6 Uses of Poll Everywhere in Student Affairs Training, Teaching and Events

It’s that time of year! Time to train the staff, open the halls, and start welcome week. I wanted to share one of my favorite tools, Poll Everywhere, and give you some suggestions on how to use it in creative ways with your events, student staff trainings, educational sessions, and in the classroom.

Poll Everywhere is a great web service for running different types of live polls. Participants can answer via a simple text message or via a web browser on their smartphones, tablets or laptops. Question types can range from multiple choice to free-text response. As participants respond, results are shown in real time via a webpage (or a plug-in for Keynote or PowerPoint) that can be projected for all to see.  (You can view their “tour” here.)

There are many ways you can use Poll Everywhere to engage your audience. Here are my suggestions (and some reasons why Poll Everywhere may be a better solution than other options out there):

1. Simple Pulse Check. This is probably the most frequent use of Poll Everywhere. You can ask participants questions at the beginning of your event to understand their level of prior knowledge or gauge their initial attitudes or thoughts. You can also use it as a “perception check” by asking them to answer a question and compare their results to real world findings from research or formal polls.

2. Make decisions on the fly. If you’re running an event or training program that has flexibility, consider having your participants’ vote on the topic the event should focus on. You can also use it to get a sense of your audience’s demographics. For example, if you’re presenting at a conference and suddenly discover that your audience is primarily composed of professionals at community colleges, use that knowledge to tailor your presentation towards their goals. It’s a great way to customize your topic or event to your audience.

3. Check for comprehension. This use of Poll Everywhere is more rare, in my experience, but much more powerful. It works well in classroom settings and training programs. Consider using your learning outcomes to develop comprehension questions. Ask these at the end of your event to check if you achieved your goals or if you need to review or clarify a part of your content. You’ll have real-time feedback and it is much more effective than merely asking your participants’ “satisfaction level” or “self-perceptions.”

4. Assessment data for later. Similar to the previous suggestion, Poll Everywhere can be used to gather assessment data for program improvement. Poll Everywhere saves responses that can then be reviewed later. As a result, you now have a record of your event that you can use to make decisions on how to improve it.

5. Feedback for decision-making. Poll Everywhere can also be used for gathering feedback to be used in decision-making. At the recent ACPA Town Hall meeting at the Annual Convention, we used Poll Everywhere to solicit feedback on decisions for the Association. We also used it as a means for audience members to ask open-ended questions at the end of our event.

6. Ability to live stream at events with moderation. If you want a live stream of people’s thoughts and messages during an event, this is a great alternative to running a live feed of a twitter hashtag. If you’re worried your students may post something inappropriate, the paid versions of Poll Everywhere allow you to moderate the discussion and individual posts. You can also automatically filter the results to deny the use of profanity or any keyword you desire.

Poll Everywhere is a fun tool with which to experiment, but of course there are other solutions out there. Many campuses have been experimenting with proprietary audience response “clickers” as a means of accomplishing the same thing. The beauty of Poll Everywhere, however, is that it doesn’t require participants to purchase (or the institution to loan) expensive hardware responders. It also works right over the web, so you do not need any special software or proprietary hardware.

The basic Poll Everywhere service is free, but you are limited to only 40 responses per question. It also does not include a number of other helpful premium features. Luckily, upgrade pricing is fairly reasonable. For only $65 a month, you can boost polls to 250 participants (you can also cancel after you use it so as to only pay for one month). 40 responses, however, may be enough for you.

How do you use Poll Everywhere?

Note: The use of technology always carries certain social justice implications with it including issues of accessibility based on ability and socio-economic status. Although not perfect, Poll Everywhere does have a very low barrier to entry. It allows input through multiple means and can be accomplished by a simple text message from any phone (no smartphone required).