ResponseWare / mobile Audience Response System (ARS)

For those who don’t know it, or want a brief reminder, ResponseWare is the online/mobile version of the TurningPoint in-class ‘clicker’ handsets. Prior to the lecture or class the tutor adds a slide or two to the presentation which will need the students to use the clicker handsets to answer a simple multiple choice, likert scale, or true/false answer. Providing you remember to save the ‘session’ once you’ve finished you can query the results and get reports based on a per question or per respondent. Nice!

ResponseWareResponseWare is the natural progression for this technology, using the student’s own devices (BYOD) to connect and engage with the topic, concept, or session theme, and also to provide a focus for in-class discussions before and after the polling.

What, then, is the difference to the clicker handset? Obviously the main difference is the time saved at the beginning and end of each session you run where you don’t have to distribute and collect the handsets. Provided you’ve alerted the students prior to the session that they need to (if they haven’t already done so) download the ResponseWare App (available for iOS and Android) or bring an Internet enabled device (smartphone, tablet,  or laptop) then the student can engage with the questions.

The availability of different, and more useable, questions is another obvious benefit: students can submit more than just an an answer based on a choice between A, B, C, or D – numerical answers or short (text-based) answers. You can use short answer-type questions (and specify an answer), priority rank (see below: good for revision and ‘most popular’ answer), and demographic assignment (not sure on this one), all of which enable a more meaningful interaction and conversation-starter.

If you have TurningPoint installed you will also need an account on the website, which is where you will ‘reserve’ your session ID (course or module code?) to be used when you set up your presentation and run it.


Here are some handy hints/tips from my own testing:

  • I think it’s good practice to include a slide at the beginning of your presentation highlighting that you will use the system, and what the session ID is you’ll be using to make sure all students have the information, use it, and then test it.
  • I also strongly recommend you test your slides and connections to ResponseWare with a device (or two) yourself before using for the first time with students. Get comfortable and confident with the system so you look like you know what you’re doing in front of an audience, even if you’re not and you don’t!
  • Recommend that students, when they’re setting up their access in either the App or through a browser, use their real names when asked and their student ID. This will make it easier to spot trends in performance, engagement, and attendance in the reports.
  • On a numeric question you can specify the answer or a range of answers that are acceptable but we also found out that non-numeric answers are not captured, despite both the App and browser saying the response had been logged successfully.
  • You don’t have to show the results.
  • There are subtle differences between creating your  TurningPoint questions on a PC or Mac: not all questions listed on the TurningPoint tutorials page are available (at the moment) for Mac users, but it’s a small point.

Before looking at how the questions and answers are represented in the App and browser, how do you think this kind of interaction and engagement could be used? Here are a few ideas:

  • Gather information part way through class on how well students are paying attention and if you need to revisit or review any content to help understanding.
  • Conduct opinion surveys and provide visual representations, including time for discussion and debate.
  • Question theory or concept understanding at start of class, then review and compare at the end (hopefully the results will be better).
  • Module evaluation and feedback surveys.
  • Ask the question and get groups to debate and report back before opening the poll for answers – compare results from individuals based on group or perspective they were asked to debate/report on.

It’s a certainty that ResponseWare will be a costly investment but if you consider it you will obviously be making the comparison between the TurningPoint handsets (and replacement for lost/damaged ones) and ResponseWare. But what of other options, other solutions?  Here is a very short list (from a much larger one) of possible alternatives:

  • Nearpod
  • DisplayNote
  • Socrative
  • PollEverywhere
  • Lecture Tools

Further reading
Cliffe E.H., Davenport J.H., De Vos M., Parmar N. R., Hayes A. (2010). Using EVS and ResponseWare to Enhance Student Learning and Learning Experience. Submitted to: 11th Annual Conference of Higher Education Academy Subject Centre for Information and Computer Science, 24-26 August 2010, Higher Education Academy Centre for ICS.  Available from: [Accessed: June 2, 2014]

App and browser experience
Below are some like-for-like screenshots of the browser version (left, taken from an iPhone) and the App (right). This is not all the question types available (I’m sure you already know how likert scale question and answers look?) but an indication of the difference between browser-based participation and App-based participation:

  • Multiple choice question & answer:

Responseware Question

Responseware Answer

  • Ice breaker activity (analogy) question & answer:

ResponseWare Question

ResponseWare Answer

  • Priority ranking question & answer:

ResponseWare Question

ResponseWare Answer