Classroom Participation and Polling

Did You Know?
Audience response tools are also called personal, student, or classroom response systems

Polling and other audience response technologies offer a great way to make classroom lectures more interactive. At its most basic, this can consist of a multiple-choice question being presented to the class, and students responding using physical clickers or web-enabled devices. The instructor can then show the class a histogram of results.

The technology need not restrict itself to questions with a right answer but can also be used to ask survey/opinion questions and stimulate lively debates in the classroom. If the question does have a right answer, the live data can allow the instructor to gauge the class’s level of understanding. Depending on the results, the instructor can choose to pause, give more explanation, or have the students discuss among themselves (peer instruction) until they converge on the right answer.

There are many response tool options. Some require hardware, some run entirely on the web, and some use a combination of both. Academic Technology for FAS currently supports the online tool Poll Everywhere. Support for Turning Technologies and Learning Catalytics has now been phased down but AT-FAS will happily facilitate contact with the vendors for instructors still eager to use the latter. The matrices below provide a brief overview and comparison of these tools. Please contact Academic Technology for FAS if you have any questions, or if you would like assistance integrating these tools into your teaching.

Audience Response Tools


Poll Everywhere

Turning Technologies

Learning Catalytics

Pricing Free for faculty and staff with FAS site license cost for hardware (clickers and receivers) and participation licenses Free for Harvard
Polling software Web-based Desktop-based Web-based
Supported by Harvard Academic Technology Yes No*** No
Canvas integration* Yes Yes No
PowerPoint integration Yes Yes No
Keynote integration Yes No No
Supported question types Rich** Standard Rich
Response device supported Any web- and/or SMS-enabled device Turning clickers and/or any
web-enabled device
Any web-enabled device

* Canvas integration denotes the ability to import class rosters from Canvas into the polling software (thus not requiring the creation of new accounts) and export points and grades from the polling software back to the Canvas gradebook.

** Rich vs Standard: by "Rich" we mean question types that go beyond multiple-choice and that take advantage of the possibilities offered when answering with a web-enabled device (as opposed to a physical clicker). For example, Poll Everywhere has 'Word Cloud' and 'Clickable Image' question types, and Learning Catalytics supports various question types that involves graphics in engaging ways (e.g., sketching the graph of a function).

*** As of December 31, 2019, Turning Technologies clickers are no supported in the FAS. AT-FAS is available to connect instructors interested in using this technology with the vendor to discuss pricing, and to facilitate integration with Canvas.