The Value of Polling Apps

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Real time feedback tools, like polling apps or clickers, let faculty efficiently assess comprehension and get real time feedback from learners. Over 50 years ago, this technology started with push button responders, eventually moving to handheld clickers.

cell phone with apps
Image by Jan Vašek from Pixabay

Now, we have more modern solutions to more modern realities. Most learners have a smartphone, or can partner up with someone who does. People can participate from any location in the world, using any device with a wi-fi connection.

Like any other classroom activity, participation in live response activities should be managed by the facilitator. Set up for success when using live polling apps:

Formative Assessment Tools

Formative assessments aim to determine what a learner already knows, or identify gaps in basic concepts or knowledge. These are not tests and usually ungraded, but seek to measure learner’s existing knowledge in broad comparison to their peers.

Use a polling app at the beginning of a unit to determine what learners already know. Build a short question set of 1 to 3 questions to determine the body of knowledge a class already possesses. Most polling apps are live, and will display results in real time in front of students. This lets learners measure their own position compared to their peers, in a safe, low-stakes environment.

A formative assessment could involve:

  • Asking learners to define or explain key vocabulary or concepts by texting these in;
  • Collaboratively recalling key concepts from a previous unit or course in a word cloud;
  • Listing required materials, equipment, components or ingredients selecting them from a list;
  • Rating their comfort or experience level on a Likert scale;
  • Choosing the correct label on a diagram by dragging and dropping or selecting from a list.

Discussion Generators

Use polling apps to prompt discussions, by using strategies like Turn and Talk or Think Pair Share before or after questions have been asked. Create Agree or Disagree type questions, and ask learners to vote on their position. Then, encourage them to find a partner whose opinion is the same as theirs and discuss. This partnership then should find another team, whose opinion differs than their own, and debate. At the end, students can vote again on their position, independently.

Active Viewing

Embed a video in a Kahoot! or to promote active viewing strategies. This lets you quiz, discuss and reform learning with them.

Lead into a clip by asking questions that:

  • Make predictions about what’s likely going to happen in the video;
  • Identify correct or incorrect steps in the procedure;
  • Relate to a similar scenario or topic that was explored;
  • Point out common misconceptions or errors.

Show a clip, and follow it up with a few targeted questions that might challenge students to:

  • Notice incorrect details or inaccuracies;
  • Point out verbal, nonverbal or environmental cues;
  • Determine the cause or effect of an action;
  • Point out missing steps in a procedure;
  • Make predictions about what might happen next in a situation;
  • Revisit an opinion from the beginning, comparing the two;
  • Re-assess their knowledge on the topic with similar questions to the beginning.

Don’t be shy about showing the video clip more than once – multiple viewings will add depth to learning.

A note about Quizzes

Gamification, generally, helps renew interest and curiosity in course content. Quizzing apps, like Kahoot! and Quizziz can add novelty and fun to the learning experience, and support learning through spaced repetition and retrieval practice.

But quizzes don’t improve learning, they improve motivation to study (Clarke, Kehoe & Broin, 2018).

They only temporarily improve student performance on assessments, and this effect doesn’t last longer than a few days (Sanchez, Langer and Kaur 2019). Quizzes also may overtly advantage learners who are already successful, and may not be as advantageous for struggling learners. Learn more by reading our post on Competitive and Gamified Quizzes.


Clarke, G., Kehoe, J., & Broin, D. Ó. (2018). The Effects of Gamification on Third Level Motivation Towards StudyingProceedings of the European Conference on Games Based Learning, 819.

Jess Wilkinson

Jesslyn is the Educational Technology Officer at Conestoga. An Ontario Certified Teacher, and holding a B.A. and B.Ed., Jesslyn researches and promotes new technologies for faculty to enhance pedagogical practices. She brings to the role her experience as a Google and Microsoft certified technology trainer and as a classroom teacher in South Korea, Mongolia, and Ontario, focusing on special education and assistive learning technologies. She is available for workshops, consultations, and support with using technology in higher education contexts.

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