Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Clicker Cheaters

I recently brought up the use of clickersstudent response systems—with my class of professors-in-training. The discussion mainly focused on how clickers can improve learning and participation, but I also mentioned how the data could be used secondarily as a way to record class attendance.

One of my students, having never had any experience of clickers, brought up  a good point: why not have a buddy work your clicker on your behalf while you are still snoozing away in your bed?

This thought occurs frequently to students.

Ultimately, there will always be students trying to game the system to slide through with less effort. 

But there are some ways to work around this that I've found helpful (and moderately successful).  Here they are:

1. Explain that colleges take attendance for the purpose of reporting to state and federal authorities.  Students therefore, may be committing fraud through click-cheating--especially if they receive any type of financial aid, scholarship, or grant.  That could apply to both students involved.

2. While the students are all scratching their heads over the first clicker question in class, take a quick head count.  Then check your response total.  If you count 25 and you're getting 30 responses, it's a good opportunity to have the fraud conversation again.  And the academic integrity conversation.  And the "do you really want to risk expulsion?" conversation.  If you have 300 students, get a TA, student, or colleague to sit in the back and count for you—perhaps holding up a card with the magic number at the back of the lecture hall.

3. If #2 occurs (and we all know that in life, #2 does happen), then start looking around at who might be managing two or more clickers.  Call them out on it—you only have to do that once to set a pretty solid boundary.  And they'll realize you are indeed looking for this behavior. Many students who try this won't think you're smart enough to look for it and thus are pretty brazen about it.

4. Perhaps this should have been #1.  Unbelievably, many students just aren't aware that such behavior is not acceptable.  Really.  More often than you think.  A LOT.  So be clear up front that you won't tolerate it and (most importantly) why you plan to be such a badass about it (integrity as a course objective).