Poll Everywhere is a classroom response system (CRS) that allows you to create real-time polls with a number of different response options, including open-ended responses, multiple choice, and more. Students can respond through its app, the mobile web, a laptop, or via text messages, and you can see responses from all your students in real-time.
DePaul has a limited license for the premium version of Poll Everywhere. If you are interested in using Poll Everywhere, we recommend you set up a free account, try it out, and if you like it and are interested in advanced features like unlimited responses per poll or graded questions, let us know using the form linked below.
With Poll Everywhere, you can:
- Create polls and have your students respond in real-time
- Group polls to create a survey that can be completed asynchronously
- Present and discuss results from polls and surveys with your class
- Moderate live polls during special events such as conferences and workshops
- "Gamify" your class by having your students compete in groups
Learn more about Poll Everywhere from their Help Center:
Answers to Common Questions
The following sections have been adapted from Vanderbilt University's Center for Teaching under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Why use a classroom response system such as Poll Everywhere?
An instructor can use a classroom response system such as Poll Everywhere to:
- Maintain students’ attention during a lecture. Studies show that most people’s attention lapses after 10 to 18 minutes of passive listening. Inserting a few CRS-facilitated activities every so often during a lecture can help maintain students’ attention. See The “Change-up” in Lectures for more on this idea.
- Promote active student engagement during a lecture. Posing well-chosen questions to students during lecture and expecting answers from each student can cause students to reflect on and assimilate course content during class.
- Promote discussion and collaboration among students during class with group exercises that require students to discuss and come to a consensus.
- Encourage participation from each and every student in a class. Asking a question verbally and calling on the first student to raise his or her hand results in one student participating. A CRS-facilitated activity can involve not one, but all of the students in the class.
- Create a safe space for shy and unsure students to participate in class. A CRS gives students a chance to respond to a teacher’s question silently and privately, enabling student who might not typically speak up in class to express their thoughts and opinions. A CRS also enables students to respond anonymously to sensitive ethical, legal, and moral questions.
- Check for student understanding during class. By asking CRS-facilitated questions, teachers can determine if students understand important points or distinctions raised in class. They need not wait until homework is turned in or exams are completed to do so. Instead they can receive feedback on a lecture during that same lecture.
- Teach in a way that adapts to the immediate learning needs of his or her students. If a histogram of student answers shows that a significant number of students chose wrong answers to a question, then the teacher can revisit or clarify the points he or she just made in class. If a histogram shows that most students chose the correct answers to a question, then the teacher can move on to another topic.
- Take attendance and to rapidly grade in-class quizzes, provided that each transmitter is assigned to a unique student over the length of a course. Note that different CRS systems provide different levels of support for anonymous and non-anonymous usage.
- Add a little drama to class. There is often a sense of expectation as wait for the histogram to appear showing how their classmates answered a given question.
What kinds of questions can I ask my students using classroom response systems?
Many instructors see multiple-choice questions as limited to testing students’ recall of facts. However, multiple-choice clicker questions can actually serve many other purposes in the class, including assessing students’ higher-order thinking skills. Since clicker questions can be used not only to assess students but to engage them, some very effective clicker questions are quite different than multiple-choice questions that might appear on exams.
Here are a few types of clicker questions:
- Recall Questions: These questions ask students to recall facts, concepts, or techniques relevant to class. They are often used to see if students did the reading, remember important points from prior classes, or have memorized key facts. They rarely generate discussion, however, and don’t require higher-order thinking skills.
- Conceptual Understanding Questions: These questions go beyond recall and assess students’ understanding of important concepts. Answer choices to these questions are often based on common student misconceptions, and so these questions work well to help instructors identify and address their students’ misconceptions. Questions asking students to classify examples, match characteristics with concepts, select the best explanation for a concept, or translate among different ways of representing an idea are examples of conceptual understanding questions.
- Application Questions: These questions require students to apply their knowledge and understanding to particular situations and contexts. Application questions often ask students to make a decision or choice in a given scenario, connect course content to “real-world” situations, implement procedures or techniques, or predict the outcome of experiments or even their peers’ response to a subsequent question.
- Critical Thinking Questions: These questions operate at the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy, requiring students to analyze relationships among multiple concepts or make evaluations based on particular criteria. Often these questions are “one-best-answer questions,” questions that include multiple answer choices that have merit. Students are asked to select the one best answer from these choices. One-best-answer questions aren’t appropriate for exams, since the reasons students provide for or against answer choices are of more interest than their particular answer selections. However, these questions can be very effective in preparing students to engage in class discussions about their reasons.
- Student Perspective Questions: These are questions that ask students to share their opinions, experiences, or demographic information. These questions do not have correct answers, but by surfacing the various perspectives of students in a class, they can help both instructors and students better understand those perspectives. They can often generate rich discussion, particularly questions about ethical, legal, or moral issues. They can also help students connect their personal experiences to more abstract course content. The anonymity that clickers provide is often an essential ingredient in asking these kinds of questions.
- Confidence Level Questions: Asking students a content question, then following that by asking students to rate their confidence in their answers (high, medium, or low) can enhance the usefulness of information on student learning provided by the first question. Prompting students to assess their confidence can also aid in metacognition–learning about one’s own learning. Instructors can also ask “predictive” confidence level questions by asking students how confident they are that they could correctly answer some question or accomplish some task in which they have not yet engaged.
- Monitoring Questions: These are questions designed to provide instructors with information about how their students are approaching the learning process in their courses. For instance, one week before a paper assignment is due, instructors might ask students whether or not they have completed rough drafts as a way to gauge their progress. Asking students how long they took to complete an assignment they have just turned in can provide instructors with useful information about the difficulty of the assignment. Clicker questions can also be used to see if students remember good advice or course policies shared on a first-day-of-class course syllabus. The questions that appear on end-of-semester course evaluations also make useful monitoring questions at the midpoint of the semester.
- Classroom Experiments: Classroom response systems can also be used to collect data from students for classroom experiments often used in the social sciences. Often data generated by students during class can be used to make points about social behavior. By allowing these data to be collected and analyzed during class, clickers can bring a sense of immediacy and relevance to these kinds of experiments.
What kinds of learning activities can be done with classroom response systems?
Teaching with a CRS can take a number of directions. Teachers will want to match activities to course content, time constraints, learning objectives, and their own teaching styles. Some possibilities for CRS activities include the following, listed more or less in order of increasing levels of student engagement.
- Attendance: Clickers can be used to take attendance directly (e.g. asking students to respond to the question “Are you here today?”) or indirectly by determining which students used their clickers during class.
Summative Assessment: Clickers can be used for graded activities, such as multiple-choice quizzes or even tests. Some brands of clickers allow for a “student-paced” mode in which students answer questions on a printed test at their own pace.
- Formative Assessment: Clickers can be used to pose questions to students and collect their answers for the purpose of providing real-time information about student learning to both the instructor and the students. Students can use this feedback to monitor their own learning, and instructors can use it to change how they manage class “on the fly” in response to student learning needs. Some brands of clickers allow students to register their confidence level (high, medium, or low) along with their answer, providing more detailed feedback to the instructor.Some instructors assign participation grades to these kinds of formative assessments to encourage students to participate. Other instructors assign points for correct answers to encourage students to take these questions more seriously. Other instructors do a mix of both, assigning partial credit for wrong answers.
- Homework Collection: Some brands of clickers allow students to record their answers to multiple-choice or free response homework questions outside of class and submit their answers via the clickers at the start of class.
Discussion Warm-Up: Posing a question, giving students time to think about it and record their answers via clickers, and then displaying the results can be an effective way to warm a class up for a class-wide discussion. Compared with the approach of taking the first hand that is raised after a question is asked, this approach gives all students time to think about and commit to an answer, setting the stage for greater discussion participation.
- Contingent Teaching: Since it can occasionally be challenging to determine what students understand and what they do not understand, clickers can be used to gauge that in real-time during class and modify one’s lesson plan accordingly. If the clicker data show that students understand a given topic, then the instructor can move on to the next one. If not, then more time can be spent on the topic, perhaps involving more lecture, class discussion, or another clicker question.This approach has been called “agile teaching” by Beatty et al. (2006), who write, “This contrasts with the common practice of teaching according to a ‘ballistic’ lesson plan: designing a plan for an entire class meeting, ‘launching’ the plan, hoping that it hits reasonably close to its target, and waiting for the next exam to know for certain.” Certainly there are other ways to determine if students are understanding course material as one progresses through a course, but clickers can provide a convenient way of doing so. See also Draper & Brown (2004) for more on this approach.
- Peer Instruction: The teacher poses a question to his or her students. The students ponder the question silently and transmit their individual answers using the clickers. The teacher checks the histogram of student responses. If significant numbers of students choose the wrong answer, the teacher instructs the students to discuss the question with their neighbor. After a few minutes of discussion, the students submit their answers again. This technique often (but not always!) results in more students choosing the correct answer as a result of the peer instruction phase of the activity. This is a fairly simple way to use clickers to engage a large number of students in discussions about course material. This approach can also set the stage for a class-wide discussion that more fully engages all students. See Mazur (1997) for more on this approach.
- Repeated Questions: In the peer instruction approach described above, students respond to a given question twice–once after thinking about their answer individually and again after discussing it with their neighbor. Some instructors ask the same question several times, with different activities in between rounds of voting designed to help students better answer the question. For instance, an instructor might have the students answer the question individually, then discuss it with their neighbor and respond, then participate in a class-wide discussion and respond, and then listen to a mini-lecture on the topic and respond. For particularly challenging questions, this can be an effective technique for helping students discover and explore course material.
- Question-Driven Instruction: This approach combines contingent teaching and peer instruction. Lesson plans consist entirely of clicker questions. Which questions are asked depends entirely on how students answer the questions. An instructor might come into class with a stack of clicker questions, with multiple questions on each topic. As students perform well on clicker questions, the instructor moves on to questions on new topics. As students perform poorly, the instructor asks further questions on the same topic. The instructor does not have a lesson plan in the traditional sense when using this approach. Instead, the course of the class is determined reactively to demonstrated student learning needs. See Beatty et al. (2006) for more on this approach.
- “Choose Your Own Adventure” Classes: In this technique, an instructor poses a problem along with several possible approaches to solving it–perhaps approaches suggested by students during class. The instructor has the students vote on which approach to pursue first, then explores that approach with the students. Afterwards, the students vote on which approach to pursue next. See Hinde and Hunt (2006) for an example of this approach.
Do you have questions or need advice about integrating Poll Everywhere into your course? Contact a faculty instructional technology consultant by emailing fits[at]depaul.edu.