Three Interactive Polling Tools Reviewed

By https://www.shutterstock.com/g/Aimorn1992

To poll or not to poll, that is the question! Interactive Polling Tools (also called student response systems, ‘clickers’, or classroom response systems) have been used in higher education teaching for many years now and can be a quick and easy method for gaining insight for both teachers and students. But which polling tool is best?

As with many software applications, Interactive Polling Tools are an ever-evolving technology, moving from fairly “low tech” clicker technology to today’s more “tech savvy” iterations that operate online using mobile devices. Whilst there are many good (and free) polling tools available, not all polling technologies are created equal. Below we review three popular polling tools, highlighting the main features and pitfalls of each platform. This will hopefully help you select the best and most suitable polling tool for your specific needs. And make sure you check out the second article in this series about building and using good polling questions.

Under the scope:

How they stack up

Feature Mentimeter Poll Everywhere Socrative
Free for students
Free vs. Paid (i.e. subscription/licence required) Free & Paid versions Free & Paid versions Free & Paid versions
Unlimited student numbers ✗ (class size <40 in free) ✗ (class size <50 in free)
Unlimited question numbers per poll ✗ (unlimited in paid only)
Can you embed quiz/poll into powerpoint/keynote etc.
Real-time visual results (e.g. graphs, pie charts, word clouds)
Ability to store question sets
Ability to share question sets with teaching team ✗ (only if using single shared account)
Ability to export results / analytics ✓ (Free: PDF & JPG; Paid: Excel)
How do students access the student interface? Mobile device Mobile device Mobile device
Use on mobile device for students
Do students need to log in? No No No
Can students be identified?
Student submission of questions/open responses
Ability to incorporate images into questions
Ability to incorporate LaTeX

 

Mentimeter

Mentimeter is a polling tool that provides instant feedback during lecture classes. It allows users to create an interactive learning environment by surveying students in real-time during class and view results instantly.

Features

  • Free and (low cost) paid versions.
  • Unlimited class size.
  • Offers innovative question types such as live word cloud, image choice, and matrix.
  • No installations/set-up required for students.
  • Examples and templates available for inspiration.
  • Allows a great deal of customisation for each question type, including time limits, background images, and game-style questions.
  • Responses can be displayed directly in PowerPoint / Keynote / Google slides.

Pitfalls

  • When using the free version, you are limited to 5 multiple choice quiz questions or 2 “other type” questions per presentation.
  • Responses can only be exported as PDFs or images (jpgs) when using the free version (screenshots collected during the presentation). For excel export capabilities, the paid version is needed.
  • There is no simple way to share polling slides between accounts for use across multiple classes.

Mentimeter is simple yet powerful, with a pleasing visual interface. The free version is somewhat limited, however it is a great polling tool if you have large class-sizes and only wish to ask 2-5 questions during each lecture. Presentations are quick to setup and easy to use for both lecturer and student alike. Educational discounts are offered on paid licences.  Increased functionality, such as exporting analytics, can be obtained in the paid versions.

Mentimeter is a perfect tool for those who want minimal setup, easy deployment, polls that can build into existing presentations, have large class sizes, and don’t require exportable analytics or LaTeX embedded into questions.

Screenshot tour

Click on each thumbnail to view the full size screenshot showing key features.

(i) Teacher question creation interface

(ii) Teacher quiz running interface

(iii) Results interface

(iv) Student interface

Poll Everywhere

Poll Everywhere is a powerful web tool for creating and distributing polls. Students can vote on your poll either through SMS or via the web using the generated link you will provide them. Poll Everywhere allows you to display the results of the poll in real-time.

Main features

  • Free and paid versions.
  • Unlimited number of questions per poll.
  • No installations/set-up required for students.
  • Supports LaTeX.
  • Import questions from CSV files.
  • Responses can be displayed directly in PowerPoint / Keynote / Google slides in real-time.
  • Question bank for easy re-use and templating.
  • Allows for multiple-choice and open-ended questions with textual response.
  • Multiple user account (paid only).
  • Export analytics for each question as a spreadsheet.

Pitfalls

  • Free version is limited and allows for only 40 responses per poll.
  • To get the full use out of Poll Everywhere, the paid version is much more powerful.
  • Somewhat expensive.

Poll Everywhere is simple to use and very powerful, with an easy to use interface and scope to build equations into questions. The free version is somewhat limited, but this is a great polling tool if you have small class-sizes. Presentations are quick to set up and easy to use for both lecturer and student alike. Paid versions offer different pricing plans that extend functions beyond basic features.

Poll Everywhere is a perfect tool for those who want minimal setup, easy deployment, polls that can build directly into existing presentations, exportable analytics, and LaTeX functionality. The import/export function makes sharing quizzes between users particularly easy. The cost does make it somewhat prohibitive for large class groups.

Screenshot tour

Click on each thumbnail to view the full size screenshot showing key features.

(i) Teacher question creation interface

(ii) Teacher quiz running interface

(iii) Results interface

(iv) Student interface

Socrative

Socrative is one of the most well-known (and widely used) Interactive Polling Tools. It is a robust app and free to for class sizes <50. You can create questions in various formats (like a quiz, a simple quick question, a space race game, or an exit ticket) and results are displayed in real-time. The interface is easy to use for both lecturers and students.

Main features

  • Free and (low cost) paid versions.
  • Unlimited questions per poll.
  • No installations/set-up required for students.
  • Multiple-choice and open-ended questions with textual response.
  • Easily share quizzes between different accounts.
  • Allows some question customisation.
  • Ability to download PDFs of existing quizzes.
  • Responses can be visualised in real-time with options for answer explanation boxes.
  • Response analytics can be exported to as spreadsheet or viewed online as charts, with a variety of configuration options.

Pitfalls

  • Free version is limited to only allow 50 responders per poll.
  • Polls cannot be built directly into existing presentations.

It is easy to see why Socrative is one of the best-known polling tools – it is simple yet powerful, with a pleasing visual interface. The free version has limited, however this is a great if you have small class-sizes. Quizzes are fast to setup and easy to use for both lecturer and student alike.

Socrative is a perfect tool for those who want minimal setup and easy deployment into small-mid sized classes, quiz sharing between users, exportable analytics, and don’t need LaTeX embedded into questions.

Screenshot tour

Click on each thumbnail to view the full size screenshot showing key features.

(i) Teacher question creation interface

(ii) Teacher quiz running interface

(iii) Results interface

(iv) Student interface

The Verdict?

Each polling tool has their merits and limits. Selection of an appropriate tool will depend on the use. So which one do you pick? This all comes down to how you want to use the polling tool. Below are some suggestions based on certain features.

Free

  • Socrative or Poll Everywhere – small classes
  • Mentimeter – large classes

Large class sizes

  • Mentimeter – free
  • Socrative or Poll Everywhere – paid only

Sharing polls between big units of study

  • Socrative – shares between user accounts
  • Poll Everywhere – using question import/export feature

Quick & easy to use and deploy

  • Socrative – small classes (free) OR large classes (paid)
  • Mentimeter

Sophisticated

  • Poll Everywhere – small classes (free) OR large classes (paid)
  • Mentimeter

Other available polling technologies

It addition to the three polling tools discussed above, you might like to also check out some other clicker, mobile, and web app polling technologies:

Disclosure statement: The author does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article.

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