In order to maintain a continuous dialog with the students, it is important to give them space to ask questions. However, many students may hesitate to contribute verbally in front of their peers, especially in large courses. This can be for a variety of reasons, from shame and insecurity to fear that their questions might seem trivial.
With the KlickerUZH, students can ask their questions anonymously during the lecture. They can discuss their issues in a secure environment and express their uncertainties unashamedly. For the lecturers, the KlickerUZH serves as a helpful tool to keep an overview of the knowledge of their students and to see where there are any comprehension problems. It is up to the lecturers whether they make the questions visible to all and promote interaction among the students or whether they answer the questions in a pre-selected manner.
With this approach, the KlickerUZH creates a connection between lecturers and students and promotes an open and inclusive learning environment in which questions and discussions are actively encouraged.
Asking questions undoubtedly promotes learning and understanding. But what exactly makes the dialogue between lecturers and students so effective and successful?
In an anonymous setting, such as the KlickerUZH provides, a safe environment is created for students which has been shown to encourage student participation (Roberts & Rajah-Kanagasabai, 2013).
Tan et al. (2020) show further advantages of such Q&A sessions, which affect not only students but also lecturers. Namely, Q&A provides an efficient way to identify students' most common questions and problems and answer them directly in the lecture for everyone, rather than individually after the lecture.
With regard to large lectures with hundreds of students, the research of Exeter et al. (2010) show that the interaction with students as in the setting of smaller classes can be very supportive. Thus, it is important to create a platform where students can ask questions easily and feel well taken care of, as in small classes. This motivates students, allows them to process the course material better and, ideally, stimulates their critical thinking by engaging with the course topic.
Scenario Description with KlickerUZH
You are a lecturer delivering large-class lectures with limited opportunities for personal interaction. To enable students to interact with you in a more approachable way even if they participate online, you start a session in the KlickerUZH and enable the anonymous Q&A channel. Throughout the lecture, students access the Q&A channel on their own devices to post new questions or upvote existing ones. Depending on your preference, you can choose either the unmoderated Q&A channel, where questions are immediately available for interaction by all participants, or enable moderation to pre-approve incoming questions before they are visible to others.
You have the option to respond to questions during the lecture, either immediately or after briefly reviewing them during a break. Alternatively, if you have a teaching assistant, they can provide prompt responses to straightforward questions. Any particularly important or challenging questions that require more in-depth answers can be pinned to the lecturer cockpit, allowing you to address them orally during the lecture. At the end of the lecture, you export the questions and answers from the Q&A channel and post them to the learning management system (LMS), ensuring that students can access and review your responses even after the lecture ends.
While KlickerUZH employs gamification to incentivize various activities, it's important to highlight that the live Q&A feature operates differently compared to other learning activities. The aim is to foster active participation and meaningful knowledge sharing, rather than encouraging questions solely for the sake of earning points. Therefore, no points are awarded for asking questions during live Q&A sessions.
The KlickerUZH Q&A has been successfully implemented in various large lectures at UZH, including classes with up to 1,000 students, since its inception in 2021. In order to assess the effectiveness of the Q&A approach in university teaching, two surveys were conducted in 2021 and 2022. One survey was distributed to the lecturers who integrated the live Q&A feature (n=5 lecturers), while the other survey was displayed to students during the live Q&A through a banner (n=29 students). The insights gained from these surveys, along with valuable inputs from lecturers and content creators, have yielded the following valuable learnings:
- Moderation: In very large lectures, moderation of the Q&A channel becomes crucial due to the high volume of questions, including irrelevant ones. Moderation enables the filtering and approval of questions before they are visible to other participants, ensuring that only relevant and meaningful questions are addressed and displayed.
- Participation level: The participation level in the Q&A channel tends to be higher in larger lectures (500-800 students) compared to the smaller lectures (200 students). In the large assessment lectures based on our internal survey, more than half of the participants claimed to have posted questions in the Q&A in at least one lecture, 73% of these did so in 1-4 lectures during the semester.
- Effort to manage the Q&A channel: According to survey responses from lecturers, the effort required to manage the Q&A channel is considered valuable and worthwhile. Lecturers recognize the benefits of engaging with students through the Q&A functionality and find it beneficial for enhancing the learning experience.
- Continuing to use: All surveyed lecturers expressed a high likelihood, whether likely or extremely likely, to continue using the Q&A functionality in their future teaching. This suggests the positive impact and value that the Q&A channel brings to their instructional practices.
- Time consumption: Answering questions orally during class takes time. It is helpful not to answer questions too frequently so as not to disrupt the flow of the lesson.
- Interaction by students: Findings from the survey indicate that around 45% of students actively read or upvoted existing questions, indicating engagement with the Q&A channel. Additionally, 22% of students posted their own questions, showing active participation. Only a small percentage (5%) of students had not yet heard of the Q&A channel, suggesting a widespread awareness among the student population.
- Student feedback: Feedback from students indicates a positive perception of the Klicker Q&A functionality, with students acknowledging its benefits in improving their understanding of the lecture contents. The Q&A channel has provided a platform for students to seek clarification, receive answers to their questions, and gain a deeper understanding of the subject matter.
- In November 2021, lecturers using the KlickerUZH Live Q&A functionality have received over 400 questions, about 150 of which were resolved with a response through the tool. 62 were resolved without a response (e.g., orally or implicitly), and 68 were deleted (e.g., because of their irrelevance). The length of feedback responses ranged from extensive 530 character explanations to single words like "No".
- Encourage students to ask questions by providing them with an anonymous channel.
- Enable students to get answers to questions as soon as they come up instead of postponing them (e.g., to forum posts).
- Make remote participants feel included by allowing them to ask questions during lectures.
- Enable lecturers and their team to provide rapid feedback on incoming questions.
- Improve the efficiency of the Q&A workflow by batching questions (in sessions, with upvotes, etc.).