Iowa State University

ITInformation Technology

Frequently asked questions--student response system pilot project

This news item expired April 19, 2005. It may contain out-of-date information.
What is a student response system? A student response system allows faculty and instructors to poll students in the classroom. The response system software enables building interactive questions or polls, either within or outside of PowerPoint. Faculty pose questions, and students use a hand-held transmitter to respond. The instructor gets immediate feedback through the system, which consists of a computer, software, data projector, receiver, and hand-held transmitters. Why would faculty/instructors want to use a student response system? Student response systems are great tools for getting immediate feedback in the classroom. The instructor can informally poll students after teaching a concept to check understanding. A high positive response rate lets the instructor know they have been successful in teaching that concept before moving on to the next one. A low positive response rate lets the instructor immediately know that students are struggling with the concept and don't yet understand it. Additionally, instructors can conduct graded quizzes with the system. Since the student‘s transmitter is registered, the instructor knows which students responded correctly. One faculty member on campus uses the system to allow students to guide the class session. Instructors at Iowa State currently using student response systems report that students' attention is increased during classes, since they are actively engaged by using the transmitter device. Why do students like a student response system? With a student response system, students are actively engaged in the learning process and they can assess their understanding of concepts before they leave class. Students also like the system because their response is anonymous to the rest of the class, and they are able to give feedback to the instructor without having to openly divulge that they don't understand a concept. Which system was selected for the fall 2005 student response pilot program, and why? The system selected for the pilot study is a radio frequency (RF) system, the CPSrf Higher Ed system by eInstruction ( RF systems offer significantly increased reliability, two-way ability, faster throughput, and significantly less infrastructure needs. Can the system be used for grading of quizzes/tests, or noting attendance? The RF nature of this technology allows for highly reliable throughput. Additionally, the RF technology allows two-way communications, which provides the student with immediate acknowledgement that their response has been received. So in the rare instance a response signal is dropped, the student knows right away, and can immediately resend. Do students in a class using CPSrf need to buy their own transmitter? Yes. CPSrf transmitters will be available at the University Book Store for approximately $16-$18. One transmitter can be used by a student in multiple classes, so if a student is enrolled in multiple CPSrf classes, they need only buy a single transmitter. The transmitter can be used for multiple semesters. Are there additional costs for the students after they have purchased a transmitter? Each transmitter needs to be licensed once per semester. If the student uses the transmitter in more than one class, only one license payment is required for that semester. That cost is $15, and is done through eInstruction‘s website after the transmitter has been purchased. If I want to teach a class with CPSrf in the fall, what do I do now? Contact Matt Darbyshire, Instructional Technology Center (ITC), at or 515-294-6074. ITC staff will work with FP&M Room Scheduling to place your class in a room equipped with this technology. Are there problems with student responses being dropped by currently used campus systems? Yes, that has been an issue with the infrared (IR) technology in use in some classrooms. IR has significant technical limitations in several areas. The radio frequency (RF) systems that will be used in this pilot, however, address and correct most of those issues. Reliability is far greater with RF, and the technical support required is greatly reduced. Does the CPSrf system send my CPSrf quiz information to WebCT? Iowa State staff will be working with eInstruction software designers to develop this import capability. Will the CPSrf system be installed in all campus classrooms? Not during this initial pilot project. Support staff will work with the faculty member and FP&M Room Scheduling to get a CPSrf class into properly equipped rooms. Will it cost my department anything to use the CPSrf system? The CPSrf systems will be supported centrally during the pilot program; central IT will provide technical support. The Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) will provide pedagogical support and system training. Can I use any other student response system in my class? Faculty can choose to use whichever system they want. However, they will need to build into their own departmental budget the installation cost of any non-CPSrf receivers or systems that they use in large classrooms and auditoriums. Those installation costs include labor, installation of AC outlets if necessary, wiring to a central location from the installed receivers, or the purchase of special wireless transmitters that pair up with the receivers to eliminate wiring. If, in a subsequent semester, the faculty member is assigned to a different classroom, they will need to budget for the non-CPSrf system to be de-installed and re-installed in the new classroom. Are these response systems complicated? Is training required? No. Many users will be able to load the software on their laptop and begin immediately. However, the system carries a number of features that can significantly enhance learning in classes. To fully and more quickly understand the system, it is recommended that you attend one of CELT‘s short workshops on this system. As an instructor, what do I need to bring to class to use this system? Simply bring your laptop with the software already installed. The software is free and can be provided by the ITC, or via download from the eInstruction website ( The students need to bring their transmitters. All other technical elements will already be in place in CPSrf-equipped classrooms. Will the CPSrf software work on my Macintosh computer? At this time, CPSrf software only works on Windows computers. The Macintosh OS X version of the software is scheduled for release in June 2005. Will my classroom need to have two screens so that I can project the system‘s ’response grid“? The response grid aspect of the system, which sometimes required using two projection systems, is a legacy of the IR systems. CPSrf does not require use of the response grid, since students get immediate confirmation of their response directly on their transmitter.