The Charleston Advisor / January 2011



r eviews–– s t And Ard r eview

Poll Everywhere

Date of Review: November 15, 2010
HHHH r eviewed by: melanie s ellar
Education Services Librarian Marymount College <>

Composite Score:

a bstract
This article provides an evaluation of Poll Everywhere, a type of audience response system (ARS) also known as a personal response system or, in education circles, as a student polling system. Use of these systems allows for increased interactivity by promoting a two-way flow of communication between the speaker and the audience. The strengths and weaknesses of this service are reviewed with examples of use in higher education and libraries.

is not desired, various business and nonprofit plans (ranging from $15 to $1,400 per month) are available.

product d escription
AUDIENCE RESPONSE Sy STEm S Poll Everywhere is a type of audience response system (ARS), also known as a personal response system or, in education circles, as a student polling system. Using an ARS, a presenter or instructor displays questions on a screen to which the audience responds using some kind of remote device. Responses are then aggregated and displayed graphically in real-time on the screen. These systems allow for increased interactivity by promoting a twoway flow of communication between the speaker and the audience. ARSs have been found to be of particular benefit when working with large groups where communication is challenging or with groups whose members might not otherwise fully participate. Research published over the last decade indicates that classroom use of an ARS can have a significant, positive impact on student learning. Instructors use ARSs to poll student opinions, to assess student comprehension and application of concepts, and to assess student learning through quizzes and exams. For a comprehensive summary of the classroom and learner benefits (and challenges) offered by ARSs, read the article by Kay and LeSage (2009), which reviews the body of literature on the subject. For the last ten years one particular type of ARS has dominated classrooms: handheld remote devices using infrared or radio frequency technology transmit responses to a portable receiving station hooked up to a computer. Some systems are plug-and-play, while others require the installation of proprietary software. Poll Everywhere, launched in 2007, offers an alternative to this traditional setup by simply using an internet connection, a Web browser, and mobile phones; no extra hardware or software is required. POll Ev ERy WHERE To begin using Poll Everywhere, a user must go to the Web site, pick a plan, and create an account. The service is provided entirely in the cloud. Once the account is created, the user can create and store questions in her Web-based account. She can then create three types of questions: multiple choice polls, free-text polls, or goal

Poll Everywhere offers a variety of plans, both free and paid, which are mainly differentiated by audience size (30–20,000) and by type of purchasing institution (business and nonprofit, K–12, and higher education). Regardless of the plan, the number of polls per account is unlimited. Users are not charged for voting on a poll; however, if they vote by text message then standard text messaging charges apply. For K–12 institutions, the free plan limits the audience size to 32 for use by one teacher. The paid plans range in audience size from 40 (for use by one teacher) to 80 (for use by an unlimited number of teachers in a district); pricing is dependent upon the number of students. Plans also include student identification, advanced reporting, response moderation, custom keywords, and technical support. For institutions of higher education, there is also a free plan available with an audience cap of 32. There are two paid plans. One plan option charges the cost to the students ($14 each per year). The other plan option charges the cost to the instructor ($699 per year) with an unlimited audience size and number of classes. Both paid plans include voter registration, response moderation, reporting features, and technical support. Department or campus-wide plans are also available. Contact Poll Everywhere for a customized quote. The K–12 and higher education plans are less expensive than the business and nonprofit normal monthly plans but do require a commitment of a semester or year-long purchase. If that length of contract


Creating a New Poll

Thereafter. but then spend valuable class time disseminating and collecting them (and worrying about them disappearing). purchase and lend the handsets to students during workshops. if the internet connection goes down. The author has used it in both one-shot instruction sessions. or other Web page. into a spreadsheet or course management system. Many academic libraries. She has also used it in faculty workshops as an ice-breaker activity and in orientation sessions as a means to interact with hundreds of freshmen at once. As the audience responds. the screen graphically displays the progress towards the goal in a pledge thermometer. the results are updated and displayed dynamically through a Web browser or through an embedded slide in a PowerPoint presentation. A free-text poll presents the audience with a question to which they respond with any answer they choose. ActiveX must be enabled and Adobe Flash 9 or 10 must be installed on the presenter’s computer to display the poll and its results. A goal poll sets a fundraising goal and allows people to text-in with donations. and they do not need training on how to use them. Students regard specialty ARS handsets. Poll Everywhere aligns perfectly with the communication preferences of teens. With paid plans. As expected. by tweeting in their response. Results can then be downloaded from the Reports tab and uploaded. All of answers will be linked to individual profiles. for example. The Pew Internet and American Life Project reported in April 2010 that texting has become the preferred method of teens to communicate with one another and that 75 percent of teen cell phone users have unlimited text plans. Poll Everywhere does not present these problems. the results are displayed graphically in a histogram. for example. Poll Everywhere aggregates all the data and produces one report. as “exceptional” and burdens to remember and carry. The audience can respond to a poll in a number of ways: by sending a text message to a short number associated with a question. in credit information literacy courses to pre. No matter what the mechanism an audience member uses to respond. to forgo the anonymity of responses and associate voters (students) with their responses by requiring them to preregister as participants.58 Advisor Reviews / The Charleston Advisor / January 2011 www. One really needs to know beforehand the challenges of the space in which she will be polling and have a back-up . Students click on a link in an e-mail invitation and are then asked to verify their mobile phone number and create a participant login. or by voting via a Web browser (Figure 2). more likely. Polls can also be embedded in a blog. the author has asynchro- nously collected students’ responses to a range of questions. The results in this case are not aggregated. rather they are displayed individually on the screen. c ritical evaluation Perhaps the greatest strength of Poll Everywhere is that it does not require any special hardware or software but instead uses devices that people are already carrying––mobile phones––and leverages the exploding trend of text messaging. Phone numbers are kept completely private. If cell phone reception or internet connectivity is poor. they always carry them. For example. APPl ICATIONS Poll Everywhere has many potential applications in a library setting. on the other hand. Poll Everywhere also supports tracking of voters’ answers across multiple polls in paid plans without requiring preregistration. and in formative assessments of students’ understanding of class content. These handsets also place a burden on instructors. The audiences’ ability to participate in polls is dependent upon the classroom and network infrastructure. including requests for suggestions for new tutorials and ideas for other resources to add to research guides. To track answers in this fashion. a multiple choice poll presents the audience with a question and a set of possible answers from which to choose. Using Poll Everywhere with this population fits with these native behaviors and just makes sense: students are already paying for cell FIGURE 2 An Example of a Multiple Choice Question Showing Different Ways to Respond polls (Figure 1). Paid plans allow a presenter or. LibGuide. the instructor creates a free-text poll asking voters to submit their names and IDs.charlestonco. for example. as voters responds to questions their answers are collated and associated with their IDs. but the presenter will be unable to display the results in real time. it is possible to create and associate keywords instead of numbers with answers. an instructor. the audience can still text in their votes and Poll Everywhere will receive them. the experience will be negatively impacted (or completely disrupted). By embedding polls in Web pages.and post-test students.

Poll Everywhere does not have this range of capabilities. This is necessary so that responses can be unambiguously tallied with their respective poll. then no other poll can use these responses. A limitation of the free and lower-priced tiers of Poll Everywhere service is that respondents all share a common phone number to which they are sending SMS messages. cloud services that support SMS polling. Kay. <http://cft. 2010. This is a unique feature of this technology. All of the controls for editing. but displays ads on the screen. For example.” Vanderbilt University––Center for Teaching.001. as shown in Figure 2. Unlike conventional systems using dedicated hardware. Traditional ARSs typically offer more robust features for supporting this kind of use. so all possible polling responses registered on this number must be unique. From a presenter and audience point of view. Allowing students to answer unconstrained in their own language can give an instructor valuable insight into how students are understanding and applying course concepts.2009. this does not work in OpenOffice or in Prezi). In two years of use. and experienced presenters already plan for these scenarios. Instead. this author has not noticed any disruption in service. whereas Poll Everywhere’s free plan offers unlimited questions. Poll Everywhere claims on its Web site that “in about 30 seconds you’ll be creating text message and Web enabled polls.1016/j. “Classroom Response System (‘Clickers’) Bibliography. Many handheld devices also have LCD displays that confirm responses have been received by the instructor’s computer. 32 respondents per question. pricing. Internet access is required. Questions (but not results) are publicly searchable and available to be indexed unless a user disables this setting in the Settings tab. In one click the user can download a poll for embedding c ontract provisions Poll Everywhere claims no intellectual property rights over the material created by its users. to set start and finish times. Text the Mob <http://textthemob. Many classroom instructors use ARSs to test students’ learning. doi:10. and downloading are easily accessible on the screen through the Web-based interface (Figure 3). Response. the differences are not so significant that the latency negatively impacts the experience. October 14.. Of course. For example. plan handy. Traditional ARSs are usually faster because their data transmission route is more direct.charlestonco. some allow instructors to give different versions of the same test at the same time. SMS Poll does not support tweeting. They are both Web-based. and Publishing Controls in PowerPoint. nonintuitive. Text the Mob’s free plan gives a user 3 questions and up to 50 responses. and Ann LeSage. but the author sees no technical reason why future versions would not begin to incorporate more features like these. but now these other competitors are beginning to fill the space. and error-prone. It will be interesting to see what happens in this growing market. Accessed November 13.> are Poll Everywhere’s direct competition. a uthentication The user logs into a Web-based account with a username and password. Polls can be also organized in an account for efficient retrieval and can be downloaded into a spreadsheet.The Charleston Advisor / January 2011 www.” for example. just-in-case. Accessed November 9. Poll Everywhere is not confined to multiple-choice based>. 3 (2009): 819–27. They differ in their plans. This simplicity is one of the product’s best assets. One might try to be clever and use “yes1” and “no1” instead. Robin H.vanderbilt. r eferences Bruff. and to analyze test data. Derek. A person’s profile and materials uploaded remain his own property. and some features.” Computers and Education 53. The implication is that if any one active poll uses the responses “yes” and “no. Poll Everywhere is accessible through any browser. allows respondents to reply in full free-text sentences. For this reason it may simply be easier to use number responses. There is also the risk of the Poll Everywhere server going down. Typically a user’s vote will be displayed within two to five seconds of 59 FIGURE 3 Live Poll with Editing. Poll Everywhere was the first to market.compedu.05. (But note. no. it leverages the full potential of the SMS format and. but this can quickly become tedious. “Examining the Benefits and Challenges of Using Audience Response Systems: A Review of the Literature. publishing. resulting in no votes being received at all. when so configured. and no ads. If this is not acceptable. 2010. . this is true when using any technology. 2010. starting and stopping. It is just as easy to manage a poll as it is to create one.” Indeed this author was able to open an account on the Web site with just three pieces of information and then configured and ran her first poll in five clicks and as fast as she was able to type the question and answers. but it does allow greater customization of the look of the polls. users can pay a premium to have a dedicated polling number. In its present> and SMS Poll <http://www.

Because questions and responses are in the cloud there is ultimately no guarantee of privacy. but responses are capped at 32 per question. She also currently serves as the CoExecutive Director of Librarians Without Borders. Creating and launching polls is intuitive.aspx>. Previous to her current position. 2 (2010): 217–27. Scott Campbell. “Educating the Mobile Generation: Using Personal Cell Phones as Audience Response Systems in Post-Secondary Science Teaching. in linguistics from the University of Ottawa. the account holder must remember to downgrade the plan after the event to avoid further> <http://www.polleverywhere.A. Melanie was first the Community Outreach Librarian and later the e-Learning and Instructional Design Librarian at the University of California. rather participants use their own mobile phones. Voting does not require use of proprietary> <http://twitter. and Web votes.A. Setting up and managing an account is simple. no. “Teens and Mobile> . Eric A. 2010. Contract: HHHH Poll Everywhere explicitly claims no intellectual property rights over questions posted or information generated by users’ responses. Rich Ling. a bout the a uthor m elanie Sellar is the Education Services Librarian at Marymount College in California. 2010. and an>. The minimum purchase is one month of service. Tremblay. Irvine. Amanda. and Kristin Purcell. an M. <http://www. tweets.editlib. n c ontact information Poll Everywhere Phone: Email: URL: Twitter: (800) 388-2039 <sales@polleverywhere.pewinternet.L. in linguistics from McMaster University.60 Advisor Reviews / The Charleston Advisor / January 2011 if the service is needed for only one Poll Everywhere Review Scores Composite: HHHH The maximum number of stars in each category is 5. Their default setting makes polling questions (but not results) public.charlestonco.” Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching 29. Monthly or semester-long paid plans could work out to be more costly for an organization than a traditional audience response system. 2010.S. Free versions are available for K–12 and higher education. Accessed November 11. Content: User Interface/Searchability: N/A HHHHH Poll Everywhere is a Web-based audience response system that supports texts. Pricing: HHH Price varies depending on size of audience and type of organization. She holds a B. April 20. Accessed November 10.” Pew Internet and American Life Project. <http://www.I. Lenhart. Corporate users should expect no better privacy guarantees than that of typical third-party e-mail service providers. from the University of Western Ontario.

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