Effective Use of Zoom Polls

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A quick way of engaging with students on Zoom is through the use of polls. In this article, we will explain how to set up polls in Zoom and effective opportunities for integrating them into your class.

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Opportunities for Using Polls in Class

Polls in Zoom are the equivalent of getting a show of hands from an in-person class – a quick way of getting a sense of the room or illustrating the prevalence of a particular perspective. Polls also enable a form of student engagement that is scalable to large classes. Not only may this help keep maintain student interest through sharing their opinion and seeing other student views, but it can also help illustrate the benefit of having all students together for an in-person class, above and beyond pre-recorded material.

Reinforcing how commonly shared perspectives or experiences are

A particularly effective use of polls is to illustrate how common a particular idea is – potentially reinforcing how commonly shared a particular viewpoint or trend is beyond the student’s direct experiences. While clearly the opportunities of connecting class material to student’s own experiences may be subject dependent (and maybe more direct opportunities of connecting learning objectives to individual experiences within the social sciences), it can be more memorable and effective in driving home a point to show in real-time that this holds true among the class. Moreover, the slight ‘risk’ associated with illustrating a point ‘live’, can further illustrate to students its general validity – it is surely so true that it can be relied upon to give consistent results with a random group of students. 

Identifying students with different opinions

Another opportunity for integrating polls is to identify opinions that run counter to the main class, to stimulate discussion and debate. Particularly when there is a  dominant perspective within the class, peer-pressure can sometimes result in a reluctance to share opinions that run counter to the dominant perspective. While clearly a risk that polls can further entrench the dominant perspective, knowing that there is a sizable minority of students with a different viewpoint can help encourage more debate. Similarly, while not as easy as calling on students from raising hands, the poll results provide a basis to call for those students with a different perspective to share their views.

Overuse of polls

Like with any tool, it is possible to overuse Zoom polls, or to use polls in situations where a show of hands is likely an easier and more effective approach. A clear indication of poll overuse is if there is no subsequent discussion, debate, or apparent purpose of including the poll within the class. Similarly, if the class only has a small enough group of students such that everyone can be displayed simultaneously on-screen, and particularly if there is no need to conduct the poll anonymously, then a show of hands can be a much more effective and quicker approach than using in-class polls. 

Setting up Polls in Zoom

Polls are quick and easy to set up in Zoom and can be created in advance of the class so that questions are available for quickly asking during class. As illustrated below, polls can either be created from within the meeting (e.g., once the meeting has begun, but immediately students enter), or in advance of a scheduled meeting.

Creating a Poll from within a Zoom meeting

Option to create a poll from within a Zoom call

Alternative: Creating a Poll in advance of a meeting from within Zoom settings

Settings to create a poll in Zoom

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