Wednesday, December 07, 2011 -- how it worked out

Following up on my earlier post about the use of for polling in class, here is a summary of my experience using it in a data mining elective course @ ISB (38 students, after four sessions):
  • Creating polls: After a few tries and with a few very helpful tips from a PE representative, I was able to create polls and embed them into my Power Point slides. This is relatively easy and user-friendly. One feature that is currently missing in PE, which I use a lot, is the inclusion of a figure on the poll slide (for example, a snippet of some software output). Although you can paste the image on the PPT, it takes a bit of testing to place it so that it does not overlap on the poll. Also, if you need to use the poll in a browser instead of the PPT (see below), the image won't be there...
  • Operation in class: PE requires good Internet connection for the instructor and for all the users with laptops or using the wireless with a different device. Although wireless is generally operational in the classroom that I used, I did encounter a few times when it was flaky, which is very disruptive (the poll does not load; students cannot respond). Secondly, I found that voting takes much longer with mobile/laptops than with clickers. What would have taken 30 seconds with clickers can take several minutes with PE voting.
  • Student adoption: During the first session students were curious and quickly figured out how to vote. Students could either vote using a browser (I created the page where live polls would show up) or those lacking Internet access used their mobiles to tweet via SMS (Airtel free SMS to 53000; other carriers SMS to Bangalore number 09243000111 via As the sessions progressed, the number of voters started dropping drastically. I suspected that this might be a result of my changing the settings to allow only registered users to vote. So I switched back to "anyone can vote", yet the voting percentage remained very low.
I have never graded voting, and rather use it as a fun active learning tool. With clickers response rate was typically around 80-90%, while with PE it is currently lower than 50%. Given our occasional Internet challenge, the longer voting time, and especially the low response rate I will be going back to clickers for now.

I foresee that PE would work nicely in a setting such as a one-time talk at a large conference, or a one-day workshop for execs. I will also mention the excellent and timely support by PE. And, of course, the low price!

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