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Engaging Students Using Online Polls and Word Clouds


To increase student engagement and 'break the ice' in the beginning of her classes, Dr Julie Lobalzo Wright invites her students to complete anonymous and ungraded Slido polls and provide responses to simple questions related to the content of the lecture/seminar. Students are more likely to do so because of the simplicity of the application (which can be accessed by either phone or laptop) and its anonymity. After their responses are submitted, Dr Wright generates a word cloud out of the students' entries and displays it to the class, generating a 10 or 15-minute-long discussion.


Julie Lobalzo Wright, Film and Television Studies

A photograph of Julie Wright

Lesson plan

  1. The tutor decides on a ice-breaking question that is related to the subject of a class or seminar and sets up a link on Slido (or a similar alternative). This should be an evocative but simple question that students can, ideally, respond to in a word or two.
  2. The tutor may either send in the link in the MS Teams chat (in case of distance learning) or print out a QR-code, inviting students to scan it via their mobile phone camera.
  3. The tutor then asks students to contribute to the poll as they arrive to class, or in its very beginning. The teacher may choose to emphasise that the poll is anonymous.
  4. Once enough responses have been gathered, the tutor generates an automatic word cloud using the application and displays it to the students (either sharing their screen or projecting its image).
  5. Students are invited to comment on their, and others', responses, and the tutor moderates the 10-15-minute-long discussion so as to prepare the students for the upcoming class.
  6. Afterwards, the tutor may choose to put an image of the word cloud on Moodle, so that other groups can also see the image.

Tutor's observations

What are some the issues with digital pedagogy? Well, not everyone has the same tech. Not everyone has the same access. ... [We need to be] acknowledging that not everyone has great Internet; not everyone has a laptop they can use at all times. But everyone has a phone.

...That's always the issue with teaching: getting [the students] doing things. And I found that this was a very simple, easy thing that none of them were terrified by, because it was all anonymous ... and everyone had a phone. And we didn't really have many technical issues.

In that module, this was the idea: how can I make sure that the people online aren't having such a different experience than the people [studying] in-person? ... So, hybrid teaching would be really great for that.

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