Background: It has become commonplace for undergraduate medical students to attend lectures alongside 300 or more of their colleagues in large amphitheatres. The Audience Response System (ARS) is a technology that aims to address what has, as a consequence, become an inherently one-way learning environment, where audience participation is greatly impeded.
Context: Students’ experiences of lectures at Imperial College School of Medicine have been changing with the incorporation of this new technology, and here we discuss whether by enabling student participation through the use of hand-held remote controls, or ‘clickers’, such systems can help bridge the communication gap between the speaker and the students. In addition to our own experiences of the equipment, we also summarise the feedback given by medical students.
Innovation: Within the context of a digital presentation a lecturer poses a question, along with a number of possible answers. Students are then able to submit their selection using the clicker with which they have each been equipped. Using radio-frequency technology, the ARS is able to handle data in real time, and to immediately display a histogram of the spread of responses for all to see and compare.
Implications: The ARS confers benefits to lecturers and students alike. For the lecturers these benefits centre on an immediate awareness of the audience’s comprehension of the material, as well as of the progress of individual students. For the students, using clickers to answer questions during lectures appears to enhance their enjoyment, as well as to improve concentration and knowledge retention. Among the drawbacks that we discuss are the monetary cost of the technology, in addition to the training hours required for its implementation.