The Personal Response System (PRS) at the University of Rochester. Frank L. H. Wolfs Department of Physics and Astronomy July 13, 2005
The Personal Response System • The personal response system was introduced in our large lecture courses to increase the involvement of the students in these courses. • Faculty can pose questions, students submit their answers using wireless transmitters, and the data are collected using a set of receivers connected to a computer running the PRS software which provides an immediate analysis of the results.
Personal Response System:The components. • Each student uses a transmitter to submit his/her answers. • The answers can be • Multiple-choice answers (up to 9 possible answers). • Numerical answers (integers only). • Each student can indicate his/her level of confidence by pressing the H key (high confidence) or L key (low confidence) before submitting their answer. The default confident level is M (medium confidence).
Personal Response System:The components. • The signals from the transmitters are received by several receivers. • The signals are infra-red signals and require line of sight. • The required processing time limits the number of users to about 40 per receiver (many receivers can be daisy chained). • Note: the use of RF technology would increase the cost by an order to magnitude.
Personal Response System:How did we get started? • The impact of PRS is well established, but cost has been the main reason not to adopt it. • In October 2003 I attended an AAPT meeting about the introductory Physics course curriculum, and found out that Prentice Hall offered the possibility of bundling the PRS units with their text book (the cost per book increased by $15). In addition, for every 40 text books sold, I would receive one receiver. • Since we already use books from Prentice Hall in our introductory physics courses, I decided to order the bundled version for Physics 121 for spring 2004, and Prof. Manly decided to do the same thing for Physics 114. • I received 8 receivers from the PRS company at no charge.
Personal Response System:How did we get started? • In January 2004 four receivers were installed in Hoyt hall and connected to the built-in PC. • The system was used successfully in both Physics 121 and Physics 114 during the spring semester (more details about the use in Physics 121 will be provided momentarily). • The success in these courses resulted in the interest of other faculty in other courses. But ….. • The cost of the PRS transmitter for students who did not buy it bundled was significant ($35 - $40 per unit). • The tie to Prentice Hall to reduce the cost of the transmitters is not a good thing. • Is there a market for used transmitters?
Personal Response System:How do we continue? • Planned usage of PRS for fall 2005 (700 students): • Astronomy 102 • Biology 110 • Physics 113 • Physics 122 • Physics 141 • I made an arrangement with the bookstore to have them purchase PRS transmitters. The students can rent the transmitters at a cost of $10 ($23 deposit is required). • PRS company delivered 16 receivers which were installed in Dewey, Hubbell, and B&L 106. • The Institute of Optics also equipped one of their class rooms with PRS receivers.
Personal Response System:How do we continue? • Everything seems to be working fine. Minor issues related to class files remain to be addressed. • Documentation about the use of the PRS at the U of R can be found at http://teacher.pas.rochester.edu/PRSatUofR/PRSInfo.html • The version of the PRS software installed in our lecture halls is version 2.8.8. I am in the process of evaluating version 3.20.0010 which I hope we will be using in Fall 2005. Both versions work on both Windows and MAC OSX.
Personal Response System:Other options. • Our selection of PRS was based on the initial bundling of the transmitters with our text books and the fact that we were able to obtain the receivers for all our lecture halls for free. • We (I) did not conduct an extensive market survey to examine all other options. Note: all other systems will have the same impact on our teaching. • If money considerations would not have been an issue, I would have selected an RF-based system.
Personal Response System:Examples of its use in Physics 121. • In Physics 121 (Mechanics for Science and Engineering Majors) I have used the PRS in many different ways: • Daily quizzes at the start of lecture. • Surveys. • Discussion provoking concept tests. • Attendance. • The PRS software collects information about the information send by each student. But, if you give credit for participation and/or quizzes, students need to know for sure their answer was accepted.
Personal Response System:The questions. • In Physics 121 PRS was used for quizzes, surveys, and concept tests: • Quizzes are used to ensure that students read the material to be covered in class before coming to class. • Concept tests are used to focus on difficult concepts in the material being discussed and provides immediate feedback on the misconceptions of the students. • Rather than reinventing the wheel, most of the quizzes and concept tests were taken from ”Peer Instruction” by Eric Mazur.
Personal Response System:Examples of its use in Physics 121. • Quiz at the beginning of class (based on the reading assignment): • 3 - 4 multiple-choice questions. • Part of the course grade. • A group of people always leaves right after the quiz. But …. I know who they are! • The occasional survey.
Personal Response System. • Sorry, you will have to work ……… • Let’s see if we can generate stimulating discussions …… by testing your knowledge of Physics.
Usage of attendance.Is it workshops or lectures? • Attendance information can be used for other studies. • For example, students who go to workshops are also more likely to go to lecture. Do they get better grades because of the workshop or because they come to lecture? • There is a lot of information available ……. A lot to learn from it.
What did the students think? • In general the in-class concept test were received well. The in-class discussion changed the class atmosphere ….. but the instructor must be willing to change focus on a moments notice based on the feedback from the students. • Quizzes were not well received, but this is always true, independent of the method of delivery. …… But, forcing student to come to class lowers your course opinion ratings! • Main complaints came from students who purchased the PRS transmitters separately (expensive).
Summary • The use of PRS has been successfully introduced at the U of R. • The simulating discussions that evolve as a result of the PRS system are a result of the questions being used. These discussions can take place in the recitation environment without having to rely on PRS hardware/software. • Anything that will increase the involvement of the students in lecture/recitation/workshop will increase their impact. • Note: now we have to detect high-tech cheating! • You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for any additional information.