Get even more from Poll Everywhere – LaTeX, Surveys and more…

Polling and quizzing tools can be a great way to increase interactivity and engagement in classes, in particular in large lectures. 

Poll Everywhere is a useful tool which takes advantage of the mobile devices that students already use, affords students anonymity and encourages interaction between peers.

To learn more about the benefits of in class voting systems, read our post from September 2015, Encouraging student engagement through interactive lectures.

The University of Sussex has an institutional licence for Poll Everywhere meaning that staff at Sussex can benefit from a whole range of premium features. You can now get even more out of this tool with the following recent updates. Please email to be added to the license. 

New LaTeX feature

It is now possible to use TeX and LaTeX to add formulas and equations in both the question text and answer text, opening up the range of questions that can be asked and expanding the use of this tool, in particular for maths and science disciplines.

This feature can be used both when creating new polls and when editing your existing polls by simply adding $$ to either side of your equation text.

For example, if I added ‘If $$f(x)=x^3+4x$$, what’s the area under the curve for the interval [1,3]?’ as the question text, the poll would be displayed like this:

Blog 1

New LaTeX feature in Poll Everywhere

It is also now possible to customise your poll titles further with the use of bold, italics and line breaks, allowing you to add emphasis in your titles or questions. You can use simple html tags to enable this feature, for example:

  • add <strong> either side of your text to make it appear in bold
  • add <em> either side for italics
  • add <br> in order to add a line break.

New Q&A feature

Question and Answer style questions are a relatively new question type within Poll Everywhere which allows an audience to participate in a live question and answer session. Participants can send in a responses which will be displayed on the teaching screen and on participants’ own mobile devices (moderation of responses is available). Participants can then anonymously vote these responses up or down with the most popular response appearing at the top of the list. This question type was used successfully at the most recent Vice Chancellor’s open staff forum where staff members were able submit questions for discussion anonymously.

Self-paced survey feature

You now also have the ability to create surveys in Poll Everywhere. The surveys feature allows you to combine multiple questions into one survey with the possibility to add any question type: multiple choice, open ended, Q&A, New survey feature in Poll Everywhereranking and clickable image.

You can then send a link to the survey to your participants who can respond at their own pace on a mobile friendly webpage. This survey tool could be used for example to gather research data or to gain feedback from students, furthermore the added benefit of the self-paced nature of the tool means that it is much more flexible. Try our Example Survey to see how it looks!

Polling in PowerPoint

From September 2016, you will be able to import pre-made polls into your presentations and create new polls without leaving PowerPoint, making it even easier to integrate interactive activities into your existing presentations.

You can also use Poll Everywhere in Google Slides by downloading the PollEv presenter extension for Google Slides. This extension works in the same way as the Poll Ev PowerPoint presenter app, allowing you to insert and create polling slides within your slideshow presentation.

If you do not already use Poll Everywhere, now would be a great time to give it a try allowing you to practice for the next academic year and try out these new features. If you would like to sign up for an account or would like a refresher, please email

Tagged with: , , ,
Posted in Learning Design, Polling tools, Technology Enhanced Learning

Constructively aligning criterion feedback using Turnitin

Reinforcing feedback. flickr photo by Jurgen Appelo shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Implementing processes to support the electronic management of assessment has been a priority for many universities and colleges in recent years, with many making use of Turnitin as a means of checking the originality of submitted work and providing feedback to students.  

The University of Sussex have been using Turnitin in this manner since the introduction of e-submission and e-feedback at the start of the 2014-15 academic year.

The following article will look at ideas and best practice for using Turnitin’s GradeMark software (soon to be renamed Feedback Studio) to constructively align marks and feedback to a module’s intended learning outcomes.  Read more ›

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in Marking and assessment, Technology Enhanced Learning

Get connected – engaging with online communities

The connected learner

The Networked Teacher, flickr photo by courosa shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

‘Connectedness’ is the very essence of the social web.  Digital technologies have an important role in mediating connections but it is important to recognise that it is the connections that these tools facilitate that are important and not the tools themselves.

This notion was at the heart of Alec Couros’ seminal work on The Networked Teacher emerging from his PhD research and which has framed much of the discourse around connected education and the value of professional learning networks (PLNs).  Read more ›

Tagged with: ,
Posted in Digital scholarship, Technology Enhanced Learning

Conference Tweeting and Storify

Twitter is a great companion for academic conferences – before, during and after the event, the micro-blogging platform can expand and deepen the experience.

Building a conference community with a hashtag # 

Conference organisers will usually identify a suitable hashtag and start tweeting messages in advance of the big day. Twitter can be used to publicise the call for papers, the programme and registration. In the process it can begin to build a community around the conference. If you are organising an event, these Tips on Using Twitter for Conferences and Events by Sue Beckingham (@suebecks) include advice on selecting and using a conference hashtag.


On the day there are likely to be some people ‘live-tweeting’, that is, reporting on the conference as it happens by tweeting. There is an etiquette around conference tweeting:

  1. Ask permission – unless organisers or presenters have explicitly said it is okay to tweet about what is being presented.
  2. Always attribute quotes – preferably using the speaker’s Twitter name (handle).
  3. Always include the conference hashtag.
  4. Remember tweets are completely public – so be polite and professional.

For more on how to tweet at conferences see:

Before you start tweeting at a conference warn your Twitter followers. For example:

Using Twitter and Storify in conferences.

Building the conversation

For those attending an event, Twitter provides an additional space for interaction and networking. Delegates can compare notes about parallel sessions, continue discussions and develop the conversation by linking to related resources.

Using Twitter and Storify in conferences.

If you cannot be at the event, following a conference hashtag is a great way of participating remotely. It is also good to bring other voices into conference conversations (see ‘Being there – or not?’). As this visualization of the #openbadgesHE hashtag shows, there can be varying degrees of interaction. This conference had 150 delegates attending, but the visualisation shows nearly 3 times that many nodes – each representing a use of the hashtag.

Using Twitter and Storify in conferences.

Click on the image to view

If you are speaking at a conference, you might want to consider sharing your slides on Twitter at the start of your session (services such as Hootsuite and Buffer will let you schedule tweets in advance).   

Tweeting as note-making

Live tweeting from a conference can be an engrossing activity and you may be wondering how to find time to tweet whilst listening and making notes. I use Twitter as my note-making system. Key messages I want to take away, I tweet. If others make good points or ask interesting questions I want to think about later I ‘like’ or retweet them. At the end of the event I have a collection of tweets that sums up the event for me.

Using Twitter and Storify in conferences.

To collect my Twitter notes and present them in a useful format I use Storify.


Storify is a free service that lets you create stories from social media posts (a paid version for teams includes the option to make stories private). It is most commonly used to collect everyone’s social media interactions around an event, but you can also use it to create your own story of a conference.

Once you sign up with an email address and choose a username and password you can start to create a new story. The first time you create a story from tweets you will need to connect your Twitter account, but this only takes a couple of clicks. You can also use Storify to gather content from other social media. Watch this video clip to find out more (1.22). 

Using Twitter and Storify in conferences.

Select the Twitter icon and enter your search term.

Storify will then find the tweets using that hashtag for about the last 10 days. You can select just the ones you want or choose to ‘add them all’. You can reorder to show the oldest or newest first, shuffle or delete individual tweets and add some text. Once you have given your story a title you are ready to publish. Storify will add the first image from the tweets you have included as a header image.

Once your story is published it will be public and anyone can find it by searching. You can share your story on social media and/or export it in a number of formats, most usefully as a pdf. If you want, you can notify the people you have quoted in your story.

Here is one I made earlier – it is my Twitter notes from the #openbadgesHE conference mentioned above.

Using Twitter and Storify in conferences.

Storify can also be used as another tool for learning through finding, choosing, sorting and sharing.

If you would like to discuss ways that you can use Twitter and/or Storify in your teaching and learning at Sussex please contact your school learning technologist or


Tagged with: , ,
Posted in Social media, Technology Enhanced Learning

Plickers! An easy-to-use quizzing tool

Plickers 3

Demonstrating Plickers with the question ‘what do you think Brighton pier should be called’?

The TEL team recently demonstrated Plickers at the annual University of Sussex Teaching and Learning Conference 2016

The theme of the conference was inclusivity. To build on this theme, we demonstrated how to use technology to encourage participation with two TEL favourites, Padlet and Plickers.

Padlet is an online wall that students can add to with just a double-click (text, a document, a video clip or audio file). Plickers are paper voting cards that combine with a clever little app to receive feedback. We will look at Plickers in more detail in this post. 

Why use Plickers?


Print your own Plickers (available in sets of 40 or 63). C is selected by this Plicker as C is at the top.

You can use Plickers in a variety of situations such as teaching, training, research  – any time that you want to get feedback or encourage interaction within a group. 

Plickers are readable paper shapes. You distribute these to students who then interact with a question that you ‘push’ to a LiveScreen view. Each student uses the Plicker to indicate their answer/opinion which you can receive by scanning your students with the Plickers app.

The great thing about Plickers is that only you, the tutor needs a working Smartphone. Even if students all have their own Smartphone, they may have phones that don’t work effectively to participate in an activity that relies upon an app. For example, they may have limited memory with no space for a new app or a battery that doesn’t last the length of a seminar.

There are additional issues that you need to be aware of when using polling technologies that rely on Smartphones:

  • A lack of (or intermittent Wi-Fi) to download the app.
  • Individually downloading apps taking up seminar/session time.
  • Tutors not wanting to use mobile phones in sessions.

The steps to using Plickers

Here is an outline of the steps involved in using Plickers with your group. The diagram below demonstrates what is happening and how the Plicker cards are being read.

  1. Give out Plickers
  2. Ask a question
  3. Student holds the shape up to represent their answer
  4. Tutor takes a ‘picture’ (students not captured, just Plickers) through the Plickers app
  5. Voila! Student responses are immediately displayed on the Plickers Livescreen view on your slide

Plicker 2

Questions, questions, questions

Asking questions using Plickers

flickr photo by Fred Seibert shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

Questioning students in seminar time is a great method to engage students and check that they are keeping up with your lesson. You could use the Plickers for all sorts of activities. Here are ideas for using Plickers with students in seminars. 

  • Exit tickets (or immediate feedback on the session)
  • Check learning in session
  • Debate! Discussion questions (not just for right and wrong answers)
  • Decide upon revision topics

Plickers can work without Wi-Fi. You won’t be able to display the resulting graph data through LiveView but you can still scan your students and see the results and save for your own data. So it could even be used outdoors for field trips. 

You can add your class list to Plickers so that each student is personally identified or you can distribute randomly to make the voting anonymous. Students can reuse the Plickers for as long as they last. You can also collect data and export if you would like to keep a record of responses. If you want to create your own set, print them from the website. Remember to laminate in matte laminate or the shine from lights can prevent the card being read by the app. You can also buy a set from Amazon


The maximum number of students you can use with Plickers is 63. Sometimes the Plickers are not all picked up within one scan. However, you can re-scan the room and the stray Plickers will be registered without duplicating previously captured responses.

Plicker, the punk rock clicker

Dr Lucy Robinson tried Plickers shortly after the conference and blogged about it. Here is an excerpt…

‘When I attended Sussex’s Annual and Teaching conference I was introduced to the idea of using Plickers (paper clickers) in teaching and I knew this was something we could play with.’

Read more of Lucy’s exploration with Plickers in her blog post Plicker the Punk Rock Clicker.

Give Plickers a try! You only need one person in the room to have a working Smartphone. Plickers are unlikely to let you down as even if you are without Wi-Fi you can still capture your students responses. It’s a fun activity that everyone can join in and it gets your students engaged and moving.

Here are help guides for Padlet and Plickers if you would like to try these for yourself:

Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in Polling tools, Technology Enhanced Learning

Using forums effectively – ways to improve engagement

Forums for learning
In a Virtual Learning Environment such as Study Direct (Moodle), forums can be a great way to share course information, build community and allow students to easily share resources and ideas.

Last year our post The benefits of lurking in higher education explored the ways in which learners engage with forums.

However, often these forums can seem quite sparse and neglected. So how can we encourage students to actively engage with forums? Below are a few key tips to help you make the most of the forums in your modules.

Set out clear expectations

It is important to set out clear expectations at the beginning of the module, both expectations that you have of students as well as what students can expect from you. Make it clear how often you would like students to contribute to the forum as well as your commitment to monitor the forum and respond to queries and requests. Be sure to set out clear instructions and guidelines in the description of your forum. In these instructions you might also want to ask students to read previous posts before asking a question to check if their question has already been answered. Also encourage students to give threads clear titles so that information can be found easily. This will avoid you having to write the same response numerous time, and might even cut down the number of questions you receive by email!

Set specific tasks

Creating community with forums

flickr photo by tecabh shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Focussed tasks give students more reason to write a forum post. You could set exercises in seminars and lectures that involve students reflecting on the week or finding an interesting journal article or news item and sharing it with the group.

This could also be an opportunity for students to work in pairs or study groups, for example completing peer review exercises, something that again may encourage students to engage with forums whilst building a sense of community among the cohort. You could start off by asking students to introduce themselves to the group, this helps students get used to using the forum and alerts them to where it is positioned on the site.

Consider separate forums

You may want to think about creating separate forums for different functions, for example one forum to deal with general requests around admin issues and one for topic discussions. However, be careful not to overpopulate your module site with too many forums.

Consider group size

You may want to consider the number of students that have subscribed to a forum. If your lecture size is 500 and all students are actively engaging, this would make for a very busy forum! In this case, splitting your students up into smaller groups, perhaps seminar groups, would be a better option. At the same time, a group of five or six would probably result in less interaction as the group is so small. Think carefully about what would work best for your students. See this Study Direct FAQ – How do I set up groups? – if you would like help setting up groups in your module site.

Add a first post

A blank canvas can be quite daunting, it may be a good idea to add the first post on your forum yourself. This could be an introduction and welcome to the course or an ice breaker activity for students to complete perhaps asking them to explain their interest in the module.

forum pic 3

Remind students

Remind students throughout the module to continue their contributions to the forum. A small reminder in your lecture slides or during seminars might be useful as will the specific forum tasks and activities mentioned above.

Encourage commenting

Using forums for learning

flickr photo by jamespia shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

Forums are about building interaction between students. You can encourage this by getting students to not only author posts but also comment on others’ posts, building a dialogue between students. You might also want to encourage students who ask particular (non-personal) questions via email to add these to the forum so that other students can benefit from the answers.

In Study Direct, the University of Sussex’s Virtual Learning Environment, there are four different forum types to choose from:

  • A single simple discussion – this forum type allows for one topic to be discussed and appears on a single page, this is useful for short discussions that are focussed around a single topic
  • Standard forum for general use – this is the most appropriate for a general purpose forum and allows both students and tutors to post a new topic at anytime
  • Each person post one discussion – each person subscribed to the forum can post one new discussion topic which everyone can then reply to, this could be used for example to ask each student to reflect on the week’s topic
  • Q and A Forum – this forum type requires students to create their own post before being able to view other students’ posts, after they have added their post students can then review and respond to other posts

Forums can be a positive way of developing a dialogue, creating community and allowing students to reflect and feedback. Furthermore, forums are a useful way of turning your module site from a passive to an active environment and have the added benefit of reducing the number of emails you receive from students! If you would like further help with using forums please contact your school’s Learning Technologist or email

Tagged with: ,
Posted in Study Direct, Technology Enhanced Learning

Exploring Openness at #OER16

This year I attended the 7th Open Educational Resources Conference. ‘OER16: Open Culture’ held on 19th-20th April 2016 at the University of Edinburgh. For the uninitiated, ‘Open educational resources (OER) are freely accessible, openly licensed documents and media that are useful for teaching, learning, and assessing as well as for research purposes’ (Wikipedia). OER16 saw the annual coming together of the openness movement.

flickr photo by fastfonz shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

flickr photo by fastfonz shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

In preparation, I’d participated in the Take 5 Open course during Open Education week. Part of the course involves sharing your thoughts and opinions on a Padlet wall.  This was a big deal for me.  I’m used to sharing my thoughts and observations online in my personal domain but not so in a professional capacity.  Readily sharing information about nights out, food I’ve consumed and sleep quality but nothing of any real depth.  With the theme of Open Culture for OER16 I was hoping to gain a greater understanding from an institutional perspective but was pleasantly surprised to also gain some personal insight.  Read more ›

Tagged with:
Posted in Open Education, Technology Enhanced Learning

‘Speak’ your documents with Google Voice Typing

Google Voice typing tool

Talk instead of type your documents! by psd shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Today we are introducing Google Voice typing, a feature of Google documents which allows you to dictate and format your documents by voice.

Voice typing is an effective free tool. It could prove useful to anyone wanting an alternative to typing. 

First, what are Google docs?

Google documents are one of a range of free tools offered by Google housed in Google drive.

The docs, slides and sheets (word processor doc, presentation slides and spreadsheet) are stored in a Google drive, they are online (cloud-based) and they ‘sync’ (all catch up with each other). You can access your Google Drive contents from any device and you don’t need to press save – they constantly update.  Read more ›

Tagged with: , , ,
Posted in Learning Design, Technology Enhanced Learning

Subscribe to Blog

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Follow us on Twitter