Interaction in the Classroom


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One of the key principles underpinning Curriculum 2016 is a desire to make greater use of technology to facilitate student centred approaches to pedagogical practice. Technology can be used in the classroom in a number of ways, primarily to address issues concerning the issue of attention span in a lecture typically decreasing about fifteen minutes after start of the lecture, but also introduce more student centred approaches and this facilitate greater level of student understanding and hence performance.


  1. Response Systems

One of the main methods technology can be used to facilitate interaction in classroom settings involves use of response systems, e.g. ‘clickers’. The University supported response system is TurningPoint, though Nearpod is a non-University system that provides some similar plus some different functionality. Both systems include a presentational element, e.g. slides containing content. However, the main use of a response system is to pose questions of students and obtain an immediate response. The design principles are similar to asking the audience in the television programme ‘Who wants to be a Millionaire?’ with students anonymously answering a question by selecting a specific answer from a series of possible answers.

The University supports a particular response system, TurningPoint, which is a PowerPoint add on, appearing as an additional tab in PowerPoint.

Fig (i) TurningPoint tab in Powerpoint

TurningPoint allows staff to create a closed question with a list of possible answers. Results then displayed using a range of graph types.

Nearpod is another approach to obtaining responses from students by also enabling staff to pose closed questions. In addition Nearpod lets students annotate a slide, post comments and upload photographs & images using a range of devices, including personal computer or tablet. The staff member can determine which comment and / or photo & image to share with the whole class. Unlike TurningPoint that can only be used in live teaching sessions, Nearpod can also be used for asynchronous teaching, for example students can be asked to use Nearpod to do some pre-session work that can then be developed further in a formal live teaching situation.

Types of question that can be asked include:

  • Assess student comprehension
  • Guide nature of teaching session(s)
  • Contingent teaching
  • Initiate group discussion
  • Peer learning
  • Revision
  • Collect research data
  • Feedback / evaluate session

Benefits to the teacher include:

  • Use interactive approach to teaching
  • Rapid feedback from large groups
  • Provide feedback to enhance learning
  • Inform structure of session
  • Identify areas for improving session

Benefits to students include:

  • Enjoyable
  • Participatory, actively engaged
  • Can inform session content
  • Answer anonymously if want
  • Iterative, i.e. reassess understanding
  • Improves:

    • Test results
    • Problem solving skills
    • Student participation in learning
    • Self assess their comprehension of a topic

The use of such technology has a number of limitations, including:

  • Superficial responses
  • Response error
  • Use of TurningPoint in summative assessment challenging as need to associate each handset with a specific student
  • No automatic feedback except correct answer if appropriate to the question

Whilst both TurningPoint and Nearpod tend to be technically reliable, staff should be aware that there are a number of potential problems in using response systems. These include:

  • Transmitter failure (TurningPoint)
  • Insufficient transmitters (TurningPoint)
  • Students’ device failure (Nearpod)
  • Students’ device unable to connect to Internet (Nearpod)
  • Normal technical failures
  • Voting option unclear
  • Response time too short
  • Insufficient time to view results
  • Unnecessary questions
  • Students ‘guess’ answer

Staff may want to consider having a fallback strategy in the event of technical malfunction, for example rely upon a show of hands to answer a question, eliciting verbal comments. Whilst both methods provide an alternative approach, the element of anonymity is removed and may thus alter student behaviour.

  1. Shared Page

Padlet moves the focus of control over pages viewed from the presenter to all attending a session. It not only has similar functionality to the annotation features of Nearpod, but provides a broader range of functions. It allows staff or students to create a web based page called a ‘wall’, in which one can either drag content into from a users’ computer or the user can directly enter content text content into the wall. Content might be a document, for example Word file, Excel spreadsheet or PowerPoint presentation; web page link or an image.

Each wall has a unique url (web page address) that can be shared with a student group so students can contribute comments, upload multi-media files, reposition and resize items within the wall. The wall owner can moderate comments, but contributors can edit and delete their own posted items. The wall can either be used in both formal teaching sessions and outside scheduled sessions, thus students can post items to the wall in real time or over a fixed time period.

  1. Live Chat

Another method way of facilitating instant in class interaction with students is through use of a Tweetwall. Students can pose questions, comments or answer questions using Twitter. Answers can be to either closed questions, i.e. similar to response systems, whereby students provided with a series of answer options or students provide a personalized answer to an open question. It is possible to filter contributions based keywords, hashtags and users plus any use of inappropriate language.


Detailed bibliography on research and use at:

Duggan P M, Palmer E & Devitt P (2007) Electronic voting to encourage interactive lectures: a randomised trail. BMC Medical Education. 7:25

Freeman S, Eddy S L, McDonough M, Smith M K, Okoroafor N, Jordt H & Wenderoth M P (2014) Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering and mathematics. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

Kennedy G E & Cutts Q I (2005) The association between students’ use of an electronic voting system and their learning outcomes. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning. 21 (4): 260 – 268.

Murphy R & Sharma N (2010) What don’t we know about interactive lectures. Technology and Life-Long Learning. 6 (1): 111-120.

Poulis J, Massen C, Robens E & Gilbert M (1998) Physics lecturing with audience paced feedback. American Journal of Physics. 66: 439-441.

Stein P S, Challman S D & Brueckner J K (2006) Using audience response technology for pretest reviews in an undergraduate nursing course. Journal of Nursing Education. 45 (11): 469-473.

Van Dijk L A, Van Der Berg G C & Van Keulen H (2001) Interactive lectures in engineering education. European Journal of Engineering Education. 26 (1): 15-28.


TurningPoint is the only University supported software in list below. However, the TEL team can provide guidance on the use of Nearpod, Padlet and Tweetwall.

Also note, that only Padlet is free and that staff will have to pay a small licence fee to use Nearpod and Tweetwall.

Turning Point

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Download TurningPoint 5 software:


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