The Rapid Transition and Growth of Poll Everywhere at Stanford: Onboarding Faculty with Live Polling and Active Learning Pedagogies

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Brief Abstract

Drawing upon his broad experience, administering Poll Everywhere accounts at Stanford University and consulting with individual faculty in Human Biology—Carlos Seligo will share a case study and best practices for faculty to promote active learning among students and collaboration among colleagues, during our rapid transition to online teaching.

Extended Abstract

Carlos Seligo is the Admin for Poll Everywhere at Stanford University’s Center for Teaching and Learning and the Academic Technology Specialist for the Program in Human Biology.  During the rapid transition to teaching online he has offered workshops and one-on-one consultations on active learning with Poll Everywhere and Zoom.  Because of his dual role, he has both the 10,000 foot view of the challenges facing higher education and the boots-on-the-ground point-of-view from working closely with individual faculty, some of which have never taught online before nor even experimented in the classroom with technology or new active learning pedagogies.  

Carlos will begin his presentation with a case study from the Human Biology program, where three faculty team-taught the end-of-quarter Fall review, by asking students to problem solve what they would need—everything from the genetic toolkit to the Pleistocene ecosystem—in order to de-extinguish the wooly mammoth. Using Poll Everywhere to crowd-source solutions to each problem, the faculty asked a lecture hall full of ~150 students: what challenges would researchers face adapting CRISPR or cloning to create a viable embryo? If Asiatic elephants were the best surrogate mother, how would they find them in the numbers necessary to achieve a successful birth? How many mammoths would we need for a viable herd? What institutions could protect this herd and the arctic taiga, long enough for the mammoths to survive and reproduce? All students responded to the polls but some students also volunteered and were called upon to explain the details out loud in the lecture hall, so they were both collectively and individually engaged with the subject matter. More importantly, they were more engaged than they would be in an abstract review of the scientific methodologies and subject matter, because of the concrete ethical and environmental issues at stake.  

Though this Fall review was technically-mediated it was still in-person learning—but what a different challenge faculty face now that they must do all of this entirely online!  Fortunately, Poll Everywhere can be embedded in slide decks and screen shared with Zoom and live polling can break up the monotony of long lectures.  Students can still be engaged in crowd-sourced problem solving, where answers to problems are shown anonymously on screen, but individual student responses can also be automatically scored, with multiple choice and clickable image polls, to provide the kind of low-stakes, iterative testing faculty are being encourage to use now instead of the traditional timed and graded mid-term and final exams.  Once integrated with an LMS like Canvas, these scores can also be uploaded to the gradebook through a spreadsheet or automatically recorded. 

As more than 1000 new Poll Everywhere accounts were added since March, Carlos will share some of the challenges he faced as the admin of the campus-wide site license.  He has broad experience with onboarding new faculty and graduate students and will offer tips to take advantage of their PollEv Presenter account.  Even those with little to no experience with new technology and pedagogy can be persuaded to innovate, now that they must teach online, but they need to learn the easy and more rewarding methods first.  For faculty who have more experience, how can they be persuaded to experiment with PollEv’s more advanced poll types and reports, use asynchronous surveys in order to prepare for lectures or gather anonymous feedback on their own teaching?   Carlos will offer pragmatic solutions to questions like these and also “promising practices” to promote active learning more generally among students learning online.  

Because Poll Everywhere now allows sharing polls and reports among members on Teams, Carlos will also outline strategies for collaboration among co-teaching faculty and TAs in large lecture series. Any faculty member can share with another faculty member on the same Team a PowerPoint deck with embedded polls and colleagues can preview beforehand or report on the poll results afterwards, in preparation for their own lectures. Similarly, a professor or a head TA can create polls and share them with all the other TAs on a Team, so that they offer a consistent curriculum in a large lecture series – while TAs retain enough autonomy that each can respond flexibly to the individual needs of their students in section. 

In this way Poll Everywhere can help meet both traditional and online learning challenges—but it can even help administrators and staff like myself, whose job it is to demonstrate the tool for faculty and TAs.  By sharing his screen, he can also briefly SHOW how surveys and pinned polls are created, in addition to the most common activity (poll) types and reports.  Finally, Carlos will share the results of the Center for Teaching and Learning’s survey this past June, when we asked all of our Presenters how they were using Poll Everywhere.

For practical reasons Carlos will end with a preferred list of resources to get started. Given the surplus of documentation for all forms of online teaching right now, this starter kit of useful docs and a few take-aways for more advanced users are indispensable for a rapid adoption of polling software. However, the main value of this presentation will not be technical: it will be an opportunity to critically reflect upon the affordances of polling for active learning, and also for the audience to ask questions about their own efforts to engage students actively online. In order to reach students faculty themselves need to re-engage and re-form course content they may have been teaching for years in-person and this requires empathy, not only for the students, but also for the faculty themselves.  

Media and Handouts to be shared:

1. Case Study of Poll Everywhere with Katherine Preston https://youtu.be/aUwe_Lekl5s 

2. 10 Tips to take advantage of a full Presenter Account

3. A preferred list of resources documenting Poll Everywhere.

4. Center for Teaching and Learning’s Poll Everywhere Survey (June 2020)