Burlap Sack: iClickers

Those glorified multiple-choice test remotes are the worst

Information Services and Technology has announced that they’re phasing out support for iClickers in July 2019. Good riddance. iClickers are a scam.

Research is pretty conclusive that passive lectures are a terrible way to learn things. Unfortunately, they’re also the cheapest way to teach, so universities aren’t ditching them any time soon. Professors use iClickers in a valiant attempt to simulate actual interaction with students, but it’s no substitute for smaller class sizes. Sure, iClickers might force you to show up and pay a bit more attention, but no one has ever been truly engaged by a multiple choice question.

Regardless, since smartphones and laptops went mainstream, there’s really no need for a dedicated device to choose a letter between A through E. So why were we forced to buy $75 iClickers for one class before leaving it in a drawer for the rest of your degree?

The answer is lazy profs and predatory textbook publishers. iClicker is owned by Macmillan Publishers, who use copious marketing dollars to lure profs to use their proprietary system. Now that universities are realizing that forcing students to buy useless remotes isn’t ideal, iClicker is shilling subscriptions for a web-based system. With a scam as simple as this one, Macmillan wasn’t going to be the only player for long. In came Top Hat, a quirky name for a dumb service that charges students $24 per term for the same basic experience.

Students shouldn’t be forced to pay for access to a glorified Google Form while sitting in an oversized lecture. Why not use Kahoot, which is fun and free? If you’re a prof and you subscribe to iHat or Top Clicker or whatever awful service, you should feel bad.

Thankfully, the jig is up for iClicker on our campus, so Macmillan will have to move to MacEwan or some other unlucky institution to extract their billions of dollars from poor students. Top Hat, unfortunately, will live to scam another day, and students will continue to fall asleep in the back of the lecture theatre.

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