If you follow the clicker news as doggedly as I do, you might have heard of the clicker fiasco at the University of Kansas last week. All 923 students aced the test when the clicker system (ours by the way) used to give the tests crashed, erasing scores for the entire class. However, what you probably didn’t hear was how quickly eInstruction jumped on correcting the problem. eInstruction President Steve Kaye personally visited the campus, and a Critical Mac Update was released this week and can be downloaded HERE.
Why did this fiasco occur in the first place?
The issue occurs in the Mac version of the CPS software related to use of Self Paced Testing, also referred to as SMA or Student Managed Assessment. The problem only occurs in the event that ALL four of the following criteria are met:
• You are using the CPS Software on a Mac, AND;
• You are using the CPS RF (w LCD) clicker, AND;
• You are administering multiple versions of a test using SMA (Self Paced) mode, AND;
• You sort the incoming student responses using either the “Name” field or the “Attempted “ field.
What lessons can be learned from this fiasco?
Sorry if I jump on my soapbox real quick, but I think there are a few lessons here!
1. Why do people assume that technology is fail-proof? Anyone who works with technology on a regular basis knows not to assume anything with technology. Although rare, considering how often technology is used everyday all over the world, technology at some point in time might fail. Although a situation like this is extremely rare, we need to be ready for it, not go on a clicker witch hunt and denounce the whole use of clickers in education. Those who feel this “proves their point” that clickers don’t have a place in the classroom obviously haven’t seen them put to good use (and are they–and their students–missing out!).
2. Have a backup plan! This is just reinforcing what I have probably said once or a million times before. Keep a backup copy of the test! If you are going to give a test to 20 students or 932, have students take the test on paper first. In the event that technology does fail, you are covered (and so are your students’ scores). If the student blames the clicker for a question they missed, you always have the paper test to confirm or deny their argument. Now, what about all that paper you are wasting? Well, you were “wasting” it before, and that really isn’t the point of clickers. Their role in test taking is to make grading easier, not primarily saving trees.
3. eInstruction is invested in their product AND their customer service. I think eInstruction’s response was to be commended. It was fantastic to see just how quickly eInstruction got a handle on things and issued a critical update. They sent the company president and a task force to the university and immediately began researching the issue. For this situation to repeat itself would have required that the 4 stars (i.e. the criteria above) aligned just right, but eInstruction jumped right on it and quickly put out a solution. Kudos!
So…the updated version of CPS Mac is available for download HERE. Until then, if you cannot update CPS for Mac at this time, please refrain from sorting incoming student response data when giving a Self Paced Test (SMA) with multiple versions.