Rutgers Physics Student Response System

Goals for the Project

It has been widely accepted for some time now that the conventional style large lecture courses which introduce physics to most students at large universities is extremely ineffective in producing true learning, especially conceptual learning. Among the many reasons, of clear importance is a lack of concentration by the students, lack of feedback for the instructor, and lack of a feeling of participation by the students. Some will argue that attending the large lecture also provides no concrete reward for the student.

The Student Response System is designed to provide a flexible medium to alleviate these problems. It is being used in the large "Physics Lecture Hall", an amphitheater with 330 seats, arrayed in arcs around a central large lecture table. The room is used primarily for introductory physics lectures.

Because this project was minimally funded ($9,000 initially and about $13,000 in total, except for time of current staff), the design was restricted to having extremely simple stations for each student. We settled on a station consisting of a surplus telephone keypad and three LED lights, embedded in a machined plastic armrest which replaced the previous armrests. The stations are connected through a hierarchical structure, ultimately to a PC workstation which is next to the lecturn. Facilities for projecting part of what appears on the PC screen are available.

The system is designed to be used flexibly, requiring only the programming of a controlling program that runs on the PC --- all details of the hardware are hidden from the controlling program. As the system has only been used for a few months, there are currently only two modes of use, tagged and untagged multiple choice questions, but other modes should be possible if they are found pedagogically desirable.

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