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  • promotes active engagement
  • gauges students' comprehension of concepts
  • instructors adapt instruction as and where needed
  • encourage participation for students of all comfort levels


  • developing questions
  • learning hardware/software
  • inputting questions into PRS software/online polling system
  • building flexibility in classroom session based on
    student responses
Activity Time Varies: one question and follow-up discussion could be
1-10 minutes depending on responses and complexity of
discussion afterwards.

individual or pairs (if including peer instruction element)

  • PRS/polling may be used once during a session,
    throughout a session, and during the length of
    a course.
  • This technique is especially useful in large classes.
Assessment low-stakes, formative (participation)

Personal response systems (PRS, also referred to as student response systems, audience response systems, or classroom response systems) and the polling feature in collaborative digital tools are sets of hardware and software that facilitate instant class response activities.

In the physical classroom using the PRS, the instructor, who is in control of both a receiver and usually a computer that displays the student responses, asks a question. The students use transmitters (in many instances, clickers, but in some cases, a phone or laptop) to answer the question; their answers show instantly on the instructor’s screen. The instructor uses the tally of answers, usually in the form of a chart of graph, to make immediate instructional responses: group discussion, peer instruction, etc.

Online, the students interact with the polls from their own computer or tablet from the application running the synchronous session (for example, WebEx). No special hardware is needed except a computer/tablet that runs the application.

PRS/polling may be used once during a session, throughout a session, and during the length of a course. They are especially useful in large classes and can be used across disciplines.

While PRS/polling questions may be limited to multiple-choice question, they do not have to be limited to asking students to recall basic facts. An instructor may think about asking students questions where more than one answer may be correct and then have the students discuss why they chose one answer over another. The answer choices might be opinions rather than factually-based. And they may assess students’ confidence on the reading completed from the previous day.

Additional Resources