What is polling?

Polling allows learners to participate in real time question and answer activities using a mobile device, tablet or computer. Instructors can collect and analyse feedback instantly, or after their sessions through automatically generated reports.

Active learning

Active learning is at the heart of polling software which encourages interaction and enables students to become more involved in their learning. Rather than a one-way ‘transmission’ of information, it is possible to measure whether learners have understood the material, and the teaching material accordingly can be adjusted accordingly. Of course, many lecturers will be doing this already without the use of technology by asking for a show of hands or encouraging questions from students. However, polling software can make the process easier and more inclusive by exploiting current technology that will be familiar and comfortable for most students. It can also provide record data that can be useful in reviewing the level of understanding.

Large group interaction

The ability to easily gauge students’ understanding can be a powerful tool, particularly in large groups where the sheer number of students represent a challenge for student interactivity. The anonymous nature of polling software can also be more comfortable for students who feel intimidated by a show of hands or are reluctant to ask questions directly. It encourages students to participate who might otherwise not contribute. Students are much more involved in the learning process and seem to enjoy a more interactive experience.

People using phones in a lecture.

Polling activities

Polling can be useful for activities such as:

  • to ask knowledge check questions (in a standard MCQ style quiz) to judge learner undserstanding
  • to gather anonymous opinions on a given viewpoint or position, to aid further discussion or analyse a generally held misconception
  • to ask students to reflect on the confidence of their current understanding, or identify topics that need further attention
  • to gather questions from students in a large group
  • to follow up on prepartory material (e.g. in a flipped teaching session) at the start of a session to ensure learners are have the knowldge required to continue with new activities
  • as an ‘exit ticket’ at the end of a session, to ask student to reflect on the session or what they have learned

Read a case study about the use of polling in lectures.

Useful links