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7 Things You Should Know About Open-Ended Response Systems

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


An open-ended student response system is an electronic service or application that lets students enter text responses during a lecture or class discussion. Open-ended systems give faculty the option of collecting such free-form contributions from students, in addition to asking the true/false or multiple-choice questions that conventional clicker systems allow. Such tools open a channel for the kind of individual, creative student responses that can alter the character of learning. The great strength of open-ended student response systems may be that they create another avenue for discussion, allowing students to join a virtual conversation at those times when speaking out in live discourse might seem inappropriate, intimidating, or difficult.

The "7 Things You Should Know About..." series from the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) provides concise information on emerging learning technologies. Each brief focuses on a single technology and describes what it is, where it is going, and why it matters to teaching and learning. Use these briefs for a no-jargon, quick overview of a topic and share them with time-pressed colleagues.

In addition to the "7 Things You Should Know About…" briefs, you may find other ELI resources useful in addressing teaching, learning, and technology issues at your institution. To learn more, please visit the ELI Resources page.

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The big worry, of course, with such Web 2.0 systems is that students will be distracted by the many other possibilities that laptops and smart phones provide.  At the University of Michigan many large classes now use LectureTools, which allows open-ended responses plus image-based, reorder list, association and multiple choice questions.  Research on its use over multiple semesters has shown that students do, in fact, find the availability of laptops to be a distractive force but when the laptops are deliberately engaged for the purpose of questioning and student response (and note-taking with LectureTools) they are more attentive and significantly more engaged. 

LectureTools runs on all platforms and is freely available to all instructors.


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