Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation

Using Online Polls

Main content start

In a mediated classroom, online polls function offer an alternate mode of engaging students, as a complement to discussion, group work, or individualized invention activities.   

Why Polls in PWR?

Polling offers you the opportunity to get quick response on key concepts, ideas, or opinions, which you can take into account as you develop lesson plans or can draw upon to activate interesting class discussions.  You might choose many different topics for your polls, each of which would provide you with a different sort of information.  For instance:

  • Focusing on a particular task: (i.e., How many of you were able to finish the reading for today?  How polished would you say your draft is today? How many of you are finding our citation management system helpful?)
  • Providing background on students: (i.e., how many of you feel comfortable with your level of skill in Powerpoint? How many of you have access to your own laptop or desktop computer to do your writing?
  • Keying into student identities as writers/speakers: (How confident do you feel as a writer? As a speaker?  What's the longest research essay you've ever written? How do you feel about your past peer review experiences?)

Having clear goals for the polling activity will help you formulate the most effective types of questions for your class.

Synchronous or Asynchronous Polls?

Online quizzes and polls used during a synchronous class session can be a quick way to see students' responses to a question, whether that's multiple choice or open-ended. Asking students to contribute responses to one space can help build class community and give the group a shared collection of ideas.  You can share results live through Zoom screenshare if you like to spark further discussion and participation.

In an asynchronous context, quizzes and polls might also be a way for students to engage with course content, share their responses to questions with instructors, and see how other students are understanding and engaging with particular prompts.

Examples of Polling Tools

Different platforms have different affordances, so think pedagogically about which best meets your learning needs.  For instance, if you want students to write longer responses, you might consider using a discussion forum or a shared Google Doc instead of a polling platform.

Poll Everywhere

Poll everywhere  is a versatile polling platform that students can access through the web, smart phones, or even SMS.  Since Stanford owns a license to Poll Everywhere, it is free to use, and you can find tips and support through Stanford Center for Teaching and Learning.  Some of the features of Poll Everywhere include:

  • Students don't need to sign up or create an account
  • It offers both multiple choice options as well as free answer responses
  • Works best for short responses
  • Has both anonymous and non-anonymous options (see “Audience restriction and identity” through “Configure”)
  • Responses can be displayed in many forms, including a word cloud or a map
  • If you share responses via Zoom screenshare, students can see them populate in real time as they participate in the poll
  • Since Stanford has a license, you can create an infinite number of polls free of charge.

Learn more about Poll Everywhere and access your free license

See Jennifer Johnson's Poll Everywhere for PWR classes

Canvas Quizzes

Another option would be Canvas quizzes, which could be repurposed to serve a polling function with students (since PWR pedagogy discourages quizzing students on their content retention).  Some of its features to consider:

  • Instructor-only access to responses (rather than a streamlined approach to sharing responses with the class)
  • A simple but relatively basic interface
  • Responses are always tied to student identity; there is no option for anonymity
  • The option to embed a quiz in your module or in a page, allowing you to consolidate the quiz in the same place students would look for their other tasks

Google Forms

In Google Drive, instead of creating a Doc or a Sheet, you can create a Form, which functions as a poll that everyone can respond to. You simply need to share a link, and students can respond to your poll.  In addition, you can export the results of the poll to share with your students in a spreadsheet or you can broadcast the results in real time through screen sharing.

Learn more about Google Forms

Zoom Polls

In Zoom, you can activate a poll to be sent to your meeting room participants during a live call. Respondents can answer the poll questions and then the results will be broadcast to them immediately inside the call. Note that Zoom polls only contain multiple choice or single choice quiz options (rather than open-ended questions).

Learn more about Zoom polls


Although Kahoot! is not supported by Stanford (in the way that Poll Everywhere, Canvas quizzes, Google Forms, or Zoom polls are), many students may be already familiar with the interface.  Kahoot! gamifies responses; for instance, it offers a leaderboard that lists who has answered the most questions right, etc.  The interface is easy to use and provides real time results.

Learn more about Kahoot!