Classroom Polling

Why Use ARS?

Audience response can be an effective way to engage learners’ attention and participation during a lecture that might otherwise consist of one-way communication. The presenter poses a multiple-choice question and all participants enter their responses. The poll results can be displayed immediately to show the distribution of responses. Some common uses of polls include:

  • Pre- and post-tests to guage whether learners’ understanding of the materials has improved during the presentation.
  • Mid-lecture polls to determine whether any concepts need to be reviewed.
  • Case presentations in which learners choose the most appropriate course of action at multiple points.
  • Review “games” where learners answer sample test questions and compare their responses to those of the class.
  • Anonymous polling of controversial topics to foster discussion and exploration.
  • Administration of quizzes in the classroom.

What Tools Are Available?

The dominant audience response vendor at UW is Turning Technologies, which has two primary systems for collecting responses from audiences.

  • Responseware: This web-based option allows learners to use any Internet-connected device to respond to polls. The presenter logs in to ResponseWare and creates a session ID. Learners use any Internet-connected device (laptop, tablet, or smartphone) to visit a web site, enter the session ID, and respond to the questions. apps are available for participants with iPhones or Blackberry devices. This option is especially effective in distance learning scenarios with participants from multiple locations.
    • Note: Academic Affairs has purchased a site license of ResponseWare for use in medical student education. If your session involves medical students, contact SOM Academic & Learning Technologies for a ResponseWare account:
  • Response Cards (aka clickers): The presenter’s computer uses a USB radio frequency (RF) receiver to communicate with the audience members’ hand-held clickers. This option is useful when the ResponseWare option is not appropriate, or when learners do not have Internet-connected devices.
    • Note: Learners can be required to purchase their own ResponseCards, or a set can be checked out from Health Sciences Classroom Services. There is no charge for courses in the UW Time Schedule. For other sessions, a charge to a UW budget number is required. Contact HSB A/V Support for information and reservations:

What Software is Available?

UW SOM uses Turningpoint for classroom polling. Turning Technologies offers two primary software options for developing ARS questions and administering polls:

  • TurningPoint: This plug-in for Power Point provides maximum integration with the presentation. Each polling question is its own slide and there is no need to leave PowerPoint during the presentation to administer polls.
  • TurningPoint Anywhere Polling: This stand-alone program is not dependent on PowerPoint. Questions can be loaded in advance, and the presenter switches into TurningPoint Anywhere at the appropriate time in the presentation.

To obtain a Turningpoint account, please contact

What Are Some Best Practices?

  • Keep questions straightforward – but not easy.
  • Plan on 3 to 5 minutes for each question: 1-2 minutes for the polling and 2-3 minutes for discussion.
  • Determine your thresholds in advance. How many incorrect responses will warrant elaboration on each poll question?
  • Don’t overuse.
  • If lecture slides are going to be posted before the lecture, consider posting a version without the poll information so learners don’t skip ahead. Poll results could be posted in a post-lecture version of the slides.
  • Have a back-up plan in case the technology does not work.
  • Writing a poll question is a lot like writing a quiz or exam multiple choice question. It takes time and is not easy.

Turningpoint has video guides here:

For more information, or for help in getting started, please contact:

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