Student Polling Software

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The digital divide between the digital have’s and have-not’s is essentially non existent. In a typical class, less than 5% of the students in my classes at Merced College do not have access to, or own either a smart device or laptop. In fact most of my students purchased smart phones before I did (last fall). Using a student response system in-class has increased student participation in discussions and problem solving sessions. In order to provide all students with the ability to participate, I applied for and received funding from the Merced College Foundation to purchase three iPad-mini’s for use in my classroom by students who do not have a device to use. Since flipping my classes, I’ve used three polling programs for in-class assessment:, Socrative, and REEF Polling. Listed below are the pro’s and con’s of each response system.

Response SystemPro'sCon's
  • FREE
  • Can be incorporated directly into PowerPoint
  • Students text answers via any type of phone
  • Variety of output formats
  • Great for formative assessments
  • Great way to get feedback from large groups during meetings, classes, etc. (with paid acct)
  • Anonymous
  • Must be setup prior to use
  • Cannot be used to assign points
  • Students cannot change their answers after submission
  • Students must be present in order to participate.
  • Higher-ed limit of 40 responses per poll (free account)
  • FREE Can program questions directly into program or provide students means to answer Multiple choice, T/F or Short Answer questions
  • Variety of activities (single question, quiz, space race)
  • Responses anonymous
  • No option for numeric answers
  • Assigning points from Socrative must be done manually
  • Students cannot change their answer after submission
  • Quick answer questions are not sent to student’s phones, so student must be in class to receive question.
REEF Polling
  • Very easy setup
  • Students can change answers until instructor stops poll
  • Multiple Choice, Short Answer, Numeric, Target question types
  • Records individual student scores
  • Screenshot of each question saved to student’s account (along with student’s answer and the correct answer)
  • Built in attendance feature (optional use of GPS to verify student location)
  • Editable online attendance sheet and gradebook.
  • Can participate when not physically in class
  • Quiz feature requires a printed problem set.
  • Paid subscription for students

I currently am using REEF Polling in all of my classes. Students last Spring had the opportunity to try both Socrative and REEF Polling. In a poll, 87% of that class preferred REEF Polling over Socrative so I’ve required REEF Polling in my classes since Fall 2017.  Last semester I had a student with an extreme anxiety disorder. REEF Polling allowed that student to participate in the daily problem sets from home, and the student did very well in the class.

The use of student polling programs in my class have made my students more willing to participate in problem solving, fostered discussion between students, and has enriched the student's in-class experience.

About the Author
Brandon Tenn earned his Bachelor's of Science degree in Math and Chemistry from the University of Hawai`i at Manoa in 2001 and a Ph.D. in Chemistry from UC Davis in 2009. Between 2006 and 2010 he taught at both Sierra College and the California Maritime Academy. Since 2011 he has taught math and chemistry at Merced College. He is very interested in teaching developmental and introductory science and math courses utilizing an active learning approach. He has flipped every math and chemistry course he taught since Spring 2015 and continues to research best practices for the technique based on his target student populations.