Assessment for learning: Using mobile polls in the classroom


The use of formative assessment to develop learners understanding of key concepts is an established practice and used by many academics within the University. Introducing audience response systems into the lecture design can bring further advantages to this process by enriching traditional teaching, engaging students and increasing participation in discussion.

Dr Helen Christian, from the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics empowered her students to learn actively and deeply through peer learning and responding to an interactive quiz enabled via the WebLearn Poll Tool on Mobile Oxford. Students used their mobile phones in a synchronous revision session to ‘vote’ for correct answers that they then discussed as a group. Reassured about areas where their understanding was good, and working together to identify common misconceptions, they voted overwhelmingly for more sessions incorporating the mobile Weblearn polls tool.

The Challenge

Despite high levels of student satisfaction in course evaluations, Helen was acutely aware that her lectures were in the traditional format of teaching as telling. She wanted to encourage interactive learning and therefore started introducing questions to the students mid-lecture.

This was a step in the right direction but I quickly established that the same, small number of students were willing to contribute answers and I did not have evidence that the majority had understood the concepts I was introducing.

The first year medical students sit their first professional qualifying exams in week 9 of Trinity Term, yet they need to learn a large number of new topics, including ‘Reproduction’, up to the end of week 6. The time pressure and volume of material promotes surface and passive learning.

The Innovation

Having been inspired by the reported learning benefits of audience response systems (Mazur 2009) Helen was keen to explore their use. After a colleague alerted her to the Weblearn Mobile Polls Tool she met with a member of the WebLearn team to discuss the idea of using the tool as a revision ‘quiz’ for the first year medical students.

During the class students were asked to access the quiz via the Mobile Oxford portal on their personal phones. The session was held in a computer lab, to enable the remaining students to answer the quiz on the computers. When they had finished the quiz Helen displayed the results of each question in tabular and graphic format (bar chart or pie chart). She then went through each question, revealing the results and discussing the answers.
A WebLearn PollA forum was also set up in the WebLearn site for students to post any questions they may have arising from the quiz after the session.

We were impressed at how enthusiastic those students with internet-enabled mobiles were for the Mobile Oxford interface and observed that students were clearly engaged actively in the session

Student evaluation confirmed that the aims of the session had been met. ‘The overall value of the session’ score was 8.7/10 (60 students completed evaluation of 110 attended) and 59/60 students responded that they would like more sessions incorporating the mobile Weblearn Polls tool.

[The session] reassured me that I have good knowledge of the reproductive system and highlighted areas I need to work on; chance to revise entire topic, excellent summary.

It was useful to identify common misconceptions, why options were wrong (via different votes) and not just which ones were right.

Top Tips for Success

1/ Hold the session in an area where mobile signal is strong and wireless (e.g. Eduroam / OWL) is available.
2/ Provide printouts of the How to use WebLearn via Mobile Oxford handout for those students who have internet-enabled phones.

Further Information

Confessions of a Converted Lecturer: Eric Mazur
How to use WebLearn via Mobile Oxford
WebLearn Poll Tool
Mobile Oxford

Winner of the OxTALENT 2011 Award for ‘Best Use of Technology in Learning Spaces’.

Posted in Medical Sciences, OxTALENT Winner | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

One Response to “Assessment for learning: Using mobile polls in the classroom”

  1. […] Assessment for learning: Using mobile polls in the classroom – Dr Helen Christian, Medical Sciences (winner, OxTALENT 2011) […]

Leave a Reply