In my 4th year Hons class Family Business: Theory & Practice I engage students in a variety of different ways, both traditional (lecture) and non-traditional (web 2.0). In the latter I have used online polling software that shows live voting by students who can register their vote for a particular answer by text message or by visiting a website with their computer/tablet/smartphone. I will set up a question on the online polling software website, pose it to the students at the start of the class and make a note of the composition of responses (it is typically a yes/no question for ease). I will then deliver the class session, and then ask the students to participate in the online poll again and tell them how the class responses have changed to show them the overall change in the class view in light of the teaching they have received.
Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship
Faculty of Business
Dr Niall G MacKenzie
Students spend a lot of time being lectured at/spoken at so I wanted to engage them using technology and a live action example showing how they learn and the effect the teaching session can have on their viewpoints. Family business is a rich subject with lots of debate around definitional issues which lends itself well to this type of activity. Student engagement is an ongoing challenge and I wanted to engage students in ways in which they are both familiar (internet usage) and unfamiliar (live voting) to illustrate to them what their learning has been both individually (by seeing how they voted each time) and collectively (by seeing how the class view changed).
The student feedback for the activity is positive in both formal (class feedback sheets) and informal (verbalised feedback to me and other students). Students like getting to see their votes being cast for one answer or another and how the online poll changes in front of them and it starts debate in the class – there is typically at least one or two people who question the results which then starts a larger class discussion of the relative merits and demerits of the two answers.
Make sure to have prepared the question that you want the students to vote on beforehand and have it set up on the computer before the class starts so the students can see it up on the screen.
The polling works most effectively where there is a good wifi/mobile phone reception for students to participate. I ran it last year in a classroom that was internal with no windows to the outside and patchy wifi connection and some students complained they couldn’t register their vote which frustrated them.
The class size was 35 in the first two years, and around 30 in the most recent year. There would be no significant scalbility issue in terms of running the poll, although the resultant class discussion afterwards may not be wholly suitable for a large class of several hundred students.
In terms of testing the efficacy of addressing a central learning point of a particular class session there is easy transferability across different subject domains. It could also be used to test class understanding at the start and end of a course as well. Students like seeing the visual representation of their views up on a screen.
I use PollEverywhere (www.pollev.com) but there are other websites too.