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July 3, 2012

DoIT News Moving to myUMBC Groups

As of today, the DoIT News will be published through the DoIT Group on myUMBC, which in turn feeds the new DoIT site at As such, we will no longer be maintaining this Movable Type blog. However, it will remain for archive purposes.

FYI to DoIT Group members:

How do I post a new blog in myUMBC groups?

If you have questions, please contact the Technology Support Center (TSC) located on the first floor of the library next to the RLC or call 410.455.3838.

Posted by fritz at 9:19 AM | TrackBack

April 7, 2010

Lunch and Learn Session on Turning Technologies Clickers

Earlier this semester DoIT announced that UMBC would be adopting Turning Technologies clickers starting in Summer 2010. In anticipation of this change, Elizabeth McConnell from Turning Technologies will be hosting a clicker Lunch and Learn session on Monday, April 19th from 11:00 am - 12:45 pm in ECS 022.

All faculty, whether or not they have used clickers in the past, are encouraged to attend. Lunch will be provided to registered participants. Please sign up at the training site.

Posted by readel at 9:40 AM | TrackBack

March 3, 2010

DoIT Adopts Turning Technologies Clickers Starting SU2010

The Division of Information Technology (DoIT) has decided to adopt the Turning Technologies Student Response System (SRS) or “clickers,” starting in Summer 2010. This means Turning Technologies (TT) will be the only clicker sold at the UMBC Bookstore, supported on instructor stations in UMBC lecture halls, and enabled for online class registration in all Blackboard courses.

The decision to change clickers is a difficult one because of the additional cost to students who have already purchased lifetime use of the Classroom Performance System (CPS) “clickers” from However, after a review of current clicker issues and support last year, including a Spring 2009 survey of active clicker faculty and students, and a TT pilot in Fall 2009, DoIT concluded the TT clickers were a better fit for achieving the pedagogical benefits of using clickers in the classroom.

To be clear, this was not an exhaustive review of the still maturing use of clickers among colleges and universities. To do so would have required even more time than DoIT is currently expending to support two clickers (one in pilot mode), and likely could have led to a decision to eliminate support of clickers altogether. However, building on Karin Readel's experience using TT clickers in her 100 student SCI100 class for several years, DoIT asked Phil Sokolove to pilot TT's newest clicker with Readel last fall. They presented their "lessons learned" during a Nov. 9 clicker faculty meeting. DoIT has also been consulting with Sunaina Khandelwal, a senator representing the Student Government Association (SGA), and has presented several updates to the Faculty Senate Computer Policy Committee (CPC), which approved the decision to adopt TT during its December 11 meeting, following an update about the FA2009 pilot.

TT clicker to be sold
in the UMBC Bookstore.
Currently, about 3,000 students in 20 large enrollment courses, particularly in the sciences, are using clickers. While the UMBC Bookstore will not be “buying back” CPS clickers, students who purchase a TT clicker from the Bookstore ($40.00) prior to the end of the fall 2010 semester, will receive a $10 rebate from TT. This offer does not apply to the same model for sale on TT’s E-commerce website for UMBC (school code = "UMBC" quotes omitted). In addition, there is an active online auction and exchange market for CPS clickers. The buyback value of the TT clicker at the Bookstore is $15, resulting in a potential net total cost to students of only $15.

Finally, for faculty who allow use of laptops and web-enabled cell phones in the classroom, TT provides students with the ResponseWare (software only) solution for an annual license of $16. A four-year license is $32 and the software can be downloaded for a free, 30-day trial. There is no additional registration cost for use of any TT clickers (hardware or software solutions) each semester, which was a vocal concern among students responding the Spring 2009 survey, and in recent discussions with the SGA.

Again, to be clear, DoIT is not urging faculty to allow students to use laptops or cell phones in classrooms, if they don’t now. Nor is DoIT promising students that all faculty will support this option. However, given the costs that students may have expended on lifetime use of CPS clickers already, the TT “software only” solution could be a less expensive way for the University to get through a transitional year or two.

DoIT will continue to provide updates on this transition between clickers, including training this summer when faculty can receive a free TT clicker and receiver, which can be used on their laptops (DoIT will install the TT software on all lecture halls this summer). For more information, visit

Posted by fritz at 9:09 AM | TrackBack

September 30, 2009

Peer Instruction Workshop

Peer Instruction Workshop
Thurs, Nov. 12, 2009, 10 a.m. - 12 p.m., UC 312
Limited to 30 participants

Peer Instruction
Eric Mazur is the Balkanski Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Harvard University. An internationally recognized scientist and researcher, he leads a vigorous research program in optical physics and supervises one of the the largest research groups in the Physics Department at Harvard University.

The basic goals of Peer Instruction are to encourage and make use of student interaction during lectures, while focusing students' attention on underlying concepts and techniques. The method has been assessed in many studies using standardized, diagnostic tests and shown to be considerably more effective than the conventional lecture approach to teaching. Peer Instruction is now used in a wide range of science and math courses at the college and secondary level.

In this two hour workshop, participants will learn about Peer Instruction, serve as the “class” in which Peer Instruction is demonstrated, discuss several models for implementing the technique into the classroom, and learn about available teaching resources.

Limited to 30 participants. For more information and to register, please visit

Posted by darnold at 11:10 AM | TrackBack

September 29, 2009

Webinar - Clickers and Peer Instruction: A Powerful Way to Improve Student Engagement and Learning, but Only If You Do It Right

Clickers and Peer Instruction: A Powerful Way to Improve Student Engagement and Learning, but Only If You Do It Right
ELI Web Seminar, October 5, 2009, 1-2 p.m.(joint viewing available in ECS 023)

Douglas Duncan
Douglas Duncan is a faculty member in the Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences of the University of Colorado, where he directs the Fiske Planetarium. He began his career at the Carnegie Observatories, where he was part of a project that found sunspot cycles on other stars. Subsequently, he joined the staff of the Hubble Space Telescope. In 1992, he accepted a joint appointment at the University of Chicago and the Adler Planetarium, beginning a trend of modernization of planetariums that has spread to New York, Denver, and Los Angeles.

Duncan is the author of “Clickers in the Classroom,” a guide to the powerful new technology that enables teachers to know what all their students are thinking, not just those who raise their hands. He has served as national education coordinator for the American Astronomical Society and has led efforts for better teaching and public communication for astronomers throughout the United States. From 1997 to 2002 he did science commentary on the Chicago public radio station WBEZ. He has authored over 50 refereed publications and his work has been funded by NSF, NASA, the Smithsonian, and the National Geographic Society. Duncan is now part of the University of Colorado group, founded by Nobel Prize winner Carl Wieman, which researches better ways of teaching science.

If you'd like to join us for a joint viewing of this webinar, please register at For additional information, please visit

Posted by darnold at 8:46 AM | TrackBack

September 15, 2009

CPS Clicker Student Help

Please remind students to contact eInstruction first if they have problems with their CPS clickers. If they do not get satisfaction within 24 hours (Mon-Fri) they may enter a Help Desk request (RT ticket). This request must contain documentation of their correspondence with eInstruction, and their clicker serial number.

Student Support (CPS™ Products Only!)
Phone 888-333-4988 (option 1, then 3, then 2)
Monday - Friday 8am-8pm EST
Sunday 3:30pm-9pm EST

Go to for chat support options and trouble shooting tips.

Posted by souder at 1:57 PM | TrackBack

August 20, 2009

UMBC Clicker Update: FA2009

FYI to all UMBC clicker faculty and students:

The following information is available on the UMBC Clickers Blackboard Community (myUMBC login required):

  • 5/6/09 Faculty Senate Computer Policy Committee (CPC) Update
  • SP2009 Clicker Student Survey Results
  • SP2009 Clicker Faculty Survey Results
  • 4/20/09 UMBC Turning Technologies Clicker Demo (also on YouTube)
  • 3/4/09 Clicker Faculty "Town Hall" meeting notes
  • 10/30/07 Clicker Faculty "Town Hall" meeting notes

    Note: Enrollment in the Bb "Clickers" community is separate from the "Clickers" email listserve. To be enrolled in either community, submit a myUMBC help request.

    Posted by fritz at 9:08 PM | TrackBack

    September 18, 2008

    FA2008 Clicker Support Issues: Duplicate IDs, Slowness, etc.

    In recent weeks, the Division of Information Technology (DoIT) has learned of and tried to work around issues related to the new version of eInstruction's Classroom Performance System (CPS) "clickers." Specifically, we have received reports of students getting a "duplicate pad ID" error message when they try to click, and we've heard some faculty have to wait as long as a minute to move from one question to another.

    After working with faculty and technical support staff at eInstruction, this is what we know.

    1. Duplicate Pad IDs

    Two weeks before the semester start, eInstruction issued a software update for PC and Mac CPS users. Part of that update included a feature called “Out of the Box," which enabled students to participate in class clicker sessions without having to register their clickers during the first 21 days of the semester. Ostensibly, students could go straight from the bookstore to class without registering, but after the 21 day window, they would be blocked. However, in some cases, this caused duplicate Pad ID numbers to appear in the CPS roster. It also seems to have interfered with properly registered users. The “Out of the Box” feature expired late last week, and we've requested that eInstruction make this an optional (not default) setting on their next release.

    In hindsight, we didn't realize what this setting was, and didn't have enough time to test its impact on other settings. We also knew of other problems that the update appears to have solved. For now, DoIT recommends that instructors sync their CPS rosters to confirm properly registered users on a weekly basis. The CPS "Best Practices" describes how to sync your class if you are unsure.

    2. Slowness

    While it appears to have subsided here at UMBC, eInstruction has acknowledged that slowness in displaying question results is a known issue. They expect to address this in a future update.

    3. Support

    UMBC standardized on CPS clickers in Spring 2007, but individual faculty had been using them a few years later. Currently, we support more than 4,000 student enrollments which represent nearly 3,000 distinct users. As demand has grown, DoIT has been working with eInstruction to represent our needs and support faculty teaching goals for audience response systems. As this technology matures, here are some recommendations for students and faculty to keep in mind:

    Students: Registering Clickers

  • Remember to consult UMBC's clicker support page at
  • Turn off browser pop-up blockers before trying to register a clicker.
  • ONLY register clicker through the appropriate Blackboard course.
  • Confirm your serial number when registering.
  • Use the same CPS student account for proper credit of payments.
  • If you encounter difficulties registering your clicker, contact eInstruction directly.

    Students: Using Clickers in Class

  • Make sure your batteries are fresh.
  • Wait for your professor to indicate the proper time to turn on your clicker.
  • Turn off your clicker between CPS classes.

    Faculty: Preparing to Use Clickers & Reporting Problems

  • Join the "clickers" email listserve (
  • Sit in on a class of an instructor who uses clickers.
  • If you use clickers, make them required by having students buy them in the bookstore.
  • If you encounter a problem, report it on the clicker listserve.
  • If you don't get a workable solution from your colleagues or DoIT staff, request support from eInstruction and make note of your support ticket or case ID number.
  • If you don't hear from eInstruction in a timely manner, contact Classroom Technology Manager Steven Anderson.

    DoIT is actively working with eInstruction to improve the support process and improve the performance of the clickers in the classroom. If you have any questions, concerns or suggestions, contact Steven Anderson or leave a comment on this announcement.

    Posted by fritz at 8:50 AM | TrackBack

    August 17, 2008

    Using Clickers to Control Online Access to Recordings of In-Class Lectures

    If you record in-class lectures and make them available online, why would students still come to class? If they don’t—but can pass exams—does it matter? While faculty have mixed feelings about recorded lectures, a combination of new technologies makes it possible to allow ONLY students who attend class to access recorded lectures online, for the purposes of review (not discovery).


    For several years, UMBC has been providing a lecture-capture taping service whereby student videographers are paid by professors or departments to trek across campus, set up tripods and cameras, capture a variety of lecture content (and formats), and bring them back for light editing, digitization and distribution online through open and (sometimes) closed access websites. While the process doesn’t scale particularly well, it is relatively unobtrusive to the faculty member, who can go about the process of lecturing pretty much the way he or she has always done.

    In recent years, lecture capture demand has grown as have a variety of solutions that include dedicated, wall-mounted, pan/tilt video cameras with remote control and automated, scheduled recording. These are attractive (and expensive) solutions, but still don’t address faculty concerns about whether students will come to class if the lectures are available online.

    Tamara Mendelson
    Tamara Mendelson
    A view of the lecturn at the start of Mendelson's Spring 2008 Biology class.
    Proposed Solution

    Last spring, after seeing a photo of 15 personal digital audio recorders aligned along the podium of a large biology class, we talked with the instructor, Tamara Mendelson, who explains her rationale for allowing them: “Everything I say is fair game for a test, so I tell the students ‘If I were you, I’d record it all.’ And they do.”

    Just like our labor intensive lecture capture service, Mendelson didn’t have to do anything and apparently the students were content to have only her PowerPoint presentations online and their own audio recordings. When we suggested she could make the recordings herself and post them on Blackboard, Mendelson wondered if she could limit access to only students who were in the class. In other words, she wanted to provide the online, recorded lectures for review by students who were present, not for discovery by students who were absent.

    Combined with our own lessons learned about simple screencasting software solutions, clickers and the use of a function called “adaptive release” in Blackboard, we realized it is possible to use a daily record of attendance collected by the clickers as a "precondition" for who can access recorded lectures that the instructor posts to his or her Blackboard site.

    While we are using MP3 digital audio recorders only, the same process can be used for recorded screencasts made with Camtasia and published in Blackboard, which we have been supporting for years.

    Essentially, any faculty member can adapt this cookbook “recipe” to use clickers to control access to any file or function in Blackboard:

    1. Record the audio of your lecture with an MP3 digital recorder (we’ve found a good one for $80) accompanied by a powerpoint; or make a screencast which combines audio and any actions or screens on the instructor’s vga display into one synchronized file (we like Camtasia).

    2. Ask at least one clicker question during the class period or (ideally) the lecture yourself so you don't get clicker-only "drop ins" (you might even want to ask questions at the start & end of the period/lecture).

    3. Upload your clicker grades into your Blackboard gradebook.

    4. Create a folder where your lecture materials (e.g., PPTs & audio or screencasts) will reside; make it unavailable to students so you can take your time uploading lecture materials.

    5. Upload your lecture materials

    6. Use Blackboard's "Adaptive Release" function to limit access to only those students who have ANY score (e.g., activity) for that day's clicker question(s)

    7. Make the lecture folder available.

    8. Send and/or post announcement that the day's lecture materials are available for REVIEW to students who were present and "clicked."

    For more information, DoIT has prepared a help sheet, which also uses short screencast videos to "show and tell" the process Mendelson will be piloting this fall:

    Posting/Controlling Access to Recorded Lectures

    Posted by fritz at 10:15 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

    "Clicker" Hardware & Software to be Upgraded in Lecture Halls

    Following a recommendation from, makers of the Classroom Performance System (CPS) "clickers" used on campus, the Division of Information Technology (DoIT), will be upgrading the clicker hardware and software in all lecture halls for start of semester.

    So far, DoIT has upgraded the CPS receivers in all of the lecture halls to the new receivers that are similar to the “stick” USB flash drives that many of us use to transport data. Testing has shown they accept the inputs from clickers faster and more reliably then previous versions.

    In addition, new PC versions of the CPS instructor software will be installed in all of the lecture halls. As a result, to remain compatible, DoIT strongly recommends that all instructors upgrade their PC or Mac CPS software on their computers as well. The download for the software can be found at

    FYI: One of the best features of the new CPS software is the ability to take attendance without having to start a Teacher Managed engage session.

    For more information, visit the eInstruction CPS support site or visit UMBC's "clicker" support site.

    Posted by fritz at 12:49 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

    August 3, 2007

    Audience Response "Clickers" on Campus

    Following an announcement by OIT, the use of CPS audience response clickers has continued to grow with the outfitting of all the campus lecture halls. Faculty teaching in Chemistry, Biology, Physics and Psychology are actively using the system, with several more faculty from other departments ready to begin in the Fall.

    Information about how to begin using the clicker system can be found online. If you have specific questions you can contact either Bob Armstrong (ext 5-3885 or or Steve Anderson (ext 5-3680 or

    Posted by rarmstro at 10:46 AM | TrackBack

    March 9, 2007

    OIT Standardizes on eInstruction "Clickers"

    RF CPS Response PadAfter two years of piloting with faculty in Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Psychology, the Office of Information Technology has decided to standardize on eInstruction's "Classroom Performance System" (CPS) student response units, otherwise known as "clickers" (see

    Currently, about 10 faculty and 1,000 students use the CPS "clickers" to provide instant feedback to multiple choice questions posed in class, typically through an overhead slide or PowerPoint presentation displayed on a screen. The CPS software displays how many units have responded to a question and immediately summarizes the results for all to see. Each student's answers can also be uploaded to a Blackboard gradebook for the course.

    For about $38 during their first semester (or $60 for use throughout their college career), students can purchase the hand-held units at the UMBC Bookstore and buy an activation code. The CPS response pads can be used for multiple courses and in any UMBC classroom with a computer and a free, USB installed radio-frequency (RF) receiver. OIT has equipped all lecture halls with CPS receivers, and instructors can get the CPS software, one receiver and one response unit from eInstruction free of charge.

    Biology Professor Phil SokoloveThis semester, OIT has been working with eInstruction to develop and support a wider rollout strategy, which will include a campus-wide demo by Biology Professor Phil Sokolove on Wednesday, April 18, at noon in Meyerhofff 120 (formerly Chemistry 120). Sokolove was the first UMBC faculty member to use CPS, and says he averages "about four clicker activities in 75 minutes" (to see an example, view his class which OIT tapes and publishes online for student review). Then, on Friday, April 27, at 1 p.m. in ECS 025, eInstruction's Marty Abrahamson will conduct a two-hour training workshop for faculty who want to use the CPS system in Fall 2007. To register for the 4/18 demo or 4/27 workshop, visit (light refreshments will be provided to registered participants).

    For more information, contact Steve Anderson (5-3680 or or Bob Armstrong (5-3885 or You can also visit the CPS Clickers "help sheet" on the Blackboard Help tab or

    Posted by fritz at 9:04 AM