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VoTech - Professor Feedback from Low Tech Student Responses

VoTech Response System

Purpose

Many teachers already get feedback from students through the form of a question open to the classroom, relying on students to volunteer answers. In this manner only those who answer get the real benefit of recalling the lecture’s information. The VoTech Response System seeks to get every student in the classroom involved. This not only spreads the benefit to every student, but also gives the instructor an idea of the overall understanding. From the data collected through the response system, the instructor will know if they need to take a step back to review or move forward with new material.

Educational Benefits

Research on remote clickers used to provide digital feedback on multiple choice questions shows that students perform better on exams when self-checks through in-class questioning are performed. At the University of Arizona -- where these voting cards were first introduced – classrooms saw more students participating and more correct answers once the studies moved from clickers to voting cards, hypothesized to be due to the perceived social motivation at play when having to physically display an answer. Anecdotally, students explained how the self-checks also made them more interested in the topics, improved attention during lectures, and served as a tool to analyze their own learning style. Using the VoTech response system, students will also be able to view the tallied responses for each choice to get a feel for how they are performing against the rest of the classroom.

Benefits for Instructors

Because each student is holding a brightly colored voting card, instructors will immediately have an idea of the students’ comprehension just by glancing over the classroom. This can guide their lectures’ progression, signaling a need for review if the colors are widely varied or confirmation that it is time to move on. Use in large lecture halls will also highlight problem groups, allowing instructors to target those students in interactive sessions of a class. Later versions of VoTech will also gather statistics over multiple questions and lectures to provide greater insight for instructors.


Procedure

In developing the VoTech Response System, our team designed its usage to be as beneficial to the user as possible, while still maintaining high card detection accuracy. Hardware setup is as simple as mounting an HD webcam at a vantage point providing the best overlook of the classroom. Placing a tripod on a table should suffice for most small- to medium-sized classrooms. However, if a clear view is not possible at this height or a more permanent setup is preferred, a wall or ceiling mount may serve your purpose.

Once the webcam is positioned and connected to your computer, VoTech needs to perform a brief calibration procedure to understand the lighting conditions in the room. This assists the detection algorithms in finding the right colors. In the calibration mode the software will automatically detect the students’ faces in view. The instructor may augment this detection by selecting students that were missed or occluded. Each student will then hold their cards unfolded so that all four are facing the camera. Calibration will automatically execute and the questioning session may begin.

Voting cards can be printed from any traditional printer, though a test page should be printed to ensure that the ink is not too glossy. High gloss ink or paper will cause specular reflections that can disrupt accurate detection of voting cards. Once printed, students simply fold the paper to show one of the four voting cards.

Future Development

Our first goal in future releases of the VoTech Response System will be to incorporate response statistics over multiple sessions. These will start as general statistics for an entire class, saved under class profiles. However, when face detection moves to face recognition, we hope to carry information on individual students.

Some other features we will work on are to incorporate the “I don’t know” response option and PowerPoint integration. This extra response type would be done by unfolding the cards to show all four options.

The Software