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Electronic Voting (Polling) in Lectures

Dr Ben Metcalfe, Department of Electrical & Electronic Engineering, University of Bath

Background context

Dr Ben Metcalfe teaches a first-year undergraduate course in Microprocessors and Interfacing. He delivers two lectures per week in a traditional lecture theatre to 70 students and wanted an interactive way to engage his learners. He sought to avoid students drifting away towards the end of a lecture, and instead aimed to reconnect them to the lecture subject matter by recapping with questions at the end. He introduced an element of electronic voting to his lectures, using a tool called ResponseWare (via TurningPoint Cloud). This allows him to poll students who can respond using their own mobile devices, such as smartphones or tablets.

Update: we no longer use TurningPoint, and instead we provide Mentimeter for in-class voting/polling.


There were two main purposes for using electronic voting.

  1. To enable the learners to engage with the lecture content by taking part in polls which allowed them to recall their understanding.
  2. Ben was able to receive feedback from the students about their level of understanding. He could then adapt his delivery to take account of misconceptions or misunderstandings.


Ben first requested a TurningPoint account (from Audio Visual) and had the TurningPoint Cloud software installed on his PC. He could then:

  • Open PowerPoint from within the TurningPoint Cloud software which presents a list of tools dedicated to adding questions to slides within his presentation
  • Reserve a session ID to run his poll, one that is easy for students to access
  • Poll the students during the lecture and use the data to adjust the lecture or save the data for review later

Pros & Cons

  • All students can participate in the lecture anonymously which can help reticent first year students engage with questions
  • The lecturer can use the results of the polls to inform future practice
  • Students can judge their understanding for themselves without feeling self-conscious about any misunderstandings
  • Students can download an app, or use a web browser, for use in future lectures
  • Questions can be used to start discussions, as well as for fact-checking
  • Students commented that they were familiar with this approach to learning from previous educational experiences (e.g. from college or school)
  • Student feedback on using the tool was very positive – they like it!
  • This type of interaction relies on reliable Wi-Fi access (although Ben noted that he used this tool in 12 lectures, and it worked perfectly every time)
  • Too many questions in the poll can reduce the impact
  • Planning time needed to prepare sound questions


  • Display a slide at the start of a lecture that directs the students to find the Session ID (code)
  • Don’t overuse polls as students tend to engage because the questions are targeted at carefully chosen topics
  • If students don’t have a mobile device, ask them to partner with someone else
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