Great teachers understand that learning is a conversation, not a monologue.
– Sir Ken Robinson
Simple and quick, real-time assessments and check-ins are excellent tools to spark conversation with your students, preventing your class from being a one-way transmission of information. By asking students simple questions and giving them the opportunity to answer, you can help increase their engagement. Showing interest in and concern for them through check-ins heightens emotional engagement. Checking for comprehension helps you know if students need further instruction on a topic, and helps them gauge their own learning for better metacognition. And you can use questions to simply keep their attention from wandering!
Interactive tools make real-time assessments and check-ins possible in both face-to-face and synchronous online classrooms, as well as in asynchronous courses. Read on to learn more!
How to Get Started
- (1). Determine your goal(s) for adding real-time assessments and/or check-ins to your course. What kinds of questions do you want to ask? Some of the most common examples include:
- I want to create real-time comprehension checks to measure student learning, help me be agile and adjust to my students’ needs, and/or help my students become aware of their own mastery of a topic and seek help if needed.
- I want to check in with my students’ well-being to help humanize my teaching, increase a sense of community in the classroom, and know when to adjust my teaching and expectations because stress levels are high or students are struggling due to some outside force.
- I want to simply pique attention and interest, perhaps by posing a thought-provoking question to get students thinking, or by bringing in student voices to enrich the conversation around a topic, or just to be sure students’ attention has not drifted.
- (2.) Explore available technologies to select the best one for your class, and for the kind of question you want to ask.
- Moodle Tools
- Moodle Feedback Activity allows instructors to create surveys or questionnaires inside of Moodle to gather feedback, which can be anonymous. Instructors are able to create basic questions in the Feedback activity, such as multiple-choice, short or long answer, and numeric. The Feedback Activity cannot be graded but does have Activity Completion options.
- Moodle Hot Question Activity allows participants to submit questions or responses/statements typically during a live or recorded lecture. Then other students can upvote questions/comments to give them weight for an instructor to understand their importance. Questions and upvoting can be anonymous or specific to individual students.
- Moodle Quiz allows questions that can be auto-graded to allow instructors to have real-time information about student understanding of concepts. Open at a specific time or use activity completion and restricted access to open a quiz after students have completed a specific activity. Learn more on our Moodle Quiz Youtube playlist.
- NC State Supported Tools
- Top Hat is a mobile-friendly tool for real-time assessment and check-ins in synchronous face-to-face and online classes. Similar in functionality to the old “clickers,” students can respond on their own laptops or mobile devices to questions, quizzes, attendance checks, and more. Performance, participation, and attendance data can all be transferred to Moodle. Top Hat is best for face-to-face/in-person instruction.
- Google Forms allows you to create custom forms with varieties of question types, and add images and YouTube videos for surveys, quizzes, and other data collection purposes. You can share forms with an email, a link, or embed them into a web page or Moodle. You have the option to allow for anonymous responses. A summary of all responses can be viewed under the “responses” tab or in Google sheets. If set up as a quiz, a Google Form can automatically grade quizzes upon completion, and students can see the instructor’s feedback.
- Google Slides Q&A allows students to ask questions by name or anonymously from any device during your live Google Slides presentation. You will be able to see the questions as students post them and they can upvote the questions. At any time during your presentation, you can present questions to address any part of the lecture that might be confusing to students.
- Zoom offers several interactive tools that can be used for real-time assessments and check-ins in synchronous online classes. These include polling (survey or quizzing with multiple-choice, rank-order, open-ended, and more with advanced polling), annotation, non-verbal feedback, and chat. In a hybrid class, students at home and in the classroom can join a Zoom to participate. Get an overview on Zoom polling here.
- Additional Polling & Quizzing Tools are available online from many different sources–these are not enterprise/NC State-supported tools. They can be used at conferences, during workshops, or other situations in which an NC State tool (above) doesn’t serve your purpose. Included are game-based quizzing tools like Kahoot, Quizizz, and Gimkit.
- General best practices
- Use anonymous response methods when asking any sensitive questions, or ones that students might feel more comfortable answering without being identified.
- Plan how you’ll respond to students’ input. They will be more likely to share their thoughts when they feel heard and valued.
- Use a variety of tools to keep interested.
- Invite interactions every 10 minutes or so in asynchronous (face-to-face or online) class.
- Best practices for real-time comprehension checks
- Use for both formative and summative assessments.
- Be ready and willing to adjust your plans for the class session based on student responses. For example, if a student brings up something that needs to be addressed, make time to do so. Or, if students clearly need more support on a difficult topic or less support than you expected, adjust accordingly.
- Don’t feel you have to grade every response. Low- or no-stakes questions relieve pressure on students.
- Give students opportunities to practice before using the tools for grading purposes
- Best practices for check-ins for the well-being
- Use anonymous response methods so that students feel comfortable being honest. See the first bullet under “Best practices for any kind of question,” above.
- Consider using humor or a light-hearted approach to check-ins, asking students to anonymously mark on a graphic that reflects their mood.
- If you find that many students are struggling, consider how you might respond. Can you offer some flexibility with due dates?
- If you feel that a student might need extra support, provide resources such as encouragement to visit the Counseling Center. If you are comfortable doing so, you might say, “If you were the student who answered ‘X,’ know that you are not alone. Please consider dropping by during my office hours or otherwise reaching out to me or your advisor. We can help connect you with the resources you need.”
- Read this OFD Faculty Forum blog post from February 2020, Checking in with our students, for more ideas.
There are many creative ways to use polling and check-ins for engagement in your course.
- Before you dive into a new topic, use Top Hat questions to ask about perspectives or assumptions, then poll again later in the class to see if there was a change.
- Use Top Hat questions for a comprehension check to quiz students on the material you just went over to be sure they “got it,” and identify areas you may need to review again. You can allow for anonymous responses to encourage participation.
- Build a simple Top Hat Discussion as a “Parking Lot” where your students can post their questions while you lecture. You can create a Discussion title such as “Questions about today’s lecture?”. Students can type their questions or upvote their favorite questions in the discussion to help you identify any common misconceptions. Build in sufficient time into your lecture to address issues posted on the discussion board.
- To gauge students’ interest or attention, pose questions in a way that lets you see how many students understand the correct answer, and use the incorrect responses as a springboard for discussion.
- Invite students to use the Chat for questions during your lecture.
- Use Zoom “Reactions” for a temperature check, such as asking students to give you a thumbs up/green checks (yes), red x’s (no) to indicate if they are good and ready for you to move on to the next topic, or click the “raise hand” button if they have questions or something to share.
- Use Polling to find out what your students already know or what they think about a topic to inform how you proceed. Quiz them on the material you just went over to be sure they “got it,” and identify areas you may need to review again.
- Use Annotation tools to ask students to stamp or circle content on the slides that resonate with them. This can be an ice breaker activity at the beginning of the class, sharing a World map slide and asking students to use the annotation tool to circle the country they are from or countries they have been to. You can use a similar approach by sharing an image with different facial expressions and asking students to use the annotation to indicate how they are doing before you start the classes.
Google Slides Q&A or Hot Question in Moodle
- Make your lecture more interactive and connect with your students in real-time. As you present your lecture, students can actively participate by asking questions in real-time. You have the option to present and respond to students’ questions on the screen at an appropriate time without interrupting the lecture or existing the presentation. This eases the burden of using additional technology for engagement while allowing students to focus on learning.
- Encourage students to speak out. The anonymous and vote features allow students to ask questions anonymously and vote for the questions most students have. When students see their questions get votes, this encourages them not to be afraid to ask questions, especially the ones that are shy and quiet. In addition, rather than having students type their questions, have them type solutions to specific content-related questions.
Google Forms or Moodle Quizzes
- Wrap up a lesson or generate formative data by giving students 1-2 quick multiple-choice questions to review how much students have learned during your lesson before they exit the class. Or a simple short answer question about “What’s the most interesting thing you learned today?” or “What would you like to know more about?”. This will give you information to use for planning the next lesson as well.
- Create a weekly/monthly check-in to connect with your students and know how they are doing. Questions can be as simple as how they have been feeling lately, and anything you can do to help? You can share the link in Moodle for students to respond and offer links to campus resources in the form.
- To pique interest and attention by creating fun questions about a current event, sports, pets, food, etc., and share results in the form of graphs and tables on the screen. Have students summarize the results and put them into groups according to the topics you have.
- Google Forms can be used to gauge students’ pre-existing knowledge, identify misconceptions, and engage students in discussion. Read this article for more ideas about using Google Forms
Moodle Feedback tool
- Get students’ feedback by doing a Mid-semester course check-in with anonymous feedback about what works well and what doesn’t, and what has been taught that is still confusing or unclear to students. It allows you to hear your students’ concerns while there is still time in the current semester to make appropriate changes. You can also ask for more feedback after you’ve made the changes. This helps create a community of learners.
- Use feedback to allow students to suggest something that is typically decided solely by the professor, like an extra credit topic or key components for a rubric. The results can be exported.
- To survey students’ level of expertise, such as to determine their comfort with using technology before you use it in the class or suggest the topic for their projects or the areas they wish to study or work on. With the feedback tool, you can make questions display depending on previous responses to get more detailed information from students.
- Classroom Assessment Techniques, Part 1 – OFD Blog, Diane Chapman, April 13, 2020
- Classroom Assessment Techniques, Part 2 – OFD Blog, Diane Chapman, April 24, 2020
What’s Your Number Today? Practicing the Skills of Well-being – OFD Blog, Jennifer Stanigar and Mary Estrada, April 20, 2020
- Checking in with Our Students – OFD, Lisa Paciulli, Claire Gordy, Joy Little, Melissa Ramirez, and Maria Gallardo-Williams, February 5, 2021
- Engaging Your Students Right from the Start
- The perils of interactive learning – The Scholar Teacher, Christopher Richmann, Baylor University, January 14, 2021
- Student Engagement in the Online Classroom: Eight Quick Tips to Spark Students’ Learning – Tracey A. Carter, Heather M. Pleasants and Toni S. Muhammad, January 18, 2021
- Improved Student Engagement in Higher Education’s Next Normal – EDUCAUSE Review, Ed Glantz, Chris Gamrat, Lisa Lenze and Jeffrey Bardzell, March 16, 2021
- Online Student Engagement How to Structure Your Online Class for Inclusion Part 1 – The Faculty Focus, Jenae Cohn, PhD, and Courtney Plotts, PhD, March 22, 2021
- Creating Emotional Engagement in Online Learning – EDUCAUSE Review, Melissa Fanshawe, Katie Burke, Eseta Tualaulelei and Cath Cameron, August 31, 2020
- Metacognition and Student Learning – The Chronicle of Higher Education, James Lang, January 17th, 2012