Engage students with Poll Everywhere

13 September 2023
By Don Vosburg

You may have recently read about, or personally experienced, what some have called a “stunning level of disconnect” or an “epidemic of student disengagement.” In addition, many instructors have been seeking out ways to either reduce participation anxiety, to encourage more participation and engaged learning in the classroom, or to develop ways to modify their teaching activities as a way to realize the benefits of active learning. Starting this Fall 2023 term, Carleton is supporting a tool that has been shown to help some of these very topics.

Poll Everywhere (PollEv) is a web-based Student Response System (SRS, aka Clicker), which will work on a laptop or smartphone (or any device with internet or data access). PollEv can be used to collect real-time or asynchronous responses from your audience members. If you are unfamiliar with some of the benefits of an SRS, let’s take a look at why something like PollEv can be useful.

Why might I want to use a Student Response System?

Bar graph of faculty opinions about the effectiveness of polling with clickers in the areas of engagement, participation, interaction and discussion.
Click image for full-size version

Among the many educational tools to choose from, research indicates that SRSs, such as PolEv, can enhance classroom dynamics and engagement, support motivation and attentiveness, promote active learning and critical thinking, increase peer interaction, and offer a more inclusive classroom experience. (e.g. Kaleta & Joosten, 2007; Walklet et al., 2016; Hill & Fielden, 2017).

Bar graph of student opinions about the effectiveness of polling with clickers in the areas of engagement, participation, and attention.
Click image for full-size version

Furthermore, our own internal polling of students supported many of the findings above. PollEv provided a platform for typically more “quiet students” to answer questions and/or provide feedback, which reduced classroom stress and anxiety, and allowed students to self-asses their own learning. Students reported that PollEv was a good platform for keeping their attention on classroom activities, and that it created a more interactive classroom space.

PollEv can help to illuminate attitudes or misconceptions of topics in class, and help provide an avenue of increasing participation of more difficult or sensitive topics. Responses can be made completely anonymous allowing for students to feel more comfortable in providing an answer.

Students reported that being able to answer anonymously increased the likelihood of participation. They found being anonymous made them more willing to participate when they were unsure of an answer, or when they submitted opinions that they knew may not be held by the majority of the class.

Bar graph of faculty opinions about the effectiveness of polling with clickers in the areas of assessment, student learning, and performance.
Click image for full-size version

Beyond a more comfortable classroom and increased engagement, PollEv also provides the presenter with real-time feedback and assessment opportunities. You can use questions to assess prior knowledge, or current understanding of a topic after an assignment, before class starts.

Bar graph of student opinions about the effectiveness of polling with clickers in the areas of feedback, learning, and grades.
Click image for full-size version

When used during class, you can better understand where your students are at in their learning. This could then be a moment to review critical content, or adapt current or future lesson plans and topics if needed. 

While this is not an exhaustive list of possible uses, it is also not an argument that PollEv will solve all engagement issues. As always, a variety of tools and strategies are needed to create the best learning spaces we can. However, working with SRSs like PollEv have been shown to have a positive effect on engagement and learning outcomes in an academic setting.

What else should I know about PollEv?

PollEv integrates into a number of applications you may already be using. You can integrate PollEv with some of the more popular presentation software (ex. Google Slides, or PowerPoint), or communication software (ex. Slack). Additionally, certain features can be integrated into Moodle, including synching your course roster in order to ensure your students have their PollEv participant account, and transferring graded questions in PollEv into your Moodle gradebook.

PollEv has a number of activity types to choose from, including:

Screenshot of the activities available in the Poll Everywhere app. They include multiple choice, word cloud, Q&A, survey, open-ended questions, and others.
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  • Multiple Choice
  • Word Cloud
  • Open-ended questions
  • Clickable image questions
  • Ranking question
  • Q&A
  • Surveys (which can contain multiple activity types)
  • Competitions (game-based with timer and points)

How can I get access to Poll Everywhere?

To gain access to Poll Everywhere, please read our Student Response System catalog page on the ITS site. For more information on how to implement Poll Everywhere in your classroom, please reach out to Don Vosburg (dvosburg) in Academic Technology.

Hil, D., & Fielden, K. (2017). Using Mentimeter to Promote Student Engagement and Inclusion. Pedagogy in Practice Seminar. 18 December, 2017, (unpublished), http://insight.cumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/3473/

Kaleta, B., & Joosten, T. (2007). Student Response Systems: A university of Wisconsin system study of clickers. EDUCAUSE.

Walklet, E., Davis, S., Farrelly, D., & Muse, K. (2016); The impact of Student Response Systems on the learning experience of undergraduate psychology students. Psychology Teaching Review (v22) No. 1, Spring 2016.