What are Audience Response Systems?

Classroom audience response systems provide learners with handsets (or other input devices) that enable them to respond to instructor questions or other queries. Learner inputs are typically compiled in a database and are displayed through a projection system so that learners and instructors can see the results. Today’s audience response systems typically include (a) handsets, (b) a receiver to gather learner inputs, and (c) software to compile, capture, and display learner inputs. In addition, these systems require (d) a computer, and (e) a projection system. When used for data gathering, the systems can by augmented with (f) spreadsheet software. Older response systems were often hardwired, whereas most current systems are portable and wireless.

The following graphic diagram shows the most critical elements of audience response learning.



Although others who have diagrammed these systems often omit the instructor—probably to avoid cluttering the diagram—I include the instructor to highlight the importance of instructor facilitation, question development, and session organization. One thing that is critical, but hidden in the diagram, is the software that runs the audience response interface. Note that some instructors prefer two projectors/screens, using one screen to show the question and one to display either (a) the acknowledgement of handset responses and/or (b) the graph of the answer results. Finally, note that due to space limitations the graphic above does not depict the learners working in groups or involved in discussion, a key component of the learning process.