Mobile learning in the lecture theatre: The use of Google forms for teaching Chinese linguistics

Ken S K Cheng
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Hong Kong SAR, China

Those who teach large groups always find difficulty in interacting with students and evaluating their learning progress during lectures. Student response systems (SRSs, also known as audience response systems or personal response systems) are proposed to promote active learning in the lecture setting. SRSs are devices and connected software that enable teachers to pose questions for students to answer during class, with their responses shown instantly to the lecturer in the format of statistical charts or summary tables. The teacher can clarify the teaching content or adjust the pace of teaching in accordance with student difficulties.

A widely adopted SRS is clickers, which are hand-held devices with small keypads for students to choose answers to multiple-choice questions posed by the teacher. Other SRSs such as uReply, PollEverywhere, MessageGrid, ClassQue and ChimeIn are also used in universities, and students have to install these stand-alone systems on their mobile devices beforehand.

In my lectures on an undergraduate course on Chinese linguistics (the number of students is about 70), I have used Google Forms, a web-based spreadsheet program for conducting surveys for other purposes, and I found the following advantages compared to other SRSs:

(1) No additional devices, such as clickers, are required. Students can use their mobile devices such as mobile phones, tablet PCs and notebook computers to finish the tasks.

No specific software needs to be installed prior to the implementation of SRS by both the teachers and students, as Google Forms is web-based and cross-platform.

(3) The question type is not limited to multiple-choice questions. Open-ended questions with responses in text are allowed, which can encourage students to express their opinions in more detail and thus enhance student-teacher interaction in the lecture room.

It is free of charge — no additional costs are incurred.

Two cohorts of students were compared on the same course, with one cohort being conducted without SRS and the other with it. The percentage of ‘agree’ and ‘strongly agree’ in response to the description ‘teaching and learning activities helped me to achieve the subject learning outcome’ rose by almost 30% in the latter case, showing that students’ feedback on the use of SRS is highly positive.