Research reports that using polls in courses have multiple advantages for students.

Studies indicate that students who use polls are more attentive and engaged and that students’ academic performance is increased. Additionally, using polls in class addresses many quality standards including Quality Matters (QM) and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles.

There are also cognitive benefits of including polls in courses. Students report higher levels of self-efficacy due to the immediate feedback polling provides. Students who are shy or learning English benefit from polls because it provides the ability to participate non-verbally and at a slower pace than the rapid-response of verbal questioning. The possibility of being wrong without the consequence of embarrassment or public exposure also provides a safe way to fail and decreases anxiety in students.

Instructors also reap benefits of polling by being able to determine whether students have mastered a concept without a formal grading activity. When students perform well, instructors can move to more advanced topics. Similarly, instructors can isolate misconceptions and identify moments to reteach.

While there is little research on polling in online courses, below are some ideas for implementing best practices when polling in online environments using research-based principles from face-to-face courses.

  • Always discuss and clarify. In an online discussion, have students answer a polling question then defend their choice as a discussion post. At the end of the week, have students revote to see how the responses change after the discussion. Instructors can then post a final discussion, send an announcement, or post a video clarifying any misconceptions that were not resolved in the discussion and providing a summary or answer for the question. It may be a good idea for instructors to hide the results of the poll until the end in order to avoid groupthink.
  • Think-Pair-Share. If students are paired or in groups for team-based learning, provide a polling question and have the students discuss their answers in their group space or through email. Then, assign one person from each group to record their team’s answer.
  • Choose open-ended questions. Just as with discussion boards, polling questions are best when they are open-ended and debatable. Rather than checking for understanding on lower-level concepts, consider reserving polling questions for higher-level concepts including application or evaluation.


  1. How to make the most effective use of polling in your classroom. Cornell University. Retrieved from
  2. Hunsu, N. J., Adesope, O., & Bayly, D. J. (2016). A meta-analysis of the effects of audience response systems (clicker-based technologies) on cognition and affect. Computers & Education, 94, 102-119.
  3. Oigara, J., & Keengwe, J. (2013). Students’ perceptions of clickers as an instructional tool to promote active learning. Education and Information Technologies, 18(1), 15-28.
  4. Sun, J. C.-Y., Chen, A. Y.-Z., Yeh, K. P.-C., Cheng, Y.-T., & Lin, Y.-Y. (2018), Is Group Polling Better? An Investigation of the Effect of Individual and Group Polling Strategies on Students’ Academic Performance, Anxiety, and Attention. Educational Technology & Society, 21 (1), 12–24.