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Engage your students with the power of polls

Engage your students with the power of polls

In a recent study, a whopping 94% of students said they’d like to use their cellphones in class for academic purposes, with 75% of them believing that this has improved their ability to learn and retain information in the past.

More and more, professors and faculty are turning away from the “no phones in class rule” in favor of finding innovative ways to incorporate smartphones into their teaching methods. In fact, many have turned to online polls as a new way to engage students, encourage participation, and spark classroom conversation.

In recent years, polling has bloomed in popularity, with Instagram releasing their polling feature in late 2017, following the footsteps of Facebook and Twitter. Only 6 months later, approximately 30% of the platform’s influencers were using polling to gather feedback from their viewers.

While you may not be looking to become an Instagram influencer anytime soon, you can definitely still leverage online polls to better engage students, enhance in-class experience, and improve faculty-student relationships across your campus.

Remember those 94% of students we mentioned that wanted to use their cellphones in class for academic purposes? Well, 59% of them felt that in-class polls would allow them to better engage with the content being taught—all the more reason to experiment with integrating polling into your curriculum!

When integrating phones into the classroom experience, it’s important to develop a strategy so students remain focused on the lesson, rather than browsing the web.

Avoid any distracting lapses in class time by seamlessly integrating your poll into class slides with a QR code. Have students scan the code with their device, then watch the answers populate in real time to spark class discussion.

With polls, students will participate more willingly, express what they are struggling with, and get a sense of their peers' opinions while still keeping their anonymity—meaning you can avoid awkwardly “voluntelling” students to answer questions in front of the class.

Here are a few easy ways to integrate polling into the classroom:

  • Quizzes: Keep the competition alive with in-class quizzes! Creating a short quiz is an engaging way to connect with your students on the spot and help them retain new information in a fun way.
  • Check ins: Check in with your students as you deliver new information by polling them halfway through each class. Ask questions that will help you determine which topics they are struggling with so you can adjust the lesson accordingly!
  • In-class research: Collect student opinions and spark meaningful discussion on social and campus issues like diversity, freedom of expression, housing, and more.
  • Course feedback: Collect student opinions on teaching style, relevance of material, pace of the class, and more to get insights on how your students learn.

TIP: Did you know polling is also a fun and easy way to take attendance? Post a unique QR code on the board at the beginning of class and have students select their name to report attendance—it takes almost no time and 60% of students said they’d be willing to try it!

In a 2016 survey, students identified kindness, integrity, and understanding as the qualities most likely to improve or change their student experience. But as hard as your staff and faculty may try, sometimes it’s difficult to make a meaningful impact in student’s lives while managing multiple courses and priorities.

Nancy Bliwise Ph.D., Vice Provost of Academic Planning at Emory University found that consistently asking students for feedback has had a huge impact on how she manages her classroom, “I don't think I can emphasize enough, there is no under-estimating how much simple assessments influence the student perception and the quality of the instructor-student relationship,” she says.

Dr. Bliwise, who uses in-class surveys to continuously improve her teaching methods, says she is less afraid to try new things with her students, because students know she will ask for feedback and change whatever isn’t working. From her in-class surveys she found, not surprisingly, that weekly quizzes were one of students’ least favourite activities. While she didn’t scrap the pop quizzes, she was able to open a dialogue and explain her teaching methods so students better understood the curriculum purpose. A simple but powerful example of how collecting, and acting, on feedback can help improve the teacher-student relationship and proactively address concerns.

TIP: Polls offer a great way to get a pulse on what your students might not understand. Make the most of this opportunity by setting a benchmark or goal for yourself after data collection. What are you going to do with the data you’ve collected? Following up with your students on their feedback however you can, shows you care about making positive changes on campus.

Create and deliver online polls quickly and easily. If you don’t already have a SurveyMonkey account, sign up for free and you can create and launch your online poll in minutes.

In this webinar, Nancy Biliwise Ph.D., Vice Provost of Academic Planning and Professor of Pedagogy from Emory University shares how she uses surveys to improve classroom management, learning, and the student experience.