Are iClickers really necessary for students to have?

Wilfrid Laurier University has used iClickers as a way of bringing technology into the classroom for years. Technology – and the role it plays in education – is ever-changing. The iClickers are meant to combat this by being used as a way to take attendance, give participation grades, administer quizzes and surveys, and better connect technology to learning. Despite their many uses, students have differing opinions on the usefulness of the devices.  

“Since we’re in the digital age now, I feel like we should be a lot more advanced when it comes to clickers,” said Sam Beltran, a first-year Youth and Children Studies student. “Even though it seems like a very simple device to use, people are still confused on how to use it.”  

Confusion isn’t the lone barrier in implicating this tech into teaching. The iClickers themselves often do not work. “Last week there was already technical difficulties,” Beltran said. Often times, the app doesn’t connect properly, or the system will freeze. This makes it hard to tell who gets participation grades and who doesn’t.  

Practicality is also a concern: “I like the idea of them, but it’s the way they’re implemented,” said Quinn Dougan, a fourth-year student in the social work program. “There’s better technology you can use for participation.” Most students already bring their laptop, phones, or tablets to class, and an iClicker remote is an extra. “Is it really necessary to have a $75 remote control when there could be something online we can do on our computers, rather than getting an electronic remote?” asked Beltran.  

Affordability is the main concern. University costs are high enough without the added amount of the iClicker. The clicker itself costs $60-75, and the app costs $10-15 for a one year subscription, but the app fails to work more often than not. Many upper-year students are eager to let their iClickers go, but know that even if they sell it, they’ll lose funds. “It loses 60 [to] 70 per cent of its value as soon as you tap your debit card,” Dougan said. Dougan bought his iClicker four years ago for one class in his first year. He hasn’t used it since, but still hasn’t sold because he is concerned that he’ll have to spend the money to buy a new one again. “Students don’t get a refund: they’re stuck. Even if they can resell it, it’s at half the price,” he added.  

iClickers can be useful – in many cases they are – but that differs from student to student. How often a student will use an iClicker is entirely dependant on their programs and electives. Some have many classes where they will use and need them, and the cost will be worth it. For others, like Dougan, the iClickers won’t be worth the hole burned in their pockets.

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