iClickers, Vaccinations and Consequences in a Psychology class

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Three quarters of Dr. Edna Ross’ students started the semester vaccinated. How does she know this? iClicker.

Over the years, instructors have come up with new and interesting ways to use iClicker in their classes. Far from being justDr. Edna RossDr. Edna Ross a polling app, iClicker can be used for attendance, asynchronous polls, and low-stakes quizzing -- or for questions you want to surface in your course, like learning whether or not students were vaccinated and why. And it all can be done anonymously.

At the start of the Fall semester, the Psychology Professor used iClickers as an 'icebreaker' on the first day of class, asking, among others questions, for students to anonymously self- identify as fully vaccinated, planning to get vaccinated/has at least one dose, or not vaccinated against COVID-19. The 75% vaccination rate in her classes was an accurate reflection of what was taking place on college campuses nationally, with the majority of college students and staff being vaccinated against the virus.

The anonymous poll offered insights into her students' thinking and demonstrated an important lesson for the psychology students about consequences. 

Students’ reasons for getting the vaccination included reducing their risk of severe COVID-19 and passing the virus as well as wanting to go about their day-to-day activities with less risk. Further, many didn’t want to quarantine for two weeks if they had been exposed to someone they later found out was infected -- something that was required on campus.

Students reasons for not getting the vaccination varied from distrust of the government due to the Tuskegee Syphilis study run by the US Public Health Department (read more about that here), mistrust of “Big Pharma”, that the vaccination was too rushed, or the belief that too many FDA approved drugs were recalled because of negative side effects. For these students, the cons had outweighed the pros of being vaccinated.

Ultimately, the anonymous iClicker poll about vaccinations wound up encouraging more students to get vaccinated. There were two reasons for this. First, they were able to see that being vaccinated was normalized and something that the majority of students had agreed to. Second, because there were consequences of their choice that impacted their learning experience.

“Quarantine meant they missed work in all their classes. My syllabus outlines the allowances I make for missed assignments for all students, but I do not give quarantined students any special considerations,” Dr. Ross noted.

While unvaccinated students had to quarantine for two weeks if exposed to anyone with COVID whether or not they had symptoms, fully vaccinated students did not have to quarantine if they weren't experiencing symptoms. Contact tracing forced almost all of the unvaccinated students out of class for quarantine at one time or another. While vaccinated students rarely had to quarantine, some unvaccinated students had to quarantine for two consecutive periods of time.  This meant students missed class work in all their courses for a month!  A daunting situation for any student.

This is only one of the many interesting ways that iClicker is being used during the pandemic to support student engagement and success. One instructor is also using it for contact tracing in her large enrollment class; to learn more about that, click here. To learn more about the benefits of iClicker, click here.