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as part of the Interactive Lectures website)
This page is about the use of EVS (electronic voting systems) in lectures
at Glasgow University.
It was written a few years ago, and assumes the use of the old IR equipment;
though most of the rest of the advice is still reasonable.
More up to date advice about use of the current equipment
If you haven't already read a passage explaining what these EVS are
about, a brief general account is
To date, student response, and lecturers' perceptions of that, have been almost
entirely favourable in an expanding range of trials here at the University of
Glasgow (to say nothing of those elsewhere) already involving students in
levels 1,2,3 and 4, and diverse subjects (psychology, medicine, philosophy,
computer science, ...), and in sequences from one-off to every lecture for a
The equipment is mobile, and so can be used anywhere with a
few minutes setup. It additionally requires a PC (laptops are also
mobile, and we can supply one if necessary), and a data projector (the machine
for projecting a computer's displayed output on to a big screen).
In principle, the equipment is available for anyone at the university to use,
and there is enough for the two largest lecture theatres to be using it
simultaneously. In practice, the human and equipment resources are not
unlimited, and advance arrangements are necessary.
We can accommodate any size audience, but there is a slight chance of too many
bookings coinciding for the equipment, and a considerable chance of us not
having enough experienced student assistants available at the right time: that
is the currently scarcest resource.
Find out who is using them, and go and see them in use.
If it's one of mine you needn't ask, just turn up;
and probably other users feel the same.
We are none of us expert, yet we all seem to be getting good effects and
needn't feel defensive about it. It usually isn't practicable to get 200
students to provide an audience for a realistic demonstration: so seeing a
real use is the best option.
- Lecturer displays a multiple choice question using an OHP, blackboard,
- Students each submit an answer using their handsets
- After the elapsed time (e.g. 60 seconds), the software displays (projected
on the screen) a barchart showing how many individuals selected each answer
- Lecturer then comments on the answer, starts a whole-class discussion,
starts small group discussion, or moves straight on.
- One of our assistants turns up just before the start with the
laptop and receivers, plugs them in and sets up (3 mins). Similarly, packs
them up and takes them away afterwards.
- Other assistants turn up with the handsets, supervise distribution and
re-collection at the end. With large classes (200-300) it may be best if you
provide one or two student assistants yourself to help with this: warn them to
turn up a few minutes early, and help with the distribution.
- Lecturer just has to bring the questions they wish to use, although on the
spot questions can also be used.
- Operating the software just requires a few clicks. As software goes it is
really easy, BUT personally I find it extremely easy to get anxious with
hundreds of students watching. If requested (preferably in advance),
our assistant can stay and do the button clicks for you at least the first time.
Documentation on the PRS software is available from
One way of introducing a new audience to the EVS is
- Booking well in advance with us so that support can be arranged, as well as
ensuring the equipment is available at that time.
- Ensure that there is a data projector in the lecture room, or arrange to
have one there and set up. (Many now have them as standard, but not all.)
- At least one visit to us to decide on software use, to install the
software on the lecturer's laptop if that will be used, and to practise the
- Possible rehearsal in a lecture theatre, if we can afford the time.
- Prepare the questions (and how they will fit into the
lecture). (Can be done on OHPs, powerpoint, or any software that can write
out plain ascii text.)
- Handsets: one per student (or possibly, one per group).
- Receivers: set up at the front, linked by cables to the laptop. One per 50
- A PC laptop (Macs are not currently supported). Yours, or possibly borrowed
- PRS software (free software comes with the EVS): installed on the
- Powerpoint, if you use that.
- Our software to integrate PRS with Powerpoint, if you use that.
There are several alternative modes you could use this in.
It is MUCH less stressful for a lecturer, no matter how practised at this, if
there are assistants to fetch and set up the equipment, leaving the lecturer to
supervise the occasion. We have a small amount of resource for providing these
- You have a PC laptop and normally use powerpoint slides for lectures. We
install extra software on your PC, and you prepare a powerpoint file for each
lecture as usual, but with the questions as additional slides in it.
- You normally use and take a Mac laptop. Prepare your powerpoint for the
lecture, and get the file to us: in the lecture you use a PC laptop, displaying
the Powerpoint prepared on the Mac.
- You must use your Mac as it runs special software essential
for the lecture. Only solution will be to get 2 data projectors running side
by side on two screens in the lecture theatre (possible in some cases).
- You use OHPs. Prepare these as usual, project the OHP and our laptop side
by side (possible in most lecture theatres). The questions will be on OHPs,
but the answer totals on the data projector.
- It is also possible to prepare questions in a plain text file, and for us
to read these into our software on the spot.
Generally both the basic PRS equipment, and the PRS software itself have proved
very reliable, both here and elsewhere.
Other things however can go wrong.
- Consultants for getting you set up in advance, installing software on your
laptop and/or training you on a borrowed PC laptop.
- An assistant to take the receivers and laptop to the lecture theatre and
- Assistants to dispense and recover the handsets.
Most lecturers never need to know about further technical details. But if you
want to know about them, about the log files PRS creates, etc.etc. then
read on here.
- Batteries running out in a handset: but can just pass out another handset.
- In one class, students were issued with handsets to keep for a term. In
fact about a third would fail to bring them on any one day.
- Our own software, linking Powerpoint and the PRS software, can go wrong.
(However restarting each often clears it; and you could always use them
separately if necessary.)
- The data projector failed in BO-LT-B, and it took nearly an hour to get
the replacement working. This was made much worse because the expensive
installation there tries to work automatically, which means that if it goes
wrong you can't tell whether it is you not finding the right control.
- In another case, a faulty cable from PC to projector not only failed to
transmit the data, but shorted out and exhausted the battery in the laptop.
- Generally you cannot rely on a data projector working unless you have
practised with the actual PC/laptop in combination with that particular
projector. This is time consuming and discovering when the room will be free
for such a technical rehearsal is not made easy.
- Trouble installing the software on some laptops. This has quite often
caused trouble that took days or weeks to resolve: but it is done in advance,
other laptops can be borrowed, and it hasn't ruined any lectures.
- Not being able to get assistants available in time for both a rehearsal and
the occasion led to one being cancelled. Basically, my bad management.
- Not having all the right equipment ready to hand (a missing cable locked
in someone's office) prevented its use in one lecture: our bad management,
and hopefully changed practices will prevent a recurrence.
Long past bookings
Past workshops for prospective users
Interim evaluation report
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