How to Use Interactive Lecture Systems

tophatSeveral faculty at the College of Veterinary Medicine use clickers to bring a level of engagement and interactivity to large lecture courses. During the spring semester, you’ll hear the Office of Teaching & Learning introduce an eLearning tool that allows students to use mobile devices (phones, tablets, iPads) and computers as clickers. This web-based platform, available across OSU, is called TopHat.

The value of clickers and TopHat includes:

  • Assisting an instructor to identify when students are confused and why the confusion occurred.
  • Focusing students on concepts that are important or presenting them with challenging ideas that have multiple plausible answers and creating spirited discussion as a result.
  • Generating deeper, more specific questions from a wide range of students.
  • Taking care of administrative issues like attendance.

These benefits, however, only come with careful consideration of instructional goals and learning outcomes in relationship to the questions posed. Questions for use with clickers or systems like TopHat are designed to do the following:

  1. Quiz on an assigned reading.
  2. Test recall of a lecture point.
  3. Calculate an equation.
  4. Survey students on backgrounds or opinions.
  5. Elicit/reveal pre-existing thinking.
  6. Test conceptual understanding.
  7. Apply ideas in a new context/explore implications.
  8. Predict results of experiments or simulations.
  9. Draw on knowledge from everyday life.
  10. Relate different representations (graphical, mathematical, etc.).

The bolded uses indicate those with largest direct impact on learning.

If you have not used this type of system before, here’s a recommended process for doing so following a review of how to use the technology. (The Office of Teaching & Learning is available to assist with the latter.)

Step A: Post a question with clear articulation about its purpose but without showing possible answers or distractors (choices in a multiple choice question). This step focuses the students’ attention. Not seeing the answers encourages them to use their notes or other course materials to respond.

Step B: Allow students time to think about the question individually and then engage in small group discussion. Peer discussion improves both understanding and ability to communicate technical ideas. It also gives students the opportunity to defend reasoning or analyze the reasoning of others.

Step C: Students submit a response. The results indicate mastery or the need to spend more time on a topic.

Step D: Lead a whole class discussion to reinforce “correct” answers or reasoning and clarify how incorrect answers might have been selected. This also allows the opportunity for students to generate additional questions.

If you are interested in learning more about TopHat, visit  or and keep an eye out for workshops this spring.

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