Michelle Musser, PharmD
Active learning….sounds great until you try to get a discussion going and all you hear is crickets and the entire audience tries to avoid your gaze. Student engagement in lecture is a challenge, but technology can offer a creative approach to active learning. Online polling programs, like Poll Everywhere, are one method to increase active student participation during lecture.
If you have ever used or seen clickers in the classroom, online polling is the same concept. Ask a question and the audience can respond. But with online polling, instead of pressing a button and answering a multiple choice question, you can ask students to type in a short response, vote on others’ responses (called a brainstorm question), or click on an image to answer a question. Plus, there is no clickers to reserve or lose. Students can respond using any electronic device and we know they have about four on them all the time. Online polling works in real-time so you can see the responses as they come in. Options on online polling are endless too from moderating responses to setting timers and display options. Moreover, when you use a paid plan, you get access to downloadable poll reports. You know what that means? Assessment potential too! Online polling can be integrated into the classroom in a number of ways, from asking questions at key points in the lecture to gauge understanding to soliciting feedback at the end of a lecture; the potential is really vast. And, yes, it is easy to use. Poll Everywhere easily integrates into Powerpoint slides, allowing it to seamlessly become a part of a lecture.
So what are the drawbacks? Well, first you do need an internet connection to make it work. May be an issue if your institution is prone to WiFi issues. Also, the free plan has limited capabilities; no reports, limited responses allowed, etc. You need a paid plan to get all the bells and whistles. Finally, I have heard the concern that having students use technology in the classroom is not true “active learning,” as the student engages with the device and not the material. In my experience, polling is a way to get conversation started, for the students to see what others think and to feel comfortable sharing their thoughts or answers. From there, it is much easier to have a discussion and to facilitate learning. Student feedback has been very positive and I have been pleased by the engagement using this tool.
So what are your next steps if you find this tool intriguing? Try it out! Login to the Poll Everywhere website (www.pollev.com) and you can instantly create a poll. Download the add-on for Powerpoint at www.pollev.com/app and, bam, you are ready to try it out in the classroom! If you still need more information, explore the website or listen to the webinars to learn more. HAPPY POLLING!