Interactive feedback in classroom teaching
(Clickers and mVote)

Feedback systems are interactive voting systems (also referred to as clicker systems) with which students can answer and ask questions in course lectures. The results are automatically evaluated and can then be displayed in the form of diagrams or similar. Either hardware or software-based systems can be used for this.

A hardware-based system offers each student a small device which enables voting by pressing a button or entering a short text. In Göttingen, such systems are available, for example, in Room MN14 in the Geosciences or (to a limited extent) from Prof. Indre Maurer. An advantage of the system is its reliable usability in the rooms where its use is intended. The organisational effort associated with issuing to students and the procurement costs are the disadvantages.

Software-based systems (and online services) use the internet connected devices of the students (such as smart phones, tablets or laptops) instead of separate voting devices. No costs are accrued for procurement of additional hardware and the total expense is small for the lecturer. It is potentially problematic that not all students have a mobile end-device and that the use of such devices in the lecture course can be distracting.

Why deploy interactive feedback systems?

Feedback systems are highly suited for use to mobilise students in large courses. They make it possible for the lecturer to not just interact with a few students but rather to involve the whole auditorium in the teaching. Voting procedures enable short breaks for reflection and discussion during which the students can go into the teaching content in more depth during active debate. This can also be augmented by further small group work methods.

How do I deploy interactive feedback systems?

For correct use, the questions to be voted on in the classroom lecture must be prepared in advance. For this purpose, open and closed questions are created based on the learning objectives. After a technical introduction into the particular system (1 x each lecture series), students are guided and supported in voting.


Interactive feedback systems are suitable for...

three different levels:
  • Level 1: questions which inquire about factual knowledge and serve as a starting point for short discussions with the student’s seatmate or as an entry point into the lecture. Usually, these questions are simple quiz questions which can be answered using the teaching material which has been dealt with beforehand or from their own lecture notes. It should be possible to answer the questions correctly, at the latest after a short discussion. The objective of using them is to focus the students’ attention on the material.
    Ideas for practical use.
  • Level 2: questions which are challenging and demand intensive debate since they are concerned with concepts, disputed assumptions or ambiguous answers. The questions asked encourage students to intensive discussions which can then transition to a dialogue with the lecturer. The use of these questions necessitates fundamental changes to the lecture process in order to be able to react to the need for discussion and answer further questions which may arise as a result.
    Ideas for practical use.
  • Level 3: a lecture is constructed around several challenging voting questions - which frame and contain the entire study material in the study unit. The questions which are posed are used to prompt the students to structured, independent debate about the material provided. This can happen in fixed or changing groups or in individual work so that all the students need to actively address the material. A large proportion of the classroom period is expended on group work, clarification of queries and discussions. Ideally the questions are constructed in such a way that the students are directed from one topic to the next. It is both an advantage and a disadvantage that the students must come prepared to the classroom since no collaboration is possible otherwise. Such a use of feedback systems could take place for example, within the framework of inverted classroom models or other blended learning scenarios.
    Ideas for practical use.

For all three levels, it is important that the added value of the application is apparent to the students. Accordingly, the systems should be explained, and incentives given for participation (e.g. the prospect that feedback questions could also be questions in the written examination, etc.).

What are the stumbling blocks?

Now, such polls are not a magic bullet by themselves, rather they depend to a great extent on the quality of the questions and their integration in the overall concept. It has been demonstrated that especially questions which are too easy lead to negative results. Whereas questions which necessitate a thorough examination of the material conveyed have a positive effect on learning success. However, questions can be used for more than just knowledge testing but rather for many other purposes.

How do I use interactive feedback systems? / Where can I get help?

An online voting service (mVote) which is available to all teachers in the University has been developed for use in courses at the University of Göttingen under the Chair for Application Systems and eBusiness (holder of the professorship: Prof. Schumann) in cooperation with the Service for Digital Learning and Teaching.

More information on the mVote, its access options and application ideas can be found here.

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For training courses on all aspects of the subject mVote, please write to us under or look in our current range of courses.