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Students and the great clicker debate of 2011

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Shoulds students have their grades affected if they don't show up to lecture?Does your school have clickers now that you’re back from winter break?

If you read the New York Times, then you are aware of the fact that Northwestern University in Chicago recently began using interactive remotes to take attendance in big lectures.

UCLA began using the clickers in 2006 in their freshman courses because attendance was so low.

This process worked like this: in the middle of lecture, the professor (in all his PowerPoint glory) asked a multiple choice question about the readings assigned or something discussed in an earlier discussion. Students in attendance, like the good young adults that they are, correctly input their answer on the remote and it was then recorded à la Who Wants to Be a Millionaire’s ask the audience poll.

Of course, the purpose of these questions isn’t to check whether you’ve been paying attention, but whether you’re in class or not.

And therein lies the debate that will surely become a hot topic in 2011.

Why are these clickers so important? Do professors really care if we’re in lecture or not? What about the students who do the reading but have a scheduling conflict with the class (usually they can attend the smaller discussions, for which attendance is mandatory)?

We don’t know who to side with on this one.

Professors usually care about students when their pupils take time out of their busy social calendars to discuss a recent lecture topic, but not so much when they just sit in the back.

So why the need for attendance? We have a few theories:

1. Administrative Board

The schools administrative board is forcing them to check in with students to get them graduating in four years. While you may think colleges want to keep you to get more money, they just want you to become a successful statistic. If attendance is enforced, classes look more attractive to younger students and the school gets a good rep.

2. Professors Reputation

Same theory, but more personal. Professors need to keep up a good reputation in a time of lay offs and pay cuts. If their classes are full every time there’s a lecture, they look better than the professor who’s kooky and smarter than every teacher but doesn’t require lecture attendance.

3. Student’s Learning

Is it possible professors actually care about the student’s learning? We’d say maybe if we didn’t go to a big school, but most professors are so involved with research and outside the classroom projects, its hard to believe they care about attendance for the benefit of the student. But weirder things have happened, no? (ahem, crazy bird apocalypse, anyone?)

Then, of course, since college students are eligible to vote (once they hit 18) shouldn’t they have a say in how their classes are conducted? We don’t want anarchy, but we’re adults too and certainly deserve a say in the matter.

Everyone learns differently, and while class is very valuable to many students, it can also be a burden to those who have trouble focusing in big lecture settings, people with hearing problems, students who learn through kinetic reading instead of listening to a detailed monologue and copying it down verbatim.

Also, what about our texting and email conversations that need to be completed? Do professors really expect us to stop conversing with our besties just because class has started? We hope not… that’s crazy!

So in conclusion, the clicker debate will continue… We don’t really see how its fair, but it doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon.

Ahhh, bureaucracy.