Academic Services Committee


December 2, 2004




Members Present:  Mary Clark (SGA), Jeffrey Donnell (ME), Joseph Hoey (OARS), Tom Horton (GTRI), Maureen Kilroy (GS&R), Jim Sowell (PHYS), Myrtle Turner (GTRI), Jane Weyant (CoE).


Members Absent:  Carol Colatrella (LCC).


Visitors:  Kent Barefield (Chemistry and Biochemistry) and Eric Murray (Physics) 

Lynn Fountain (GTRI, Ex-Chair of the Academic Services Committee)


1.        The meeting came to order at 1:05 p.m. on December 2, 2004 in Boggs B-6.


2.        Drs. Kent Barefield and Eric Murray described their experiences using Personal Response Systems in their undergraduate classrooms. 


Background.  The InterWrite Personal Response System (PRS) described here is a new classroom technology that is being installed at Georgia Tech.  The system allows instructors to quickly assess student comprehension of lecture material and to adjust their presentations according to the student responses.  The systems consist of infrared transmitters which the students are asked to purchase, receivers which are installed in the classrooms, and a software package which displays quiz questions, captures student responses and displays these responses as needed.  The system can be used with teaching materials that an instructor has prepared using other software programs, such as PowerPoint. 


Georgia Tech’s Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning (CETL) provides assistance for users of this instructional technology, at

An overview of the InterWrite PRS system can be found at


3.        In Chemistry 1311, Kent Barefield uses the PRS system to give multiple choice concept tests and quizzes of 3 to 6 questions.  Results are displayed for each question, showing how many students responded correctly and incorrectly, and he adjusts his subsequent lecture according to the responses that are received.  Generally, when a large number of students respond correctly, he proceeds to a new lecture topic; when a large number of students respond incorrectly, he revisits the previous topic in lecture.  When responses are closely divided, students are asked to discuss the topic for a small number of minutes, after which they are presented with a follow-up question addressing the same topic. 


According to Dr. Barefield, the advantages of the PRS are these:

-  It engages students

-  It is anonymous

-  It takes attendance

-  It permits the instructor to quickly assess the learning level of a class

-  It allows students to self-assess their learning

-  It permits students to do peer instruction during discussion breakouts.



According to Dr. Barefield, the disadvantages of the PRS are these:

-  It requires increased preparation time

-  It may suppress oral exchanges

-  It limits spontaneity

-  It takes away class time that might have been devoted to other activities. 


4.        Dr. Eric Murray teaches introductory physics; he is using the PRS for the first time during the Fall, ‘04 school term.  He has organized his classroom around this tool, which he uses to stimulate interaction, discussion and thinking.  He opens each class session with a question addressing a required reading assignment, and he closes each session with a question addressing the day’s lecture topic, and he uses the results to plan and conduct his presentations for each day.  The PRS allows him to modify his traditional lectures on the fly as student responses are evaluated.  Because he has yet to complete a school term using the PRS system, he cannot comment personally on how this system impacts student learning. 


5.        Drs. Barefield and Murray noted that instructors need to be willing to invest time and energy to introduce questions and discussions into lecture material.  The tool is attractive to instructors who are keen to get students to think about concepts during lecture sessions. 


6.        The next meeting of the Academic Services Committee will take place on January 13, 2005 at 1:00 p.m. in the GT Library’s Special Collections area..


7.        The meeting was adjourned at 2:10 p.m.


Respectfully submitted,

Jeffrey Donnell, Secretary