Saturday, 22 February 2014

mQlicker: a great way to make teaching more interactive?

As Nik Peachey points out in a recent post, university lecturers have faced some criticism lately for not taking on board developments in our understanding of pedagogy by simply continuing to deliver direct instruction rather than anything more interactive in the lecture theatre.

Speaking as a current MA student, I believe traditional instruction can still work if complementary handouts are provided, and students are attentive listeners and good note-takers. Nevertheless, a wholly instructor-centred approach towards content delivery may run the risk of tiring one's audience, not to mention the fact that it forces all students to conform to a single "approved" learning style. In the interests of sustaining engagement, a more interactive style may suit a wider range of students.

With this in mind, I plan today to follow in Nik's footsteps and review mQlicker, a relatively new and seemingly quite powerful Audience/Classroom Response System - the purpose of which is to enable audiences/classes to provide instant responses via mobile devices by means of activities such as mobile polling and mobile surveys.

Relevance and Rationale
Applications such as Triptico can be used to promote face-to-face classroom interaction, as I indicated in an earlier review. However, admirable though such apps are, there is a limit to their scaleability and they certainly cannot elicit feedback from all corners of a classroom at once. And this is possible nowadays with so many students carrying smartphones and other web-enabled devices: questions, quizzes and the like can quickly elicit a lot of feedback via a backchannel given the right choice of app.

Here at Warwick on both our ICT/Multimedia and Professional Practice modules we've used Today's Meet for backchannelling purposes, and insofar as it can obtain quick feedback in response to spontaneously-posed questions it's not a bad app by any means. However, now that I've looked into the matter it does seems as though mQlicker is much more versatile and offers teachers a wide range of appealing options. So I'll briefly run through what I believe to be its most valuable differentiating features.

Question presentation can be supported by rich formatting that allows you to base questions around images (touch devices can "pinch-to-zoom" to look at these more close-up), or embedded YouTube videos and other forms of multimedia. Questions can meanwhile be grouped into pages or displayed in a predetermined or random order.

Meanwhile, the audience (wherever it is situated: this can work in online settings, too) can be given a range of different types of question to answer (i.e. multiple choice with single or multiple selections; or alternatively, respond with a number or WhatsApp message).

Here is a question I created earlier - the prompt was: "Which of these methods do you use to improve your English outside of class?"

And here are the possible answers:

Students can use their mobiles, iPads, or laptops to submit responses provided they have first joined the session by means of the session key provided by their teacher.

Once received, audience responses can be aggregated and presented live using a projector, integrated with PowerPoint or even exported as a spreadsheet for analysis. Here are the results obtained from an audience of two "students":

mQlicker is highly useable. It offers WYSIWYG ("What You See Is What You Get") editing, in most instances allows you to drag and drop content, and provides a number of powerful search features that can help you put together great content quickly. You can save questions to a Question Bank, perform previews while still editing your work, and you can organize your data by means of a user-defined folder structure. It's really quite flexible.

There is no limit to the audience size with this app, nor to the number of open sessions one may run concurrently. It can be accessed from any web- or HTML-enabled device and Android, iPhone, iPad and Blackberry devices additionally receive enhanced support. It's easy to participate given a session key or permalink, and permalinks can easily be distributed by means of QR codes. The SSL (secure sockets layer) also offers a high degree of security and ought more or less to guarantee respondent confidentiality.

For a product demonstration, you may also follow this link to mQlicker's  website:

Propensity to foster language learning
Posing questions via mQlicker may be a faster way of eliciting audience feedback than simply asking your listeners to swap opinions with a neighbour, for example. The fact that it allows for anonymised feedback also means that you have every chance of eliciting feedback from practically the whole class - it is a very democratic tool. It's also a big plus that video/multimedia can be integrated here.

What's more, it can provide useful input to course planning. At the outset of a course, it could be a very effective way of finding out about your students as part of initial needs analysis.

Meanwhile, results displayed in real-time via professional-looking charts will impress students and certainly appeal to the visually-oriented. Promised future features such as automatic marking and individual point-weighting of questions may offer opportunities to further "gamify" the question-and-answer process and make lectures/presentations more entertaining.

All in all, mQlicker seems to offer opportunities for speedy interaction and looks like being a great way to improve teacher-student interactions in class. The main thing seems to be that students should be made aware that they should have their devices ready when they come to class!

The speed with which mQlicker can elicit feedback from an audience and class is certainly impressive. Nevertheless, an IRF (Instruction-Response-Feedback) is only one mode of interaction in the grander scheme of things. There will surely be times when e.g. pair work without added technology is preferable for language lessons: no tool can be a substitute for quality student-student interaction.

Also, as with any concept predicated on BYOD (bring your own device) or MALL (mobile assisted language learning), the key to mQlicker working well is having students who possess the devices required to make the concept work.

If you have that, though, the tool has so many affordances it seems well worth adding to the armoury of any teacher seriously intent on making teacher-fronted stages of their classes more interactive and engaging. It also appears that the app's creators are not resting on their laurels and are continuously trying to improve their product in response to user feedback. It really does look like a tool to try out in 2014.

1 comment:

  1. I am interested in using - but reluctant because usually if something is free it is gathering information (to sell) OR there are ads involved.
    What is the catch with mqlicker? How can the app be free?