eCOTS 2012 - Breakout Session #8

"Simulations, Audience Response Systems and the Classroom: Engaging the Modern Student"
with S. Camille Peres and David M. Lane, Rice University


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The "modern student" prefers active to passive learning. Two technological developments that have facilitated the design of an active classroom are interactive simulations and audience response systems. We believe these technologies can be used synergistically. Here we describe the way we have integrated the use of simulations into the classroom lectures with the an audience response system (ARS).

The query first (QF) method involves students answering questions about the concept the simulation illustrates before they interact with it and then answering those same questions again after they have worked with the simulation (Garfield, delMas, & Chance, 1999; Peres, Lane, & Griggs, 2010). The benefits of using the this method are (1) that the students start thinking about the concepts before interacting with the simulations and (2) they (and we) get immediate feedback on their comprehension of the material when they answer the post-simulation questions. The ARS is used with the simulations so that students answers to the initial query are entered on an ARS.

The benefits of using the ARS in this process is that students tend to enjoy both the interactive nature of the ARS and the anonymity. Many of the students have told us personally that they are embarrassed to have their fellow students know the concepts they find difficult. The ARS system allows them to engage without risking embarrassment.

A typical use of simulations with the ARS system is as follows:

  • After lecturing about a particular topic, as a class, we ask students questions related to the simulation we are about to demonstrate and students respond using the ARS.
  • Next, we step them through the fundamental aspects of the simulation and how to interact with it. Students then explore the answers to the questions on their own using the simulation. After working with the simulations for a period time and sometimes receiving help using it, the students answer the questions again using the ARS. This second round of questions gives us information about which of the concepts the students understood and which concepts need further review. We had initially expected the second round of questions to be unnecessary since the students would be working with the simulation to answer the questions but we have consistently found the second round to be very helpful since it gives us and the students direct information about how they are doing.

We propose to demonstrate this process, provide some feedback from students who experienced this in class, and discuss further ways ARS's could be used with simulations.


S. Camille Peres
S. Camille Peres

David M. Lane
David M. Lane