CLA IT

Faculty Perspective on Polling Options in the Classroom

While viewing Facebook yesterday I ran across a photo taken at the Biggio Center Summer Course (Re)Design Seminar. The participants were doing a MentiMeter Survey and I saw Dr. Lockhart in the background of group. I know Dr. Lockhart to be a long-time user of Reef Polling (Now called iClicker Cloud) and I was wondering about his impressions using both polling systems. His reply to my email was a good review of faculty experience using classroom polling so I asked him if I could blog his response. See below for Dr. Lockhart's first impression of MentiMeter and polling in general. 

Darrell Crutchley

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I recently took the Biggio Center's Course (Re)Design Course. They used a polling technology called Mentimeter. I was immediately impressed so I tried it out myself in my own teaching demo. It is a really nice program. It strikes the right balance between being easy to use and having a wide range of features (but not intimidatingly many features). I've been using REEF polling (aka iClicker Cloud) in my classroom. iClicker Cloud is one of the iClicker range of products. The main difference between "classic" iClicker and iClicker Cloud is that iClicker Cloud saves everything to the cloud for you; with classic iClicker you need to carry around a USB stick to save your data.  

How do Mentimeter and iClicker Cloud compare?

I actually think iClicker Cloud and Mentimeter serve quite different purposes. One of the really cool features about Mentimeter is that none of the participants needs to download an app. You simply instruct the audience to go to menti.com on a phone or computer, enter a code, and vote. So it is fantastic if you happen to be presenting in a context where handing out iClickers, or asking everybody to download the REEF app, is impractical (it'd be great at an academic conference, for a first day of class ice-breaker, voting at a faculty meeting, etc). 

Mentimeter allows you to pose standard multiple choice questions. But Mentimeter also allows you to do a couple of cool things which would be hard using iClicker Cloud. During the Course (Re)Design we used the word cloud feature (participants type in 3 words and an attractive word cloud pops up on the screen), and the speed quizzing feature (participants compete to answer multiple choice questions fast). I'm not likely to use the speed quizzing with students (I'm reluctant to reward speed in a context where one has to be sensitive to accessibility issues) but it worked really well in the (Re)Design course with a lot of competitive faculty. Mentimeter also has a nice "prioritizing" tool: each participant can assign 100 points across various options. What gets displayed is the average. So you could ask your class, for example, "What are the most important things to talk about in this review session?" and immediately see a weighted average of what the group thinks is important.

A big drawback of Mentimeter is that if you want to ask more than two questions on any one "presentation", you have to pay the annual fee, which is relatively steep. 

The major difference between Mentimeter and iClicker Cloud is that there is no way to grade Mentimeter results. iClicker Cloud is specifically designed to allow you to quiz students in class and grade them on their answers. And iClicker Cloud has really seamless integration with Canvas for doing that (at least it is seamless once you get it set up). This isn't necessarily a drawback; Mentimeter just isn't (yet?) aiming for that market. 

A second difference is that if you want to ask a Mentimeter question, you have to have it loaded already into a Mentimeter presentation (although there is, apparently, a PowerPoint plugin). By contrast, with iClicker Cloud, once you have it up and running it floats on top of your desktop. So it doesn't matter how you display the question to the audience (you might have the question preloaded, but perhaps you thought of it in class and so you just wrote the question on the whiteboard).

Mentimeter would certainly be great for faculty who want to try out some audience-response interaction but are nervous about all the technology that comes along with iClicker. And certainly if you don't want to grade students, this would be the easiest way to go. The learning curve on Mentimeter is very gentle. Once you have some familiarity with it, it is lighting fast to get a question up on the screen and open for polling. I'm sure I'll be using it in the future one way or another (I'm especially intrigued about the possibilities of trying it out at an academic conference). But I anticipate it being a niche (although very useful) product in my own toolbox, rather than something that could compete with iClicker Cloud (which I use every day).  

Dr. Thomas Lockhart

Content release date: Friday, June 02, 2017