I’m teaching a section of Microcomputer Applications – an introductory level computer course.  An early topic in the semester, for me, is security and ethics.  Of course, I prefer discussion to lecture, and as I prepped this semester, I was wishing I had a classroom clicker – aka audience response system or aka polling – system to help engage the class – to solicit their input beyond a simple show of hands.  After having just used Google Forms to collect introductory information about students, I figured I could try using Google Forms as a makeshift classroom polling system.  All it requires to be functional is a teaching station with PC & projector and learners having individual access to the internet (a computer lab environment).  It worked perfectly, and I definitely got more feedback and learner participation than I’ve gotten in the past.  Here’s what I did.

First, I used Google Forms to create a survey for each question that I wanted to ask and use to facilitate the discussion.  One example is this question about virus protection software:


I actually created ten surveys since there were various questions that I wanted to poll learners about throughout the discussion.  It required more work and prep that way, but I think it helped break up the discussion a little as I stopped to ask a question and poll them.  The alternative would be to have all questions in a single survey and have learners respond to all learners in one fell swoop; that definitely would take less prep time.

Second, I added to the learning module within my LMS the list of questions with links to the surveys and the results.  There’s also additional links for learners related to the question or concept.

Third, during class, the process was relatively simple.  As the discussion progressed, I stopped and asked the class to click on the current survey link and complete the survey.

After students had 30-45 seconds to start responding, I accessed the results page and continued to refresh until I had a number of responses matching the number of students in the class.  The results, particularly given the chart and percentage summaries, provided a number of opportunities to personalize the issues and discuss the implications.  This example shows that 12 of 21 in the class were/are not sure what phishing is.

With the preparation in advance and the links readily available to learners, Google Forms provided an excellent, makeshift polling system.  Several side notes.  First, it is anonymous since there’s no way to pass learner ID from the LMS to Google Forms; of course, I could have had learners enter their identity, but I chose not to since they would have had to do that on each and every form/question/survey.  Second, it’s not good for impromptu polling; it takes relatively thorough preparation for the discussion.  The process of creating the form, making the link available and accessing the results via the Google Forms interface takes some time.  Finally, students couldn’t access the results on their own; Google Docs doesn’t currently have a way that I’m aware of to publish results.  Clicking on the results link required logging into Google with my identity, but having the link available with the course materials allowed me to quickly and easily access the results. 

Certainly, hardware solutions and proprietary software solutions provide more bells, whistles and features, but for the value/cost ratio I got from this, it was a great solution ;-)

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