Development of a Next-Generation Student Response System for Academia and Industry
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Huddersfield
Unit of AssessmentComputer Science and Informatics
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Information and Computing Sciences: Information Systems
Education: Curriculum and Pedagogy, Specialist Studies In Education
Summary of the impact
Professor Zhongyu (Joan) Lu's research contributed significantly to the
development of a next-generation student response system (SRS) that is
fully integrated with web services, Smartphones, multimedia and other
ubiquitous technologies. By incorporating the use of widely available
online equipment, the system has made SRS more affordable, easier to
employ and applicable in a range of settings far more diverse than the
traditional classroom scenario. It is now used in Europe and the US by
both academia and industry and has served as the basis for a number of
dedicated prototypes. Its success has also led to additional major funding
streams for further research.
The potential benefits of using technically advanced response systems in
educational settings have earned growing attention over the past two
decades. Formative research in the early 1990s suggested such technology,
often known as a Student Response System (SRS), could improve interactivity
by a factor of 10 times compared to a "traditional" classroom environment.
It is now widely accepted that employing an SRS, so allowing students to
participate in the processing of questions and the formulation of answers,
can greatly enhance the learning experience.
Professor Lu's research in the XML, Database and Information Retrieval
has been at the forefront of a series of major projects in this field. She
has published 5 research books in the subject area. Lu's 2005 overview of
XML, the markup language for encoding documents in a machine-readable and
human-readable format optimised for the internet, offered one of the first
comprehensive assessments of its impact on knowledge-management and
content-management systems and the resulting challenges in information and
knowledge engineering [1, 2]. Her research initiative has been awarded an
EU grant in Edumecca (2008-2010) to develop a next generation's SRS.
Recently one of her published research books  "Learning with Mobile
Technologies, Handheld Devices and Smart Phones: Innovative Methods"
reported that her knowledge and activities are further expanded into a
real world application, learning in the mobile age, a new trend in the
In 2008 the European Commission's Lifelong Learning Programme sponsored
Edumecca, a pilot project to investigate the potential of "new educational
models that encourage creative transfer of competence and acquaintance in
lifelong learning". As a key partner in the initiative, Professor Lu
played a leading role in developing methods of successfully integrating
SRS with advanced web services, Smartphones, multimedia and other
ubiquitous technologies to create the basis for a next-generation system
A traditional SRS includes a receiver for instructors, a collection of
keypads (known as transmitters or "clickers") for students and a dedicated
software component. It uses infrared or radio frequencies to facilitate
communication and might often be limited to multiple-choice-type or
yes-or-no/true-or-false-style questions. Despite the shortcomings of such
a set-up, costs can be prohibitive, deterring many institutions from
adopting such technology. A fundamental aim of the Edumecca project was to
advance the concept to a more accessible and cost-effective level.
The resulting SRS offered a platform-independent, internet-linked
technology able to function anywhere and at any time. Unlike earlier
systems, which were essentially self-contained and thus confined to the
classroom, the web-based Edumecca SRS is constrained neither to a single
location nor to a single subject area, allowing it to be used in a range
of scenarios and by a variety of learning groups. It enables teachers to
initiate questions, students to respond using their own mobile devices —
phones, laptops or tablet computers — and data to be collected and
automatically stored for future retrieval [5, 6]. The system's lack of
restrictions means it can be employed in activity-based, opinion-based and
problem-based educational settings and irrespective of the size, age or
knowledge background of the learning group, shown in the Demonstration and
Best Practice Sessions DEM17/DEM32, EDUCA, 2009, the world largest
e-learning conference in Berlin. http://www.jfernandoferreira.com/mgse/oeb/sessions/demonstrations.html.
The Edumecca SRS was further refined during subsequent research funded by
two additional EU grants. The first, DO-IT, which began from 2010,
internationalised the technology, extending the system's use to speakers
of Hungarian and Romanian. The second, DONE-IT, which began from 2011,
focused on a series of technical advances, including assessment in
automatic marking/grading, security encryption and authorisation,
interactive monitoring and optimisation for popular mobile operating
systems such as iOS, Android, Windows and Symbian .
References to the research
2. Lizhen Wang, Lihua Zhou, Joan Lu, Jim Yip, An
order-clique-based approach for mining maximal co-locations,
Original Research Article, Information Sciences, Volume 179,
Issue 19, 9 September 2009, Pages 3370-3382.
3. Lu, Joan (2012): Learning with Mobile Technologies, Handheld
Devices and Smart Phones: Innovative Methods, IGI Global, Hershey,
PA, USA, ISBN 9781466609365
4. Lu, J, Meng, Z, Lu, G, and Stav, J (2010): A New Approach in Improving
Operational Efficiency of Wireless Response System, 10th IEEE
International Conference on Computer and Information Technology,
2676-2693, ISSN 9781424475476
5. Lu, Z. and Rahman, U., Semantic Search Technology for Information
Retrieval on the Web, International Journal of Agent Oriented Software
Engineering, vol. 1, No. 2, page 225-243, June, 2007, DOI:
6. Meng, Zhaozong and Lu, Joan (2011) Opportunities of Interactive
Learning Systems with Evolutions in Mobile Devices: A Case Study.
In: Proceedings of the 2011 International Conference on Internet Computing
ICOMP 2011. CSREA Press, pp. 238-244. ISBN 1601321864
Evidence of Quality of Publications:
For 1.,2., 5., and 6., all outlets are ranked as "B" by the Aus. ERA 2010.
1. was one of the Top 6 accessed articles announced by Notable Titles in
Software Engineering 2006, see http://www.worldscientific.com/action/doSearch?searchType=normal&publication=&searchText=Z
Sciences had an impact factor of 3.291 in 2009, and paper 2. has 34
citations according to Google. 3. is a published book in the area of
learning in the mobile age and addressed the latest mobile learning
technologies and research discussions.
European Commission Lifelong Learning Programme: Edumecca, project no.
143545-LLP-NO-KA3-KA3MP, January 2008 to December 2010 - €495,125
(€110,739 awarded to University of Huddersfield, PI at Huddersfield: Joan
European Commission Lifelong Learning Programme: DO-IT, project no.
2009-1-NO1-LEO05-01046, January 2010 to December 2011 - €300,000 (€73,271
awarded to University of Huddersfield, PI at Huddersfield: Joan Lu )
European Commission Lifelong Learning Programme: DONE-IT, project no.
511485-LLP-1-2010-NO-KA3-KA3MP, January 2011 to December 2012 - €686,652
(€116,478 awarded to University of Huddersfield, PI at Huddersfield: Joan
Details of the impact
Research led by Professor Lu has played a critical role in informing the
creation of the Edumecca SRS, an innovative solution to the problems of
previous student response systems. By incorporating the use of widely
available equipment — specifically, the internet and mobile devices — SRS
has been made more affordable, easier to employ and applicable to a range
of scenarios far more diverse than the traditional classroom setting. It
is now used in Europe and the US — not just by academia but also by
industry — and its success has led to additional major funding streams for
Between January 2009 and December 2010 the Edumecca project was presented
at around 60 events across Europe, including December 2009's Online
EDUCA, held in Berlin, which attracted more than 2,000 attendees and
was described as the world's largest conference on technology-supported
learning and training. Almost a hundred institutions worldwide, including
schools, universities and companies, were also given access to the SRS for
testing during this period. These dissemination efforts, coupled with the
advances and advantages they served to highlight, have since been
reflected in the geographical and disciplinary spread of the system's use.
Internationally, the Edumecca SRS has been employed by institutions
including NTNU, Trondheim, Norway; the Centre for Flexible Learning,
Söderhamn, Sweden; Onderwijscentrum Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and the
University of Amsterdam, Netherlands; Hogeschool-Universiteit Brussel,
Brussels, Belgium; the University of Zagreb, Croatia; Petru Maior
University, Târgu Mure, Romania [a]; and Kennesaw State University,
Georgia, US [b]. The range of subjects covered includes physics,
electrical engineering, sport and nutrition, computing, mathematics,
history, languages and religion — illustrating the Edumecca SRS's
suitability for both problem-based learning (in which a question might
have only one correct answer) and opinion-based learning (in which several
answers might be acceptable) [c]. Feedback from users to Professor Lu has
demonstrated the system's ability to offer the acknowledged benefits of
earlier forms of SRS (e.g. increased participation, enhanced capacity to
gauge students' comprehension) while significantly widening the
technology's applicability and reducing associated costs (the average
commercial SRS retails at around £1,000 for a 30-student classroom; the
Edumecca SRS significantly reduces this figure by precluding the need for
The system's effectiveness in small-group teaching has also been
highlighted, with the University of Buckingham publishing the results of a
pilot exercise in which all but one of the students who took part agreed
that the Edumecca SRS "enhances the learning experience". The findings,
published in 2011 in Italics, the e-journal of the Higher
Education Academy, concluded: "The use of a SRS has had a positive effect
on student learning and students' experience in small-group teaching...
[It] increases participation, helps students understand the lecture and
indicates where further effort is required" [e].
The system's effectiveness in large-group has also been addressed, with
Petru Maior University of Tirgu Mures in Romania for a group of 260
students. From Professor Moldovan: "Students enjoyed this new technology
enhanced learning instant feedback, participation, motivation because the
mobile evaluation deploys advanced wireless response technologies." "This
new technology brings economic benefits to the training, as the system can
use the low cost devices like iPod touch in comparison with commercial
product Click." Following a further innovative approach, SRS has been
internationalized into other EU languages: Romania and Hungarian.
Professor Moldovan further stated that through Professor Lu's research,
the mobile learning methodology is not just used by English speak users
but also by native Romania speak users [a].
The experience that related to the SRS is also stated by Dr Powell in
Knennsaw State University, USA, "The SRS system did open our eyes to the
world beyond clickers and to the deficiencies in online systems like "poll
everyone", it showed us what was possible, and we really appreciate that.
The technology used in SRS is advanced and brings economic benefits to the
users, as the system can use the low cost devices like iPod touch or
users' own devices. The system also saves data for faculty, allowing them
to measure student improvement in the polling activities over course
sections or time." "This tool is of great benefit for faculty wanting to
show improvement in teaching strategies or wanting to test the
effectiveness of different strategies in multiple sections, without
resorting to exams. Your innovative approach in mobile learning system
sheds light on the new trend of pedagogical circle, i.e. learning in
mobile age. Fortunately for us, the impact of your work stretches beyond
England and the European continent to the United States, where we are very
lucky to be able to benefit" (b).
Adoption of the Edumecca SRS has also helped a number of institutions
secure major funding. In 2011 the Centre for Flexible Learning was awarded
a €300,000 EU grant to help transfer and disseminate the technology, while
Sør-Trøndelag University College, Trondheim, won similar funding, worth
around €3m, in 2012 [f]. A great potential of SRS commercialization has
been proposed in the EduMecca exploitation report [g].
The flexibility of the system, particularly its capacity to facilitate
"distance learning", has allowed its use to be extended to industrial,
laboratory and other settings. In several countries it has formed a key
element of the training required for the Welder Certificate qualification.
The Hungarian Association of Welding Technology and Material Testing made
the system available to 90 companies and more than a thousand people in
2010. Norwegian firm QM Soft has used it in eight modules of its training
course, and it has also helped train welders in Sweden, Slovakia and
Slovenia. Studium Ltd, the company subcontracted by the Hungarian
Association of Welding Technology and Material Testing to carry out
training, has reported the Edumecca SRS's "positive impact on student
learning and experiences" [h].
In 2011, in response to a request from Leeds University's bioscience
department, Professor Lu used the SRS technology as the basis for Mobile
Lab Mate (MLM), a mobile application allowing the automatic submission,
storage, retrieval and visualisation of data generated in experiments. The
system reduces users' workload by obviating the need for paper-based
logbooks [i]. Efforts to commercialise MLM for wider use are now under
way. At the request of Helen Ribchester, a Senior Lecturer at the
University of Huddersfield's School of Human and Health Sciences, the
prototype of a similar system was also produced for occupational
therapists. The work has been presented in the two large International
conferences on Digital Society
in France and Software
Engineering Research and Practice, USA 2013.
The technology has also been used for industrial applications, including
the development of a user interface controller for ML Shaw Fabrications
Ltd's patented Intelligent Kitchen Ventilation (IKV) system. They
mentioned in their letter "...with your help and involvement we were able
to move a lot quicker than we anticipate and we are now in production of
selling the IKV system to schools and colleges.". The Manchester-based
company paid more than £600 per set for its previous interface, whereas
the Huddersfield-designed successor costs only £110 per set — a saving of
around 75 per cent for the firm [j].
Sources to corroborate the impact
a. Supporting statement from the Vice Rector, Petru Maior University of
Tirgu Mures, Romania (available on request).
b. Supporting statement from the Director of Distance Education, College
of Humanities and Social Sciences, Kenneshaw State University (available
c. Evaluation report from the University of Derby (available on request).
d. Sample agreement with overseas university (available on request).
e. Sellahewa, H (2011): Using an Online Student Response System in Small
Group Teaching: A Pilot Study, Italics, e-Journal, vol. 10 (3),
(see "Papers", fourth link).
f. The announcement of the award, http://histproject.no/node/120;
g. Report of the Edumecca consortium (available on request).
h. Supporting statement from Studium Ltd, subcontracted by Hungarian
Association of Welding Technology and Material Testing to provide SRS
training (available on request).
i. Feedback from the School of Biosciences, Leeds University (available
j. Supporting statement from the Technical Director, ML Shaw Fabrications
Ltd (available on request).