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J Undergrad Neurosci Educ. 2017 Jun 15;15(2):E13-E16. eCollection 2017 Spring.

The Benefits of a Real-Time Web-Based Response System for Enhancing Engaged Learning in Classrooms and Public Science Events.

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Investigative Biology Teaching Laboratories, Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853.
Science Cabaret, Ithaca, NY 14850.


Large introduction to neuroscience classes and small science cafés have the same goal: bridging the gap between the presenter and the audience to convey the information while being engaging. Early classroom response systems became the cornerstone of flipped and engaged learning. These "clickers" helped turn lectures into dialogues, allowing the presenter to become a facilitator rather than a "sage on the stage." Rapid technological developments, especially the increase of computing power opened up new opportunities, moving these systems from a clicker device onto cellphones and laptops. This allowed students to use their own devices, and instructors to use new question types, such as clicking on a picture or ranking concepts. A variety of question types makes the learning environment more engaging, allows better examples for creative and critical thinking, and facilitates assessment. Online access makes these response systems scalable, bringing the strength of formative assessments and surveys to public science communication events, neuroscience journal clubs and distance learning. In addition to the new opportunities, online polling systems also create new challenges for the presenters. For example, allowing mobile devices in the classroom can be distracting. Here, a web-based, real-time response system called Poll Everywhere was compared to iClickers, highlighting the benefits and the pitfalls of both systems. In conclusion, the authors observe that the benefits of web-based response systems outweigh the challenges, and this form of digital pedagogy can help create a rich dialogue with the audience in large classrooms as well as in public science events.


audience engagement; engaged learning; formative assessment; large classroom; public science events; science café; science communication


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