Center for Teaching Excellence and Learning

A Different Option to Engage and Assess


James Barraclough (Career Services)


Last year I attended the annual conference for the Kansas Association of Colleges and Employers, KACE, and one of the sessions introduced me to a Text Message polling system. As an educator, an important aspect of any lecture or presentation is the ability to assess your audience and check for understanding. This tool, Poll Everywhere, has a free version that allows for quick assessment of your audience in an interactive way that allows them to use the cell phones and mobile devices they are already using every day.

Some of you may have used Clickers in the past to allow your students to provide feedback during a lecture. The idea behind Poll Everywhere is similar to this but it allows your audience to engage using platforms they already use on a daily basis. With this tool you have the ability to create polls/questions that allow multiple choice responses or open-ended responses for more qualitative assessment. Results to your polls can be displayed in real time to your audience by being embedded in a PowerPoint presentation or using their web-based tool and displaying a generated URL. In addition to using the polling tool to check for understanding during your lecture, you can also use it to guide the direction of your lecture based on the interests of your audience.

I was recently giving a presentation to a class of FYE Peer Educators and I used this tool as a conversation starter. I simply asked them – “What made you decide to be a Peer Educator?”  Here is a screenshot of a few of the responses I received that led to a great discussion about why their chosen role is very important to each of them.

Screen Shot of Poll J. Barraclaugh

The ability to submit anonymous responses allows students who might otherwise be reserved and quiet to still feel comfortable sharing their opinion in a large audience. If you have a particularly quiet class, or one that is dominated by a few outspoken individuals, a tool like this provides a medium for more introverted individuals to feel comfortable to engage. If you are not a fan of the text message display option and you’d like something a little more creative, a simple click can change the reporting feature from the above visual to a word cloud.

Screen Shot of Word Cloud

The free version of Poll Everywhere allows up to 40 unique responses to each poll. There are other tools that are similar to Poll Everywhere that you can explore but it’s the one I have used successfully in my presentations. It is a little on the cheesy side, but the website Learn It In 5 has a short video that shows the Poll Everywhere tool in action. Happy polling if you decide you’d like to give this tool a try!

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