At this year’s Teaching and Learning Conference we were debating the motion “The main function of university teaching is to ensure students get a better job”. The Educational Development team from the CAPD made use of a system called Mentimeter, to gather audience votes before and after the debate. As is often the way when people see something at an event, we’ve had a number of queries about the technology, how it works and how people might use it themselves.
— Gill Ritchie (@gsritchie) January 20, 2016
You may be familiar with technology known as “clickers”, small hand held devices which can be handed out to an audience. Votes are registered by clicking one of the buttons on the handset. These are commonly used in teaching across QMUL and you may have found yourself with one of these devices in your hand at events such as staff induction days.
Mentimeter is one of an ever growing number of tools which takes advantage of the smart devices that people increasingly have about their person. Whether that is a mobile phone, a tablet or a laptop (or perhaps even a watch or a pair of spectacles if people are really ahead of the curve). Whatever the device, “smart” means that they can connect to the internet. To register your response with Mentimeter, you use your own device, go to a special web address and then respond to the question. There’s no hardware to hand out and no app to download. All that is required, for both presenter and audience, is a web browser and an internet connection
Getting the audience to use their own devices has a number of advantages:
- You don’t need to waste time handing out and retrieving bits of hardware (or worrying about them going missing)
- People generally know how to use their own devices, there’s less fiddling and explanation required
- You can move away from purely multiple choice questions (powerful though those can be) and allow for free-text responses or scales. Some tools, such as Nearpod, even allow the audience to draw their answers and submit them. Think mathematical equations, chemical structures or annotated pictures
Of course, the obvious downsides are that you have to rely on everyone having access to a suitable device and an internet connection.
As stated, there are a number of tools available which provide this type of functionality. The E-Learning Unit have made use of a system called Polleverywhere at several of our own events. So what’s different about Mentimeter?
Arguably the most appealling feature of the tool is that the free version allows for an unlimited audience size. Many other free tools are restrictive in this respect, e.g. Polleverywhere’s free version only allows for 40 responses per question. Other Mentimeter strong points are:
- The user interface is straightforward, it’s very easy to set up your questions. Register for a Mentimeter account and get started. Your audience do not need accounts
- There are a variety of question types including multiple choice, word cloud, scales, open ended and points allocation
- There is a plug in for those using Powerpoint on a PC. This requires an Office365 login (which everyone at QMUL has). It is really easy to use Mentimeter without the plug in though.
The free version does have limitations. You are limited to being able to ask two questions per “event”. There are ways of getting around this but they don’t necessarily make for a good end user experience. You also can’t download the results of your polls for later analysis and you can’t track who responded. For use at an event like the Teaching and Learning Conference, Mentimeter provided a great solution. If you have very large class sizes and you want to use audience reponse in a low stakes or casual way, it also provides a good solution. If, however, you want to be able to ask more questions, download your results for analysis or track your respondents, you may find that the free version does not suit your needs. At this point, you may wish to look at a variety of alternatives.
Find out more
- More information about Mentimeter can be found on the Mentimeter website
- Further information about Polleverywhere, which also allows people to vote by texting, can be found on the Polleverywhere website
- Visit the audience response section of the E-Learning Unit website to find out how you can borrow some clickers to try out
- Read about the E-Learning Unit’s use of Nearpod or visit the Nearpod website for more information
And what about the debate?
If you’re interested in what the audience thought after the debate, here’s the result.
— Dr Heather Campbell (@campbell_ha) January 20, 2016
Although the house ultimately went against the motion, those arguing for clearly made quite an impression!