This is part of a regular series of articles exploring some of the terms used in e-learning (view other articles in the series). We’ll do our best to break down the jargon and explain what things are from a basic perspective.
An ‘Electronic Voting System’ (EVS) is a system that allows presenters to ask multiple choice questions, receive answers from the audience and display the collated data immediately. They have a number of other names including ‘Personal Response Systems (PRS)’ and ‘Classroom Clickers’, but they are also known as ‘”Who wants to be a Millionaire?” handsets’ because of their use in the ‘Ask the Audience’ round of the popular gameshow.
An EVS is typically used to check students’ understanding in a lecture or to gauge their collective opinion on a particular topic. This provides instant feedback to the lecturer and enables them to adapt their presentation to suit the level of the learners or to investigate the opinion and any split within the cohort. The EVS provides a way to encourage students to become more active in lectures and, as they are able to respond anonymously, those students who are reluctant to contribute to the lectures can do so without feeling that they will be ‘singled out’ to explain their answer.
Even in situations where there aren’t enough handsets available for everyone to have their own an EVS can be highly effective. One option could be to divide the students into small groups and give a handset to each group, the students then have to discuss the question before responding with the answer that they have negotiated among themselves.
Traditionally these systems have been made up of handsets with multiple choice buttons, a receiver to plug into a computer and software to create the questions and display the results. However, there has been a move over the past couple of years to make use of the smartphones, tablet computers and laptops that students bring to their classes. In these newer systems, people can vote using apps on their phone or tablet, through a web page on a laptop, or by text message and all of the responses are displayed together regardless of the device used. These web-based systems are ideal for face-to-face use when the majority of people have an appropriate device (such as at a conference or workshop), but they are also extremely suitable when students are watching live online through tools such as Blackboard Collaborate and you want to have anonymous voting.