Professors find iClickers useful classroom tools despite cheating

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The iClicker is a popular tool in some classrooms for teachers wishing to gain feedback from their students. However, the nature of the handheld electronic device makes it easy for students to cheat. (Photo illustration)

Photo Credit: Allen Otto | Daily Texan Staff

The increasingly popular clicker device has been used as a tool for cheating rather than learning, according to several UT students and professors.

About the size of a TV remote, clickers are used to encourage attendance and facilitate class participation, but students can use them to cheat by asking a friend to check in for them while they skip class.

Physics freshman Jaci Eckert said she knows several groups of students who take advantage of the system. Students pick days they want to attend class, and on days they do not attend, they hand their devices to others in the group, she said.

“There are a number of people I have seen who kind of work in groups for attendance reasons with the clicker,” Eckert said.

Professors have recognized the problem and now instruct teaching assistants to keep an extra eye out for students with more than one clicker, musicology professor Andrew Dell’Antonio said.

“While I haven’t personally caught anyone cheating, I do know some colleagues who have,” Dell’Antonio said. “I tell my classes that if we do find someone, we will confiscate both clickers and penalize both students.”

The clickers are not usually used for exams because professors realize it is not a secure way of submitting answers, Dell’Antonio said. They are instead used for questions of opinion that can neither be right nor wrong, he said. Students are not tempted to cheat in these situations because they are not afraid of their grades being affected by a wrong answer, Dell’Antonio said.

“Once a student picks an answer, they tend to be more invested in defending its merits,” he said.

The risks of the clicker are worth it to the professors because it is an instantaneous system for making sure students understand the material, Dell’Antonio said.

“I’ve had good experiences with the clicker,” he said. “We can spend more time on an issue because I know if a large percent of the class doesn’t get it.”

Senior biology lecturer Sata Sathasivan said clicker quizzes play an important role in his large introductory biology class. He said cell phones could be used as the clicker, and people would be less inclined to give their phones to their friend to cheat. It would also eliminate the cost of buying another school supply, Sathasivan said.

“All we need to do at UT is double the bandwidth on campus to ensure students get reception in every classroom,” he added.

Clicker quizzes or questions are always simple with no right or wrong answers, so there is no reason for students to cheat, chemistry junior Ruhin Vahora said.

Printed on September 8, 2011 as: Professors find clickers useful, problematic