TC 450- MSU-Click

Introduction

“Why does the iClicker have to be so terrible?”

Although biased, this question is the question that sparked a semester long project which sought to improve the iClicker experience. Our group looked at multiple factors in what made iClicker design undesirable. What we noted is that there are many factors that play into why we had negative experiences with the iClicker. Firstly, there was the issue of the batteries.

 A user demonstrates how she uses her iClicker for classroom participation.

A user demonstrates how she uses her iClicker for classroom participation.

The issues involving the batteries were threefold; first, that the iClicker required an odd number of batteries (3) to operate, which means you have to buy a 4-pack of batteries and leave one laying around. Second, the weight of the batteries is distributed all onto one side of the device, making it difficult to balance in your hand, or on your lap. Third, the battery door would, without much force, pop off. We can see the problem that these issues can cause in tandem- while sitting in class, I try to balance the iClicker in my lap, but it drops onto the floor, where the battery door promptly flies off, and all 3 batteries go skittering across the lecture hall, leaving me without a way to answer the question that the professor has just put up on the board.

The next set of problems encountered was with the buttons, the layout, and the general feel of the device. The iClicker is made of one type of plastic, which is very slippery and cheap-feeling. It makes it hard to set on an angled desk because it just slides off, only to have the battery door pop off. To add to this, the buttons are all the same size and in a row- including the power button, which sits just below the “E” button. This obviously becomes an issue when you try to answer “E” near the end of a poll, but instead hit the power button, causing you to miss the poll, and perhaps miss points.

Finally, the utility (or lack thereof) was a major flaw. Students are paying $30 for this device, and all it does is sit in your dorm or apartment, save for the 20 minutes you might use it in class every week. Although I don’t know of any metric to measure “bang for your buck”, I get the idea that the iClicker would be at the bottom end of such a metric. Students are forced into purchasing a device with no utility outside of a few minutes of use in a classroom. With all of these things in mind, we began our project by collecting data about how students use the iClicker.


Design

Iteration 1: "The Wand"

The Wand was the first attempt at solving the main issues. A simple cylinder with buttons on the main body (and the power button on the top), the wand was slim and light, which meant you could carry it with you without it getting in the way. It was just slightly larger in diameter than a AA battery. The battery inside would be a Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery, eliminating the need for a new set of alkaline batteries. Our team also thought to expand its use by creating a docking station to sync answers and notes to slides presented by the instructor.

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Iteration 2: The Fob

The fob solved many of the same issues that the wand solved. However, we finely-tuned the user experience of the device. The device would include a screen to provide students with feedback for which answer they are transmitting. Like the wand, this device was small, light, unobtrusive, rechargeable, and more useful than the current existing device.


Prototypes

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Hardware

Hardware was designed in AutoCAD and 3D printed. The device printed is larger than the Key Fob desired because the printers available were unable to provide the right fidelity for a smaller model.

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Software

Revamp the available iClicker software to be more useful to both students and instructors. The new software provides methods to collaborate on presentations, annotate instructor's slides, and share knowledge across the class.


Evaluation and Application

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User Survey

We collected survey responses from 43 people. Of the 43, 6 commented on the iClicker and iClicker system. The comments are overwhelmingly constructive crticisms about the hardware or the use of iClickers.


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Jeremy RookComment