Cultivating Student Participation Using Online Polls

You probably have had classes during which most of your students do not turn on their cameras, or you ask questions and no one responds, or moments that you try to promote participation and the same four or five students respond. As educators, we know how active engagement and participation are important in the student’s learning process, but how to promote engagement among reluctant students? In this workshop, we will share our experiences and frustrations eliciting participation in zoom and other online spaces. We will explore why students may be reluctant to speak publicly, and brainstorm forms of participation. From that, we will explore ways to use online polling software – a real-time interactive tool – that can be used in different ways to promote student’s participation using, for instance, their cellphones. We will explore how these live audience interaction tools can be easily integrated with student workflows and technologies, promoting and cultivating engagement beyond the usual raise-your-hand and speak. During this workshop, we will be modeling these strategies by using the online polls among ourselves and learning the basics of how to create and navigate using those tools.

Learning Goals:

  • Reflect and share our experiences and challenges with (non) participation during synchronic meetings
  • Question our assumptions of what means “participation” and understand the reasons behind students’ reluctance to engage/participate
  • Reflect Paulo Freire’s notion of cognitive actors and the relationship between participation, active engagement and learning
  • Be introduced to online polls as a tool to promote participation
  • Reflect the different pedagogical uses of online polls in our classroom (ice-breaking, temperature checking, sense of community, check understandings, close readings etc)
  • Think about participation in different forms (written, using color cards, zoom chat, note-taking
  • Share & brainstorm specific concrete practices to increase and diversify student participation/engagement

This workshop was offered as part of the TLC’s 2021 Mid-Winter Institute.The workshop took place via Zoom as an online, synchronous workshop. The workshop and materials were developed by Fernanda Blanco Vidal (


All materials on this page and in the linked google folder are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International.

This folder contains outreach materials and workshop plans, slides, collective notes from workshop’s participants and associated reading list.

Materials Folder:

Workshop Agenda

  • Intro – 10 min
      1. Introducing myself and TLC team
      2. Participants – Name, pronoun, program, college and class – Google Doc
      3. Presenting workshop as departing point and TLC options
      4. Agenda
      5. Learning Goals
  • Reflecting together our experiences with participation in zoom – 15 min
      1. Where are you? (image)
      2. In which campus are you teaching? (image)
      3. In 2020, something I have learned as educator was … (open ended)
      4. What I missed the most as educator was … (open ended)
  • Brief comments about the experience – 5 min
  • Liberation Pedagogy and the role of Active Learning, Participation, Engagement – 20 min
    1. Active learning
    2. Liberation Pedagogy and Silence Culture
    3. Paulo Freire and the notion of Cognitive Actors (close reading exercise)
    4. Beyond polls – Demystifying Active Learning
    5. Different forms of participation
    6. Social Engagement

Five minutes Break

    1. Break out rooms – Google Doc for Social Annotation and two prompts – 10 min
      1. What else do you do to promote participation?
      2. What does work and not?
  • Share insights and conversation – 10 min
  • Polls as example of real-time interactive engagement – 10 min
      1. Ice Breaking – Create space for our students reflect the role of participation in their learning process and be exposed to different modalities of engagement
      2. Checking Understanding (example prof. Eric Mazur – Large and Stem Classes)
      3. Sharing thoughts, impressions or feelings
      4. Close Reading
      5. Exit Tickets and Feedbacks
  • Introducing to the use of polls – 10 min – Sharing Screen
      1. Clickable image
      2. Multiple choices
      3. Open Ended Questions
  • Final Remarks and Debrief