Digital Voting Systems: How to Use Them in Class?
Are you all for making students think actively during class? Would you like to find out at first glance if students have understood everything? Then using digital voting systems is something you might want to try out.
Digital Voting Systems: What?
Digital voting systems are an ideal way to entice large student groups to answer your questions. Digital voting systems are an ideal way to entice large student groups to answer your questions. They help the lecturer to transfer knowledge, to activate students, and to make sure whether students have understood everything. Voting systems are also a way to generate greater student involvement: all students can easily and anonymously participate in class, and receive immediate feedback on how they are doing in comparison to the group.
Ghent University supports the voting systems Wooclap, TurninPoint and Vote:
- Wooclap: All staff have access to this tool. Log in via 'Sign in with your university' at www.wooclap.com
- TurningPoint is installed on all lecturers’ PCs and the PCs in our lecture halls. You can easily vote online during class, but requesting a temporary online account in advance is necessary;
Vote has been developped at Ghent University, which means that everyone with a Ghent University account can use it and participate. There is no need to set up an additional account.
You are of course free to use other voting systems besides Vote or Turning Point. Consult the overview below for a list of pros and cons on the most popular digital voting systems. This is a way to decide which system suits you best.
Digital Voting Systems: What Are Suitable Didactic Methods?
Not yet sure what didactic and/or assessment methods are best suited to your teaching context? Allow yourself to be inspired by this step-by-step plan.
Find out more at the education tip: Wooclap: Digital Voting System.
- you can easily set up an account yourself on https://universiteitgent.checkfront.com/reserve/. Clicking the TurningPoint tab, you can see the available accounts and book a time slot per half hour. Then you will receive an automatically generated e-mail with login details. This e-mail is also a reservation confirmation;
- check out the following instructions to get started quickly (in Dutch);
- if you are interested in the more advanced features, check out the detailed manual for both PC and Mac.
- contact firstname.lastname@example.org to activate Vote;
check out the following instructions (in Dutch) to get started.
Digital Voting Systems: Advantages?
Better Motivated Students
The use of digital voting systems enables you to engage large student groups, to make them think actively and encourage comprehensive learning. It offers an easy way for all students to answer your questions.
More Frequent Ventures at Answering
Digital voting systems allow students to reply anonymously, which encourages students to answer more frequently. After all, if they get it wrong, they remain anonymous and there is no blaming, no shaming in front of the entire group.
Digital voting systems are useful because they bring together and project the students' answers very quickly. At one glance, and in one single graph, students can see how the group replied and find out if they answered correctly themselves. They get instant feedback on how their scores compare to the group score.
Immediate Feedback on Students’ Understanding
Based on the answers, lecturers can see immediately whether or not students have understood the learning material. Are students able to follow in class? Are you going too fast or too slow? Are there misconceptions amongst the students? Do you have to explain a particular part of the lesson again? Digital voting systems can provide information that enables you to optimize your teaching.
Opportunities to Work Together
When asking a question, you can let an individual student answer first, then let that student consult with a neighbour and allow them to vote again (peer instruction). By allowing a discussion before they answer the questions, students interact more with their fellow students and acquire together. They also learn from comparing their own answers with the answers of their fellow students. Take a turn of the room during the discussions. In so doing, you get to know the students’ thought process and adjust it after the vote, if necessary.
Digital Voting Systems: Points to Consider?
Check with your study programme (committee) what the most commonly used voting systems are, and align yourself with that common practice (if any). It is easier for students not have to familiarize themselves with yet another new software package.
Making good use of digital voting systems and drawing up the right kind of questions takes time. To boost student engagement and interaction (both with them and among them), you need meaningful questions. Focus, for example, on questions that are relevant within your discipline and are based on challenging ideas with multiple potential answers. Ambiguity and controversy lead to fascinating discussions. Refrain from asking questions that are too easy because students will not bother answering them. They will learn much more from challenging questions: it forces students to think and/or confronts them with their own incorrect answers. This is something students will remember.
- evoke misunderstandings amongst students;
- ask students to make predictions or discover causal relationships;
- force students to apply a particular idea in a new context;
- have no straightforward answer, but launch an instructive discussion.
On the other hand, do not make your questions needlessly complex. If students have no clue at all, they will be less inclined to come up with an answer. In case of multiple-choice questions, it is best to ask short questions that require equally short possible answers. This promotes legibility. Make sure to add the answer option ‘I don't know’ to prevent students from guessing. Want to know more about the technical aspects of drawing up multiple-choice questions? Allow yourself to be inspired by the book Meerkeuzetoetsing: praktische handleiding voor leerkrachten en docenten (in Dutch). You can download an e-version or request a hard copy by emailing email@example.com.
Allow students to discuss questions actively but intervene when it gets too noisy. At the end of the discussion, always provide the correct answer and the reasoning behind it. If necessary, also explain why other options are incorrect. Create a safe learning environment, in which students can discuss freely and are not deterred from voting. Preferably, allow students to vote anonymously. During discussions, you will notice that students are more keen to speak in front of the group if they can see that their fellow students have given the same answer.
Try Out the Technical Aspect
Provide clear instructions to the students on how to use the digital voting system and try out the system in advance. Also check if WiFi is available in the room. If there is no free WiFi available, both you and the students will have to use paying wireless internet such as 4G and therefore, the digital voting will have a considerable price tag attached to it. If you want to avoid that, you can still borrow the TurningPoint voting devices at your faculty or at the ICT Department. These devices require no WiFi.
Want to Know More?
- sign up for the training session on 'Active Learning by Using Online Voting Systems'.
- read the sources on which this Education Tip was based:
- Caldwell, J. E. (2007). Clickers in the Large Classroom: Current Research and Best-Practice Tips. CBELife Sciences Education, 6(1), 9-20;
- Crouch, C. H., & Mazur, E. (2001). Peer instruction: Ten years of experience and results. American Journal of Physics, 69 (9), 970-977;
- Duncan, D. (2006). Clickers: A new teaching aid with exceptional promise. Astronomy Education Review, 5(1), 70-88;
- Kay, R. H., & LeSage, A. (2009). Examining the benefits and challenges of using audience response systems: A review of the literature. Computers & Education, 53(3), 819-827;
- Robertson, L. J. (2000). Twelve tips for using a computerised interactive audience response system. Medical Teacher, 22(3), 237-239;
- Sabbe, E. & Lesage, E. (2012), Meerkeuzetoetsing. Praktische handleiding voor leerkrachten en docenten. Antwerpen: Garant;
- Velghe, J. & Aper, L. (2015). Handleiding bij de docententraining ‘Meerwaarde en gebruik van (online) stemsystemen in het onderwijs. Universiteit Gent.