Audience Response System

What is an audience response system?

An audience response system is a system of technologies used in real-time or synchronously to quickly receive responses and feedback from an audience. Sometimes also referred to as a personal response system, an audience response system is a set of (typically wireless) devices that allow users in an audience to send their vote, response, or feedback to a central receiver operated by the presenter or instructor. The responses are collected and totaled by the system to provide a summary on a central screen. The results can then be discussed.

What is the purpose of an audience response system?

An audience response system allows a presenter to quickly gather feedback from an audience. Each member can respond to a question, such as a question with multiple choice answers.

The system can be used to determine the audience's general understanding of a topic. Based on the results, the presenter can determine whether to spend more time on the current topic or move on to another. Similarly, the results can change the presenter's focus of the presentation by revealing gaps in the audience's understanding.

Audience response systems can also be used for a number of other purposes, such as evaluation and self-paced quizzing, participation and attendance gathering, and decision making and voting.

An audience response system is particularly efficient with a larger audience where quickly gathering accurate feedback and responses was difficult previously.

How to use an audience response system

Each member of the audience has a response device called a clicker which allows them to send their responses to the presenter. Depending on the particular response system, the clicker can be a dedicated response device or an existing personal mobile device like a smartphone or laptop. The presenter has a receiver and software that collects these incoming responses and collates them into a summarized view of the data. The presenter chooses whether to display the summarized results back to the audience, which can then be the focus of a discussion, for example.

iClicker Cloud is Western's preferred and campus-supported audience response or clicker system. It is also the name of the software used to present questions to an audience and to collect "click" responses received back from the audience. iClicker cloud works with both physical clickers and virtual clickers in either separate or mixed clicker-type environments.

iClicker Cloud Top Hat Plickers
Functionality 2 stars 2 stars 2 stars
Accessibility 2 stars 2 stars 2 stars
Technical 2 stars 2 stars 2 stars
Mobile 2 stars 3 stars 3 stars
Usage and Account Setup 1 stars 1 stars 2 stars
Social Presence 2 stars 2 stars 2 stars
Instructor Presence 3 stars 3 stars 3 stars
Cognitive Presence 3 stars 3 stars 2 stars

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Related Information

Additional Resources

  • More information about audience response systems at Western can be found at


Fies, C. & Marshall, J. (2006). Classroom response systems: A review of the literature. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 15(1), 101-109.

This comprehensive review provides an orientation to the pedagogical theory of audience response systems and a summary of investigative studies into their effectiveness.

M.K. Smith, W.B. Wood, K. Krauter, J.K. Knight. (2011). Combining Peer Discussion with Instructor Explanation Increases Student Learning from In-Class Concept Questions. CBE-Life Sciences Education, 10, 55-63.

This research study found that audience response questions that were followed by both peer discussion and instructor explanation were most effective in improving student performance.