Options for Interactive Lectures (Guest Post by Denis Duret)

Introducing some form of interactivity into lectures by ‘polls’ (or voting systems), is increasingly popular as a means to not only check our students aren’t falling asleep, but to gauge understanding on topics and gain anonymous feedback from students.

This post, written by Denis Duret from the School of Veterinary Sciences, shares experiences from using various methods of ‘polling’.

Last month we had the opportunity to trial three different voting systems with the same cohort (4th Year Veterinary students) over a one week period. We used the Communicubes, Poll Everywhere & Turning Point systems.




Communicubes are 10cm cubes with five of the cube faces having bright colours and a number associated with each colour (see fig. 2). They are small enough to be hand-held and large enough to be visible in a lecture theatre, and a cost effective way to assess students during a lecture. Although it is not as popular as Poll Everywhere and Turning Point, It has certain advantages. It is easy to set up and promotes more discussions as students can see one another’s responses.
The response rate is normally quite high. Although it is not possible to give an accurate percentage unless you count all the cubes for each question, the response rate was probably higher than 90%. The simple fact that the lecturer can see if a student has voted means that students are more likely to interact and participate during the lecture. However they are losing their anonymity and may be tempted to vote with the person sitting next to them if they are unsure themselves about the answer.

Poll Everywhere

pollEv for iPhone

Poll Everywhere for iPhone

Poll Everywhere is a web-based system that enables students to vote during a lecture with a mobile device such as a phone, tablet or laptop. Students are able to submit responses via text message or using a browser on their mobile device.
A web page has been setup on Poll Everywhere (www.pollev.com/vets) such that students can see both question and response options directly on their mobile device and can vote by just clicking on their selection.
The students were very engaged with their learning as it was recorded that between 64% and 73% of students were voting during an interactive lecture. This is a good response rate for a live audience voting system.

Turning Point

Turning Point clicker

Turning Point clicker

With TurningPoint, students use “Clickers” to engage and participate with the lecture.
We had 115 clickers, which was unfortunately inadequate for the 139 veterinary students on the course. However, a small number of students were missing that day so only a few of them had to share a clicker.
The maximum response rate with the clickers was to 85% but averaged 74%


Students were asked to vote on their preference for voting systems. Looking at the graph below, it is clear that the students attending that week preferred Poll Everywhere.Favourite voting system

Favourite voting system

The drawback with Poll Everywhere is it requires students to use their mobile device during a lecture and it seems that some students cannot resist multitasking (texting friends, social network,…) Research has demonstrated that it has an effect on their learning.

Poll Everywhere works reasonably well with PowerPoint but the software developed by TurningPoint to work with PowerPoint is more powerful and offers reports with customizable views and export to.csv, .xls and .pdf

If we are to consider the response rate of individual polls, Communicubes is the best tool to use for an interactive lecture (as we can provide all users with cheap ‘equipment’ to vote). However, it is not the most accurate way to judge the audience as students lose their anonymity and are be tempted to follow the general consensus. So it could be said that Turning Point offers a good compromise in terms of accuracy and response rate (as we can provide the equipment to ensure all students can vote, and their anonymity preserved). The major drawback for Turning Point is that the start-up cost is high. It is a big investment for a system which may not be used on a daily basis.

However, there are more benefits to lectures – student interactions in real-time and the use of technology (Poll Everywhere & TurningPoint), which does not rely on shows of cubes or hands.

So the three systems are useful in promoting interactivity in lectures but each of them have drawbacks , whether it is cost (TurningPoint), loss of anonymity (communicubes), or allowing mobile devices in a lecture theatre (PollEverywhere).

If you would like to discuss this further, you can either comment on this post or contact Denis directly. Don’t forget we have an ILT license for the use of PollEverywhere!

If you’re working on any interesting projects, why not contribute a guest post to this blog? Contact Peter Reed to discuss….


5 responses to “Options for Interactive Lectures (Guest Post by Denis Duret)

  1. I believe that the participation rate with Poll Everywhere is higher if you register a website (for example http://www.pollev.com/vets). It means that students with laptops or smartphones can participate with a single click. It also means that the account can only be used by one person at the time..

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