Poll Everywhere – review

February 6, 2015 at 10:23 am | Posted in student response systems | Leave a comment

Poll Everywhere http://www.polleverywhere.com/ is a commercial web service that enables live audience voting. There is a ‘try it free’ option for educators which allows up to 40 responses per poll, an annual ‘per-instructor’ option at $349 (up to 400 responses per poll) and an annual institutional site licence for around $3 per student (1000+ responses per poll). The terms and conditions are really clearly explained in plain English – a welcome touch and done with humour! A key strength of this service is the range of options available to voters who can respond via the web, via SMS txt message or via Twitter.

Poll Everywhere tutor's screen showing timer and presentation controls.

Poll Everywhere tutor’s screen showing timer and presentation controls.

Creating a Poll

The tutor logs in to their Poll Everwhere account, clicks the Create Poll button and types the question stem. They can choose whether audience response is open-ended (i.e. free text response), multiple choice (one answer) or clickable image.

The next step is to configure the poll:

  • how people can respond (website/SMS txt message/Twitter);
  • how many times each person can respond (default is once) and whether their response is anonymous (this option applies where registered  participants are responding);
  • auto start-times and stop-times if required, so polls can be scheduled.

The tutor should then test the poll by making it active and voting using the on-screen simulated ‘mobile phone display’ and/or real phones/tablets/etc. to check that the question works as intended. The test results are cleared and the question can then be presented, in fullscreen mode if required.

Multiple-choice questions: the question stem can only be text; there is no image option. The answer options can be text, an image URL or an uploaded image file. The images are resized, but some care still needs to be taken to ensure they work at the small size displayed in the poll. The text can be maths equations expressed using Latex ; just use the prefix “latex:” e.g. latex: V = \frac {4} {3} \pi  r^3

Update: the Visual Settings for the question allow you to upload a logo (JPG, PNG, GIF) that appears above the question stem – and of course this could be part of the question (“what does this photo show” or “name the feature labelled A”). The image cannot be too large, as the poll options also have to fit on the screen and are resized so that they do… so big image = tiny text. So this is a work-around that may meet some needs, but questions about detailed images will need to appear on a separate screen. For example, the tutor could display the image (in PowerPoint? SlideShare?), switch to the browser to show the question and options in Poll Everywhere, then switch back to the image while the students ponder which answer to choose on their devices.

Open-ended questions: display as text wall, word cloud, cluster or ticker. Default is ‘respond as many times as they like’. A profanity filter is available to censor or block responses that include profanity – the default is ‘anything goes!’ – but it is easy to defeat the filter by using accented vowels – Oh cräp! Moderating responses before they appear on-screen is only possible for paid accounts, but can be done by the tutor or an assistant on a separate mobile device to avoid any risk of inappropriate messages being shown to an audience. The word cloud treats every word in a response as separate (e.g. “Chromium Dioxide” appears as “Chromium” and “Dioxide”) but filters out common words like “the”.

Clickable image questions: the tutor uploads a JPG or PNG image which is automatically resized. To track the number of clicks on selected areas, multiple rectangular areas can be defined. These have a minimum size so do not allow precise selections, and of course the areas cannot overlap. The areas (and their number of votes) can be shown/hidden on the tutor’s screen during the poll, but are never visible on the students’ screens. The tutor can also choose to display the precise location of each click.

Groups of polls: multiple polls can be selected and added to named Groups. Polls can be added and re-ordered using drag-and-drop. The tutor can then step through the polls in that group in order, activating each poll to make it visible and starting/stopping voting as required.

Control during polling

The default is to show the polling results live as the responses come in, so the chart updates in real time. However, a control makes it easy for the tutor to hide the mutiple-choice chart and just show the question and its answer options during the vote.

A countdown timer is available on the polling screen – the tutor just types in the number of seconds and clicks to start the timer. Students will not be able to vote after it has reached zero, but it can be paused. The tutor can also manually stop the poll, restart it and clear the results if required.

Poll Everywhere tutor's display showing answer options instead of live voting chart.

Poll Everywhere tutor’s display showing answer options instead of live voting chart.

Remote voting on polls

The tutor’s presentation screen for a poll has a Share control panel with three options:

  1. share via a web page which displays the poll currently activated. This would enable students at remote locations (possibly watching a streamed lecture) to vote online and see exactly what the on-campus students would see.
  2. share via a web page which only displays that specific poll, but allows people to answer that question at any time (for example like a mini-survey). They cannot see the results.
  3. share via a web page which only displays the live results for that specific poll. So if people have voted via method 2 above, this link would allow them to review the results.

Options 2 and 3 have buttons that make it easy to share those links via email, Facebook or Twitter.

Integration with PowerPoint and Keynote

The tutor needs to download the free PollEv Presenter App, available for Windows and Mac running Office 2007 or newer or Keynote 5.3 or 6.5. While this initially means that tutors would need to use their own laptops to present, if an instutional licence was bought there is an Enterprise Deployment option available so that all centrally-configured PCs in offices and lecture rooms could have the app by default.

The PollEv Presenter App adds a Poll Everywhere ribbon to PowerPoint that makes it easy to insert a poll. The tutor clicks a button on the ribbon to log in to their Poll Everywhere account and then chooses the poll(s) that they wish to insert among their conventional slides.

Note that the only way to tell which poll question you have inserted at a particular place in your presentation is to look at the notes for that slide – the placeholders all look the same.

Bonus feature: the PollEv Presenter App also makes it possible to insert any web page into a PowerPoint presentation. Just activate that option from the ribbon’s About button.

Bonus feature: if you use PowerPoint for Windows, the free Presentation Remote app for iOS or Android mobile devices enables you to remotely control presentations.

Visual design of polls

The system offers a great deal of control over the visual appearance of slides; colour schemes, fonts, background images, bars/columns, axis lables, response counts/percentage etc. etc. The Settings menu allows you to use any poll as a template for new polls, or to apply that poll’s visual settings to all your polls.


Reports can be created for individual polls or groups of polls. List reports show the response to each poll by each participant, so that voting patterns can be explored. Summary shows the results for each poll – ie. the number and percentage of votes for each option. There are also Survey reports, Grading reports (if questions have scores), Team reports (if segmentation is used) and a Sign-In Sheet (time of first and last selected poll). The data can be downloaded for further analysis if desired.

Premium features not available in the free trial account

The key feature is the ability to restrict access to a poll to registered participants. Tutors can send an email invite which requires recipients to create an account (email address and password). Alternatively it is possible to integrate with Blackboard (and Canvas), so that only students in a specific module can access a group of polls.

Of course once you know who is voting and how they are voting, then the next premium feature is of course grading responses and ranking participants. Tutors gain the ability to mark a multiple-choice response or clickable area as correct, show/hide the correct answer on screen, track participants and rank them according to their overall score on a group of polls. Naturally there are reports that can be viewed or downloaded that detail student performance.

Some licence plans allow multiple users to share the same account – so members of a teaching team could easily share the creation and delivery of polls.

As previously mentioned, premium accounts are also able to moderate free-text responses before they are on-screen and hide any that don’t meet the tutor’s academic standards 😉

Other interesting features

  • Send people a link to a group of polls which form a single-page online survey.
  • Segmentation, which enables you to correlate the results from a poll with a previous poll. For example you might ask people whether they are male or female and then compare how each group answered a poll about their drinking habits. It can also be used to enable team competitions.


Overall, I’m really impressed with Poll Everywhere. It has an attractive user interface that is fairly easy to use – although there are also a lot of powerful features a mouse-click away for those that want them. The range of voting options is impressive, and the visual appearance of polls on mobile devices is great – without any need to download a special app either. The integration with PowerPoint and Keynote is reasonably good, although tutors will need to be careful about which poll appears where. My next step is to runs some tests with a cohort of students to see the reporting in more detail and then ideally to use a paid account to see how registration works.

Comparing it with Turning Point, multiple-response questions do not seem to be possible and it wasn’t clear if a correct answer to a poll is always worth 1 mark or if the score for each poll can be set. So Turning Point offers more sophisticated multiple-choice question types and scoring, but Poll Everywhere provides live feedback, which is especially useful for the open-ended questions – and the clickable image feature has great educational potential.

I’ll add a follow-up post once I’ve explored its reporting features in more detail.


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