CASE STUDY: iClicker Education

New connected digital experience for students and instructors fuels rapid market dominance.

Whether it’s a classroom of 20 or a lecture hall of 200 students, modern students and instructors expect in-classroom technology to seamlessly enable the most effective learning environment possible.

Field Notes


iClicker Education, a core offering within Macmillan Learning’s (ML) suite of products designed to engage students before, during and after class, is the market leader in student response and classroom engagement with over 5,000 instructor and 7 million student users at over 1,100 institutions.

The system is offered in two products – one for instructors and one for students. iClicker’s innovative solutions make it easy for instructors to track attendance, increase participation, facilitate quizzes, and measure performance while giving students the flexibility to choose how they participate: by mobile app, web or iClicker remote.


Based in the US and Canada, Macmillan Learning partners with the world’s best researchers, educators, administrators, and developers to deliver sound pedagogical solutions designed to facilitate teaching and learning opportunities that spark student engagement and improve outcomes.


Over the course of our six year relationship with the iClicker team, we have supported them through three distinct eras of challenges that included:

  • When we first started working with Macmillan Learning in 2013, they had identified a shift in the competitive landscape of classroom polling tools, where their iClicker polling response system had set the standard for the last decade. With the existing iClicker system, the only option for students was to purchase and carry a hand held remote device.
  • As more instructors and students adopted the product, instructors identified a growing pain point – their students were relying on them for guidance and support with the product.
  • In the early days of iClicker, the product was built feature-by-feature with multiple code bases for different operating systems. As the product matured, the initial processes showed signs of strain could impede the company’s ability to stay ahead of the demands of its growing user base.
  • The customer base didn’t understand the relationship between the existing hardware, named iClicker, and the early iterations of the software, named REEF.


Photo of classrooms

iClicker app screens

Key Insights

  • Digital Natives, those who’ve grown up with technology, have profoundly different habits and expectations from their Digital Immigrant counterparts. Source
  • Today’s students report education as the top reason that they use apps and technology, followed by communication. Source
  • Students are increasingly demonstrating their preference for colleges and universities that utilize technology well to provide accessible connected experiences inside and outside of the classroom. Source

From the User …

  • “Introducing a digital alternative to the remotes is a great idea, but I want to make sure it’s every bit as easy to get up and running as it is with the remotes, which I just plug in and run with.” – Instructor User
  • “As more and more of my students download iClicker, they are coming to me with questions about setup. Tech support is eating into my time. It needs to be easier for them to set things up on their own.” – Instructor User
  • “The handheld remotes work, but all I see are my scores. I wish I had a way to circle back later to understand the questions I got wrong and right.” – Student User



As iClicker has moved through various stages of the product life cycle, we have solved many challenges.

Introducing a new digital product, from the ground up.

As the edtech space saw rapid growth and investment, Macmillan’s strategy was to stay ahead of emerging app-based solutions that could threaten their market lead. While the existing iClicker remote devices would remain available, Openfield’s challenge was to help plan and design a new digital iClicker experience that would be every bit as easy to get up and running on as the existing remote devices. The goal was to provide instructors enhanced engagement tools and give students the choice to forgo the old remote device by accessing the product using their own mobile devices.

In 2013, meticulous planning and execution led the way for the launch of the highly intuitive digital solution for iClicker Education. Rapid adoption of the product was nearly immediate. iClicker rocketed to its market position as the top solution for student response and engagement, where it holds to this day.

iClicker app


A brand architecture and naming system overhaul makes sense of a complex system.

When the new digital platform was first introduced, it was named REEF in order to differentiate it from the existing iClicker hardware product (handheld remotes). That led to confusion about the relationship between the two as it wasn’t clear that they were part of one system. Openfield recognized the disconnect and made recommendations for a new naming structure that would clarify that, reef became subordinate.

iClicker brand


Elevating the student experience to compliment the highly successful instructor product helps spur growth.

Because instructors are the “deciders” of which tech they use, the initial focus during the introductory stage was focused on their needs. When the product first launched, instructors were loyal advocates who were willing to work with us to identify how the product could be improved. While instructors were the ones who chose iClicker, it was their students who were rating and reviewing the product in app stores. Given the product’s success with instructors, the lower than expected ratings indicated the need to elevate the user experience on the student side.

The iClicker team identified a long list of feature additions they imagined could help increase satisfaction. Openfield helped the client assess and prioritize their ideas through user research and testing. The resulting findings and recommendations allowed for laser like focus on what mattered most to students and instructors:

  • Better understanding of scores – the ability to review wrong and right answers after class.
  • Friction within onboarding and account creation processes.
  • Misunderstandings within course structure and session details.
  • Lack of relatability of technical language within the product
  • Low student usage time within the product.

Photo of user testing

As the product continues to mature, the team has grown and evolved to an integrated process that allows both student and instructor development teams to run concurrent symbiotic improvement cycles.

Our intimate knowledge of iClicker Education and our history in the edtech space has enabled us to collaborate with the iClicker product team to identify opportunities to work smarter. Together, we advocated for a new integrated product development process between the student and instructor teams, as well as, a unified code base approach. With stakeholders bought-in, the new efficient design and development process means no more designing and building for multiple platforms (Android, iOS and web for the student app and Windows, Mac and web for the instructor app). Today, concurrent student and instructor product teams seamlessly move design and development forward without disrupting the real-time use of the legacy application.

Photo of wireframes

iClicker app screens



The future looks bright for continued market dominance. With our help, the iClicker Education team has not only been able to maintain its position as the clear market leader, they have built a fervent user base by consistently listening to and delivering upon what their student and instructor users actually want.

  • Openfield helped Macmillan deliver on the challenge facing all industries – users increasingly demand flexible digital alternatives to antiquated product experiences.
  • #1 polling solution in North America with over 690,000 current users at more than 1,100 institutions.
  • Consistently achieving App and Play store ratings of 4.0 and higher over the last two years (were below 2.5 prior to addressing UX issues).
  • Recognized by Campus Technology Readers’ Choice Awards – Best Student Response Systems and Classroom Engagement Systems:
    • 2018 – Gold Award Winner
    • 2017 – Platinum Award Winner
    • 2015 – Platinum Award Winner
    • 2014 – Platinum Award Winner
  • New brand architecture and naming system has clarified misconceptions about the system.
  • Openfield’s recommendations for visual and verbal storytelling adopted across marketing and sales vehicles.



UX Capabilities at Openfield

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Ideation & Planning

Align product features and flows with the real-world wants and needs of student and instructor users.

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Design & Prototyping

Create and validate bar-setting user experiences that will endear students and instructors to your product.

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