Clicker FAQs

In response to a request from the California State Student Association and the Office of the Chancellor, Cal Poly developed a strategy to encourage and support standardized clicker use on campus.  This list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) and additional resources are intended to help the campus make informed decisions when choosing clickers for classroom and administrative use.

What is a “clicker?

A clicker, also known as a “classroom response system” (CRS), is a hand-held remote control device associated with specialized wireless hardware and presentation software. It is used to promote interactivity between a presenter (i.e., the instructor) and students within the classroom.

How do clickers work?

The instructor uses a computer hooked to a hardware base station and a video projector to project presentation slides displaying questions and several possible answers. The students respond via their clicker device. The hardware base station connected to the computer collects the results and aggregates the data into a graphic displayed with the presentation software for the instructor and students to view.

What is the best type of clicker to use?

The i>clicker brand is strongly recommended for use at Cal Poly.

  • In several pilots and surveys at multiple CSU campuses, the i>clicker has been found to be the most intuitive and easy to configure and use.  It is also the most reliable.
  • i>clicker is, by far, the clicker most frequently purchased at the University Store.
  • Choosing i>clicker significantly reduces the likelihood that your students will have to buy multiple clickers.
  • Technical support teams on campus are most familiar with this product, and can best support this brand.

Why would an instructor wish to use a clicker?

Instructors have found clickers to be a useful pedagogical tool in the classroom. The instructor can make impromptu instructional choices in response to how the students answer questions. Clickers appear to improve student engagement by assisting an instructor in adapting to the immediate needs of their students, and they can also be used to meet a variety of teaching objectives, such as:

  • Checking concept comprehension
  • Promoting creative and higher-order thinking skills
  • Assisting students in the application of knowledge to particular situations and contexts
  • Predicting an outcome based upon data provided or based upon their peers’ responses
  • Provide student perspective on opinion-type questions
  • Data collection for instructor-driven classroom experiments
  • Assisting instructors in rapid grading of in-class quizzes
  • Formative assessment
  • Summative assessment
  • Discussion warm-up or peer instruction through the discussion of incorrect answers
  • Create a safe space for introverted students
  • Prompting students to assess their confidence level in answering a question
  • Survey data indicates that if clickers are used solely as a device to take attendance and to do testing, students may come to resent that they are being asked to pay for a device that is perceived to just make faculty life easier. 
  • Clickers are also not recommended for checking attendance because results are less accurate since clickers can be lost/forgotten, may be unable to join (connect), or may not respond due to technical problems such as battery failure. There is also no way to know if a student may be "checking in" for attendance with several of their classmates' devices, even though the classmates may not be in attendance.

How can I utilize clickers effectively in my curriculum?

You may wish to review the EDUCAUSE resource document [PDF] prepared by The University of Colorado entitled, “Tips for Successful ‘Clicker’ Use” by Douglas Duncan. 

Has Cal Poly selected a clicker for standardized use?

Yes. The i>clicker brand is strongly recommended for standardized use on the campus. 

Why do we recommend standardized use of the i>clicker brand at Cal Poly?

The 2010 California State Students Association (CSSA) created a resolution [PDF] that called for each CSU campus to develop and implement a policy and practices for clicker standardization in order to reduce costs and increase the usability of clicker devices in the classroom. The resolution was disseminated and reviewed by the CSU Academic Technology Steering Committee (ATSC) and the Directors of Academic Technology (DAT). Based upon feedback from these committees, the Chancellor’s Office has distributed a memo [PDF] requesting that each campus determine a clicker for standardized use on their campus.

May I use something other than i>clicker in my classes?

While i>clicker is strongly recommended because student advisory groups at the campus and CSU level have expressed serious objections to having to purchase multiple clickers, you may use something other than i>clicker if there are specific pedagogical reasons to do so.

Upon the Chancellor's Office request, Cal Poly spearheaded an effort to determine if ITS should choose a classroom response system. A group of faculty and staff reviewed clicker products that were on the market. Although there was no conclusion at that time to standardize to a particular clicker brand, Cal Poly faculty have been using various brands of clickers in the classroom since that time.

The evaluation team implemented a survey among the Cal Poly faculty members who were currently using clickers in their classrooms. The evaluation team also polled the CSU Community of Academic Technology Staff to determine what other universities in the CSU were using. The responses from these two surveys clearly showed i>clicker demonstrated significant support, technological, and accessibility advantages.

Although after an extensive evaluation, the team decided not to mandate a particular clicker brand for Cal Poly, i>clicker was clearly the recommendation of choice from the evaluation team. Since those surveys were taken, i>clicker has continued to improve their product by introducing a numerical data version for math and science equations as well as still providing the simpler A-B-C-D-E- version previously released.

What brands of clicker are available?

At Cal Poly, the two most popular products (based upon sales data collected from the University Store) are i>clicker and eInstruction, with a few faculty implementing the Turning Technologies brand clicker.  Various product comparisons are available at the CSU Directors of Academic Technology (DAT) website.

Can smart phones or laptops be used as response systems instead of requiring a separate device?

Yes, i>clicker also has web>clicker, a browser-based voting tool. Students who opt into this service may utilize a wireless smart phone or laptop instead of purchasing a remote control device. Web clicker software testing was carried out on campus on a small scale and the feedback from faculty was generally positive.  Though it is likely to mature in coming months, there are currently several concerns about this technology.

  • Possibility of large numbers of users overloading wireless access points
  • Distractions caused by web-enabled devices like smart phones and laptops
  • Lost clicker functionality when the web-enabled device receives SMS (text) messages while the clicker is in use
  • Not all students have a smart phone or laptop

How is clicker response data collected?

The collected data can either be anonymous (e.g., in the case of polling) or traced to individual participants in order to track their responses to determine a grade (e.g., in the case of classroom quizzes, homework, attendance, discussion participation, etc.). The incoming data is stored in a database on the computer and can generate data reports for further analysis.

Are there any information security concerns that I should be aware of if I use clickers?

It is recommended that faculty not use “Roll Call Registration” due to FERPA concerns. 

Will i>clicker work with PolyLearn Moodle?

Yes, faculty can manually export data from the i>clicker system to PolyLearn (Moodle).

Are there any usability or accessibility concerns that I should be aware of if I use i>clickers?

The i>clicker device is compliant with Section 508 accessibility standards.  For more information, visit the i>clicker accessibility website.

What are the computer system requirements for i>clicker?

For Windows:

  • Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 or Windows 8 operating system
  • One available USB port
  • Projection system (highly recommended)
  • Screen resolution of 1024 x 768

For Macintosh: 

  • Mac OS X version 10.6.8 or higher
  • One available USB port
  • Projection system (highly recommended)
  • Screen resolution of 1024 x 768

Support Resources

Faculty Support


Related Content

Best Practices

10 Best Pactices

Our 10 Best Pactices

Contact Us

Contact Information Security at 756-7000


Did you know?

Stay Safe Online Tips