What are they thinking? Are they listening to me? Do they understand the key concept that I just covered?
If this sounds like you during, or after, one of your lectures then you could devote 5 minutes of lecture time to audience participation to getting some answers to at least one of those questions…but which tool should you use? And how much time does it really take to set up and apply in a lecture theatre? If you don’t have access to (or don’t want the extra work of handing out and collecting) hardware such as the TurningPoint handsets available at the university, there are a number of apps which allow students to use their own devices. This 2014 blog post from the University of Sheffield provides a useful overview of what to look for in a student response system, including the pros and cons of handset devices. In this post I will review one of the freely available online tools: Mentimeter, which I recently trialled with students.
I was asked to deliver a session on Digital Footprints; how to use social media to promote your personal profile to a group of final year students from the fields of nursing, midwifery, physio, OT, podiatry, healthcare scientist and audiology. 86 students had signed up to the session. Approximately 55-60 attended in one of our larger lecture theatres.
Why use student response systems?
There are non-tech options for gathering straw polls of your audience; raising hands or holding up simple colour coded cards (green/yes red/no) but these can intimidate less confident students. The anonymity provided by response systems allows all to participate without free of failure or “looking stupid” in front of their peers and the lecturer.
Mentimeter – Preparing the questions
I found the Mentimeter interface simple and intuitive to use. The free version (which I was using) allows you to create a maximum of 2 questions per ‘Event’. I had 3 that I wanted to use with students so I just created 2 events. This was fine for me as I had 2 connected questions and 1 which came later in the session, so there was a natural break. As the session was about social media, I wanted to get a sense of what the audience already used and why.
|Dual-axis grid||“What do you use social media for?”|
|Multiple choice||“Which social media do you use?”|
|Who will win?||“Which is the strongest password?”|
The first question asked participants to rate each choice in 2 dimensions. The choices were Personal and Professional (reasons). The second questions gave 9 options of common platforms and the third presented 5 options. The whole process took less than 15 minutes; but these were very simple questions.
Mentimeter – Setting up in the lecture
I logged into Mentimeter and opened up two tabs (one for each event). I told students that they could use their own devices to vote and participation was optional for this activity. When it was time to vote, I switched from my slides to the tabs. Students typed a short url into their browser, entered the code that was showing on the main screen (the code changes for each ‘event’) and could vote immediately. No handsets to distribute, and none to collect in again afterwards.
Mentimeter – Voting in the lecture
Responses were coming in within a couple of minutes of revealing the url. The free version of Mentimeter allows unlimited responses; so as long as your wifi is up to the job and all participants have a device (if necessary) you should have no problems. Wifi in lecture theatres may struggle with 100 plus students all voting at the same time, but my cohort of 50-60 had no problems. For the first two questions, students could see the responses in real time. There is also a response count in the corner of the screen.
The students seemed to really like the activity and within a few minutes I knew something about the profile of the cohort. The last question type takes in responses but doesn’t reveal the answer until the presenter chooses to show the result. Not everyone voted, but for my purposes that was fine.
Photo credit: Adam Warren
The results are below. Note: if you want to download the results from your events, you need to upgrade to a paid version of Mentimeter. I have just screen grabbed the responses from my dashboard.
Mostly using social media for personal purposes. The attending academic in the audience uses social media a lot for professional purposes.
High proportion of Facebook users; which really added to the value of showing Take This Lollipop in the section of the session on privacy and security.
They didn’t choose the correct answer, so we took a few minutes to discuss why and reinforce the key concepts. Result was shown once voting stopped.
Summary…and how could you use it?
In short, I found this simple and easy to use (for all involved). The questions were fairly informal; only one addressed a key concept around security and password strength. The students were very engaged in the activity. You could use this to test audience understanding of a key concept at the end of a lecture and either take a few minutes to address any misconceptions about the material covered, or follow up with a Blackboard announcement after the lecture.