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Live polling

Polling can be a versatile strategy for active and engaging learning.

Asking your students to respond to live polls, whether in person or online, can be an effective way to actively engage and deepen their learning. This article offers different strategies and tools for using live polling in your teaching.

Uses for live polling

Whether you're teaching online or in person, polls have many pedagogical uses and can help to keep students engaged. 

Check student comprehension

A multiple-choice poll question that asks students to rate their level of understanding of a concept is a simple way to check for student comprehension. A more sophisticated comprehension check might use an open-ended poll question where students anonymously describe anything that still remains unclear to them. This can help you identify things you might revisit or clarify.

Assess student learning

Live polls can be used to assess if students correctly understand a concept or can correctly recall a key piece of content knowledge. For example, you might use a series of multiple-choice questions that have correct answers to evaluate student learning and provide them with a numerical score.

Build a sense of community

Polls can also be used to promote a sense of belonging or well-being in your course. For example, you might use a clickable image poll where students click on an image of a map to indicate where they identify as home. Another example might be to use an anonymous word cloud poll where students contribute a few words describing how they feel about a difficult or sensitive topic.

Gather feedback 

Polls can be useful for gathering feedback from students about the course or instruction. An anonymous poll might ask students for recommendations for how to improve the course or ask students to share what activities or teaching strategies were most helpful to their learning.

Facilitate peer learning

Polls can be a powerful way to facilitate peer learning among your students. For example, you might use a poll to first ask students to vote on what they think might be the outcome of a hypothetical situation. Then lock in the initial results and have the students discuss with a partner why they chose that answer. You might then further discuss the situation as a class before unlocking the poll and having students update their responses. Thinking deeply about the situation and collectively seeing the poll results change can make learning more memorable and engaging.

Polling tools and technology

There are a number of technology tools you might use for audience polling.

We recommend Poll Everywhere as it is provided to everyone at Stanford and is fully vetted and supported.  It is a web-based audience response system that can support interactive classroom instruction and real-time student engagement.

Zoom polling is limited to use in Zoom meetings and is limited in the types of poll questions available.

Physical clicker-style hand-held response systems, due to rising costs for both students and universities, are being phased out in most settings.

Analog methods such as asking students to raise their hands, lift numbered cards, or submit responses written on index cards are useful as a contingency or accommodation, or when access to technology is a barrier.

Poll Everywhere

Poll Everywhere is the current Stanford-recommended option. It's a flexible tool for polling that works equally well in-person or online. It is provided freely to all Stanford students, staff, faculty, and instructors.  

With this web-based tool, activities can be designed through a simple interface and embedded directly into PowerPoint, Keynote, or Google Slides presentations. Students can then use any web-enabled device to respond to your polls. You can easily generate reports on the collected responses, share polls with your team, and even export responses directly into Canvas.

Visit the Poll Everywhere support page for instructions on how to access and use this tool.

Ideas for Poll Everywhere

Poll Everywhere has a variety of question types that can be used creatively for many situations.

  • Q&A poll to collect and upvote audience questions during a Q&A session
  • Clickable image poll to gather heatmap input from stakeholders
  • Ranking poll to prioritize project opportunities
  • Survey poll to gather peer feedback on student presentations
  • Multiple choice poll to sign up for project teams
  • Competition poll for a game-show-style trivia activity