December 2004 Bulletin

ARS encourages feedback, participation

Audience response system adds new dimension to courses

Four years ago, the AAOS introduced a new technology at the Annual Meeting: an Audience Response System (ARS), a computerized mechanism that, in just 10 seconds, elicits feedback from a meeting or course. The ARS was used during course presentations to encourage audience participation.

The system combines cutting-edge audience response software with interactive wireless keypads to provide real-time feedback during meetings and class sessions. Hand-held devices transmit individual responses to a computer terminal, which instantly tabulates the data and displays a summary for the audience to review.

Initially, the Academy rented equipment when it was needed. But the system has proved so popular that earlier this year, the Academy decided to purchase its own ARS.

“ARS makes it possible for the AAOS to conduct surveys, present tests and quizzes, arrive at a group consensus and conduct focus groups,” said Tim Williams, office services supervisor, who is the “keeper” of the system. He said that the ARS is most effectively used in meetings with at least 20 participants.

Multiple uses

Owning an ARS also meant that the AAOS could use the system not only at the Annual Meeting but also at courses and meetings throughout the year. The ARS has already been used during several instructional courses at the Orthopaedic Learning Center in Rosemont, Ill., and is an integral part of AAOS Board of Directors meetings.

“At the 2005 Annual Meeting, the ARS will be used during 11 instructional courses and nine symposia,” said Lynn Mondack, manager of instructional courses in the convention and meeting services department. This is a substantial increase from the 2000 Annual Meeting, where ARS was featured at just a couple of instructional courses.

Most of the courses and symposia that use the ARS focus on topics where there might be significant differences of opinion on the proper course of treatment, such as “Thomboembolism after Total Hip and Knee Arthroplasty: What’s Best for My Patient?” Others will use the ARS as part of case-based discussions to measure audience response to treatment approaches.

The interactivity that an ARS system makes possible has another benefit as well: it raises the average scores on course evaluations.

“This has proven to be quite consistent through the years,” Mondack said. “It made us realize how important it was to continue using the ARS. But it’s not effective in all cases.”

Asking the right questions

Course instructors who want to use an ARS are prepped on the types of questions that can be asked. The questions should be brief and grasped quickly by the audience, and there should only be as many response choices as needed. Questions that seem too obvious or superficial will turn off the audience. Every question should be asked with maximum clarity, no ambiguities. The questions should be engaging and intriguing: Audience members are more likely to be engaged when they anticipate an answer. Finally, the questions should be directed to the individuals and not the group as a whole.

The Academy’s ARS includes some fun features as well. Remember Who “Wants to be a Millionaire?”— the TV show that first introduced the American public to the ARS? During the 10-second countdown to lock in a response, the system can play several optional sound effects, including the original ‘Millionaire’ theme. “It can be pretty dramatic,” said Mondack.

The ARS brings a whole new dimension to all types of meetings. So if you’re attending an instructional course lecture during Annual Meeting that features the ARS, don’t hesitate to express your opinion. As Mondack said, “It’s one of the neatest innovations to come around for a long time. It is undoubtedly here to stay.”

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