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Student polling applications

Posted at 3:27 p.m. Aug. 7, 2014, by in News

Student polling applications allow all students to participate in class anonymously. One common form of student polling is through the use of clickers. However, students often have complaints about using clickers: they may forget to bring them to class, it incurs an extra cost, or the device may run out of batteries or break. There are options outside of clickers which would allow for the same function of the clicker, but instead utilize the students’ cell phone/web enabled device, including Socrative and PollEverywhere.

Why utilize student polling?

  • Student polling can be a useful option for classes in which student learning is passive, such as lecture-based courses or large lecture halls
  • 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 before or at the conclusion of lectures to assess the 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 offers anonymity and more precise data that can be saved and analyzed at a later time.

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.

  • Better for: Standalone questions, texting option is useful for students without smartphones or other web-enabled devices
  • Limitations: Free version is limited to 40 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 plain old browser, 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.

  • Better for: “Grouped” quiz questions (student can move through groups of questions at his/her own pace), can be tied to student names for more detailed data, no limits on participants
  • Limitations: No text response options, so a web-enabled device is a must

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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