Research led by Professor Zhongyu (Joan) Lu has contributed to developing a next-generation student response system (SRS) supported by funding from Edumecca. The system makes SRS more affordable for a wider range of users by utilising cross-platform technologies, making it available on web services and smartphones.
By incorporating the use of widely available online equipment, the system allows for SRS to be used outside of the traditional classroom scenario. It is now used in Europe and the US by both academia and industry and this success has led to additional major funding streams for further research.
Professor Zhongyu (Joan) Lu has been at the forefront of research into XML; the mark-up language for encoding documents in a machine-readable and human-readable format optimised for the internet. Resulting publications have offered comprehensive assessments of the impact XML has on knowledge-management and content-management systems and the resulting challenges in information and knowledge engineering. This work has been supported by an EU grant from Edumecca: new educational models that encourage creative transfer of competence and acquaintance in lifelong learning (2008-2010). As a key partner in the initiative, Professor Lu played a leading role in developing methods of successfully integrating SRS with advanced web services, smartphones, multimedia and other technologies to create the basis for a next-generation system.
It has been suggested that SRS could improve interactivity by a factor of ten times compared to a traditional classroom environment. These systems allow students to participate in the processing of questions and the formulation of answers and can greatly enhance the learning experience.
A traditional SRS includes a receiver for instructors, a collection of keypads for students and a dedicated software component. It uses infrared or radio frequencies to facilitate communication and is often limited to multiple-choice or true-or-false- style questions. Despite these limitations, the systems can be costly, deterring many institutions from using them. The Edumecca project aimed to address these limitations.
The resulting SRS offers a platform-independent, internet-linked technology able to function anywhere and at any time. The system is not constrained by location or subject area, allowing it to be used in a range of scenarios and by a variety of learning groups. It enables teachers to initiate questions, students to respond using their own mobile devices and data to be collected and automatically stored for future analysis. By making SRS compatible with students’ mobile devices, the system is made more affordable due to the lack of additional ’clicker’ devices.
The new SRS has been employed by institutions in Norway, Sweden, Belgium, Croatia, Romania and the US. The range of subjects covered is diverse, including physics, electrical engineering, sport and nutrition, computing, mathematics, history, languages and religion. Education providers and industry organisations have reported increased participation and an enhanced ability to gauge student comprehension, for both small and large teaching groups.
In addition to classroom settings, the new SRS is also ideal for distance learning, making it popular in industrial settings. The Hungarian Association of Welding Technology and Material Testing made the system available to 90 companies and more than a thousand people in 2010 and reported a positive impact on student learning and experiences.
In 2011 the University of Leeds requested the new SRS system to form the basis of Mobile Lab Mate (MLM), a mobile application allowing the automatic submission, storage, retrieval and visualisation of data generated in experiments. MLM reduces the workload of those carrying out the experiments, and a similar system has also been devised for occupational therapists.