The methods for obtaining information from classes include online systems and classroom-based systems.
There are broadly three types of online system:
- Online surveys, usually involving a series of tick-box questions. Examples of software to manage these include Zoomerang, Artologik, AdvancedSurvey, etc.
- Online polling, involving one or more questions. These can be easily included in webpages or course materials to gather opinions about various subjects.
- Online voting, usually a single-question response, the response is chosen from a series of options.
Whilst highly dependent on asking questions for which the collective answer is meaningful (i.e. it indicates how you might proceed), the data obtained from such feedback systems are generally unreliable. The main reasons are that giving a response is optional, the sample is always self-selected; and that if the results-to-date are revealed before participants vote this can influence the voting pattern. These polls are therefore most effective in encouraging participation rather than relaying feedback, as they provide something entertaining with which to interact.
Classroom based systems are usually provided through a voting system built in to lecture rooms, which involve a box either stand-alone or set within seating armrests. Most have a series of (usually no more than four) buttons, labelled A to D. These may be familiar through their use with studio audiences in television programmes.
A presentation may incorporate interactive activities, at which points the class can be asked a multiple-choice question and the voting system records, tabulates, and (if desired) displays, the responses from the class. In this way, a lecturer can immediately check what proportion of the audience/class in a lecture theatre or large teaching space have understood or followed particular aspects of the lesson. It is more accurate than a “show-of-hands”, particular in large teaching rooms, and where students may be reluctant to indicate publicly their lack of understanding if they are not following well.
An alternative is the provision of tablets to classes being taught via a whiteboard. The tablets have a wireless connection to the PC running the whiteboard and can be used by the student to present work to the rest of the class from their seat. Data can be gathered from all of the tablets at once for in-class voting.
Useful papers on the use of in-class voting are available on the links below.
- Online Polling Services by Jon Baggaley, Tom Kane and Bill Wade, Athabasca University
- Electronically enhanced classroom interaction, by Stephen Draper, Julie Cargill and Quintin Cutts, University of Glasgow, pdf