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Student polling applications

Posted at 3:27 p.m. Aug. 7, 2014, by in IDT Blog: Teaching & Tech Tips

last updated Aug 4, 2021 @ 1:22 pm

Student polling applications allow all students to participate in class, anonymously or for credit. In the past, professors may have required students to purchase clickers, but newer systems allow students to participate with their personal devices in the classroom.

Why utilize student polling?

  • Polling can add student interaction to lecture-based courses or large classes
  • Instructors can stop to poll the class mid-lecture to check for understanding, increasing student engagement in the lesson, which has been shown to enhance learning
  • Instructors can also use polling at the start or end of lectures to assess areas of focus for the lecture, based on gaps in student understanding

Student polling can be more beneficial than asking students to raise their hand, as it can offer anonymity and more precise data that can be saved and analyzed at a later time, or in some cases, shared live with students.

Some student polling options

There are a number of web-based applications that allow students to participate using any web-enabled device (smartphone, tablet, laptop), which can eliminate problems with clickers. However, it might be a good idea to survey students to make sure everyone has a device that can participate in the polls. Arrangements may need to be made for students who do not have access to a web-enabled device.


PollEverywhere is a web-based application that allows you to poll students using multiple choice, open-ended, or image hotspot questions (where students are asked to choose/identify part of an image by touching or clicking). Students can respond to poll by texting their response (except in image hotspot-type questions) or by visiting, and results are displayed live.

  • Strengths:
    • Standalone questions for which you’d like a quick response
    • Texting option is useful for students without smartphones or other web-enabled devices
  • Limitations:
    • Free version is limited to 25 respondents per poll
    • Responses are anonymous so difficult to use for credit


Socrative is another web-based application that also offers apps for iOS and Android devices (but can be used with a browser from a laptop, as well). Socrative has more options than PollEverywhere, allowing you to easily create quizzes. Multiple choice and short answer questions are supported, and images can be used as part of the question, but image hotspots aren’t supported.

  • Strengths: 
    • “Grouped” quiz questions (student can move through groups of questions at his/her own pace)
    • Mix question styles throughout the quiz
    • Formative assessments for which you’d like to grant credit, since it can be tied to student names for more detailed data and offers easier access to results – download results directly after quiz or at a later time as they’re results stored in app
  • Limitations: 
    • No text response options; so a web-enabled device is a must
    • Soft limit of 50 participants per activity
    • You can display live results (with anonymous or named data) but it’s a clunkier display


Kahoot is another web-based application that offers apps for iOS and Android devices (but can also be used with a browser). Kahoot is structured like a competitive game, with music playing (it can be turned off!) and a leaderboard displayed after each question.

  • Strengths:
    • “Grouped” quiz questions (but students move through the quiz as a class, doing each question together)
    • Nice display of live results, but since it’s competition-style, names are always displayed
    • Larger participant limit (100 students per quiz)
  • Limitations
    • Must use the same question style throughout the quiz (all multiple choice, all t/f, etc)
    • May be more difficult but not impossible to grant credit for quiz. It can be tied to student names but MUST download results directly after quiz; cannot be retrieved later in free version

References and Resources

Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching: Classroom response systems

App Review: Socrative (Faculty Focus)

Sun, J. C.-Y., Martinez, B., & Seli, H. (2014). Just-in-Time or Plenty-of-Time Teaching? Different Electronic Feedback Devices and Their Effect on Student Engagement. Educational Technology & Society, 17 (2), 234–244.

Blasco-Arcas, L. L., Buil, I. I., Hernández-Ortega, B. B., & Sese, F. J. (2013). Using clickers in class. the role of interactivity, active collaborative learning and engagement in learning performance. Computers And Education,62102-110. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2012.10.019

Caldwell, J. E. (2007). Clickers in the Large Classroom: Current Research and Best-Practice Tips. CBE – Life Sciences Education6(1), 9-20.



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