Audience Response System

One of the most powerful tools to engage your students in the classroom is to use an Audience Response System, or ARS. In the UCSF School of Medicine, the Technology Innovations Team supports faculty in the use of the Poll Everywhere ARS for live polling. 

Engagement Strategies

Once an instructor has committed to using a live polling ARS tool, there are many ways to go about incorporating live polling into the classroom setting. The class session timeline below shows several of the ways that this can be done.

timeline of class session and strategies for using an ARS


A broad overview of the above strategies (Basic, Advanced, and Flipped) is provided below.

Basic Strategies

These approaches will get students onboard and participating and don’t require a great deal of advanced preparation.

identify a knowledge baseline - e.g. “Where are you in your educational program?”; “How familiar are you with the subject of this course?”

when: start of class session; often at the first class session of the course
recommended format: multiple choice, open-ended

ice breakers - these are intended to be fun, casual, and give the students a chance to get to know one another.
 E.g. “What one word describes you?”, “Are you the first in your family to attend professional school?”, “What area of medicine is of greatest concern to you?”
when: usually at start of class; often at the first class session of the course

recommended type: open response poll, word cloud

administrative questions - e.g. “When is best time for you to attend office hours?”; “who do you contact if you are having attendance problems?”; “How many weeks left until the midterm exam?”

when: any time during class session
recommended type: ranking poll, multiple choice

check-in - e.g. “How prepared are you for class today?
”; “Did you complete the reading?”; “Do you follow up with your study group this past week?”

when: start of class session
recommended type: multiple choice

planning ahead - e.g. “What subject will you be researching for your upcoming paper?”; “What do you have to learn now to be prepared for your clerkship next year?”; “How much time will you spend this week to prepare for the small group session?”

when: end of class session
recommended type: clickable image, multiple choice, open-ended

daily reflection - e.g. “How do you think this discovery will affect medicine in the years ahead?”; “Where will current research take us?”

when: start or end of class session
recommended type: open-ended; multiple choice

presentation voting - all students give a presentation; at conclusion of presentations, students vote on their favorite.

when: end of class.

recommended type: Q&A/Brainstorm, multiple choice

pre-exam exploration - give students an opportunity to raise questions about the exam, the material it will cover.

when: any class session, before an exam
recommended type: open-ended

survey - furnish students with a link to a poll survey at conclusion of lecture. The instructor can share the results of the survey at the next class session.

when: after lecture
recommended type: (using survey view) any


Advanced Strategies

Planning in advance will be required to write polls with this level of lecture integration.

lecture review/self-assessment (informal quiz) - gauge recall of material presented in class. If lecture is broken up into several ‘mini-lectures,' this technique can be used to cap the end of each segment with one or more questions.

when: any time during class session
recommended type: multiple choice; clickable image

‘Introduce, Reinforce’ method – involves spaced repetition. Similar/identical questions are presented throughout class.
 Early questions may prime students; later questions may assess understanding. This can improve long-term knowledge acquisition.

when: any time during class session
recommended type: multiple choice, clickable image

collaborative learning (a.k.a. think-pair-share) - after presenting the question, ask students to break up into pairs (or small groups), discuss, then answer together. Can also be used as part of a Peer Instruction strategy.

when: anytime during class, often at the start
recommended type: Q&A/Brainstorm, open-ended


Flipped Classroom Techniques

Using these techniques is an excellent way for the experienced instructor to custom-tailor and adapt a lecture or small group session to the real-time needs of the students.

active review (informal quiz) - review the material students were expected to learn before class to gauge their recall. E.g. “What are the four chambers of the heart?” This incentivizes pre-class participation. Usually paired with steering the lecture (see below).

when: start of, or throughout, the class session.
recommended type: multiple choice, clickable image

steering the lecture - e.g. “what topic would you like to review today?”; “which reading topic was the most difficult for you to understand?”.  Instructor can use this to shift focus of lecture to walk through difficult concepts and cases.

when: start of, or throughout, the class session
recommended type: Q&A/Brainstorm