Poll steps allow learners to submit a single response to a multiple-choice question anonymously. After learners have chosen their response they are shown the results of all responses collected using a bar chart.
Polls are simple, enjoyable, and can contribute to the discussion. They support learning and are not designed for research. Learners don’t have to actively comment but instead select a response. This makes polls a fantastic way to encourage learner involvement with a low barrier to engagement.
The poll question and responses are displayed directly inside a single FutureLearn step. Like article, discussion, video and audio steps it is possible for learners to comment on poll steps - though not compulsory. The minimum number of possible answers for a poll question is 2 and maximum is 6.
Types of poll step
Effective polls promote learning and provoke conversation. They provide a level of visibility on the collective thinking within the cohort. The poll question should be linked to the activity, week or the whole course.
- Polls aren’t tests. They’re most effective when used to encourage engagement, not to assess learning.
- Design the answers based on common misconceptions (they act as distractors).
- Learners are faced with the correct answer which is most likely a surprise.
- This helps provide a stimulus for peer discussion where learners are encouraged to comment on their own conceptual understanding of the question or the other responses.
- They can be encouraged to enter a lively discussion based on the answers provided and why they chose their answer.
- Don’t use Polls to check sentiment eg ‘are you enjoying this course’ - the end-of-course survey fulfills this role.
- Questions provide a situation or task where prior learning is applied to a real situation or context.
- More than one answer is correct
- Learners are asked to analyse and evaluate their prior learning, engaging in discussion around their chosen response.
- There is no correct answer.
- Learners can share views, opinions or experiences on their perspectives around the topic.
- Learners can choose a particular side/angle/issue (such as legal, ethical or moral) and use their choice within the comments for a debate.
- The poll adds value by showing the distribution of perspectives in the results.
- Learners choose their answer to a standard question.
- On review of all responses, discussion encourages peer dialogue around the topic/concept – with no direct response from the educator.
- Learners are then offered an identical poll which typically shows measurable shifting towards the correct answer.
Change over time
- Similar to peer learning – multiple identical polls can be used to ask the same question pre/post a learning activity (or segment of course).
- This shows how learners choices change as they learn and engage with others’ perspectives.
Poor polls challenge learners to recite facts, concepts, approaches or techniques which, at best, can promote student memory. This isn’t optimal and may barely promote discussion. Learners could feel very intimidated or daunted if they feel it is compulsory to share whichever answer they chose.
Find out more about best practice in poll steps in activities Design your course: from activity to step and Creating FutureLearn steps that shine in How to Create a Great FutureLearn course. Contact your Partnership Manager for access.
Learners see all results after submitting their response; results are anonymous but never hidden from learners.
- Learners can choose to skip to see the results.
- Taking part is simple and quick on all devices.
- Questions and results are shown in the same step.
- Once a response is made, learners cannot change their mind.
- Educators cannot participate in polls but can always see results.
Educator feedback in poll steps
- Learners are shown educator feedback when they view all the responses. This feedback should be generic, and encouraging.
- If there was a correct answer, offer a supportive tone and explain why learners may often think the answer is different.
- If there was no correct answer, the educator could offer what their answer was, but it is important not to alienate learners.
- Link this feedback to the next step, signposting “lets explore this further in the next step”.
As most courses are now on demand as a default, it is important that poll step instructions and text make clear that learners should not expect to hear from educators in the comments.
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