Large first-year lectures can feel daunting because students cannot effectively process cognitively demanding input for hours; under such conditions, both concentration and quality of processing (and therefore learning) decline overtime. This leads to attention lapses and mind wandering, sometimes unbeknown to students themselves (Bunce, Flens, & Neiles, 2010). Large lectures may also feel impersonal, affecting students’ emotional state that may discourage active engagement with ideas and concepts presented by the lecturer.
Using classroom response systems can counteract these adverse aspects of lecturing by adding conversational elements into the mix (Duff 2003; Laurillard 2002, 2012; Wulff 2005) without the need to reduce student numbers or change physical settings. Posing and answering questions during lectures is not a new approach to engaging students. However, if this is done in a traditional way, the engagement is often restricted to a small number of students with certain social and psychological characteristics, while the majority of students in the class opt to stay silent. An online classroom response system, such as GoSoapBox, gives all students a voice, encouraging them to engage in an internal dialogue leading to posing and responding to questions without the added pressures of public speaking.
Rob also capitalises on another important affordance of GoSoapBox – online polling, which introduces an element of formative assessment into the lecture. By posing a conceptual problem at the right moment and giving students a chance to submit their response anonymously online, Rob is able to achieve a number of important teaching and learning goals.
Bunce, D.M., Flens, E.A., & Neiles, K.Y. (2010). How long can students pay attention in class? A study of student attention decline using clickers. Journal of Chemical Education, 87(12), 1438-1443
Duff, A. (2003). Higher Education Teaching: A Communicative Perspective. Active Learning in Higher Education, 4(3), 256–70.
Laurillard, D. (2002). Rethinking University Teaching: A Conversational Framework for the Effective Use of Learning Technologies. 2nd ed. London: Routledge Falmer.
Laurillard, D. (2012). Teaching as a Design Science: Building Pedagogical Patterns for Learning and Technology. Florence: Routledge.
National Research Council. (1999). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience and school. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
Reproduce this in Your Own Teaching
This is a quick-start guide for using GoSoapBox in your own teaching. If you would like additional support, contact one of our learning and teaching team
Consider the interaction and feedback you want from your students.
Sign up for a GoSoapBox account with your VUW address.
Create an ‘event’ and set up your polls, quizzes and discussions.
Use the ‘event code’ to give students access to your event
Contact one of our learning and teaching team to discuss these ideas further and for support using the technologies.