Creative Use of Polling During Webinars

Because you can’t see your learners during a webinar, you need to utilize other methods of gauging learner energy and motivation. While polling is a great and speedy way for the presenter to “see” what is going on with participants, it can also be overused if you don’t switch up the ways in which you poll your participants.

Different platforms have varying levels of polling capability. Some allow for multiple-choice polls and pacing while others may allow for only yes/no, check-mark and X-in-the-box responses. These tools were

built into the platform to help monitor where learners are at with the content in regard to speed and understanding but also work nicely for creating quick quizzes to assess learning.


There are several ways to utilize the polling tool all throughout the webinar. Use it at the beginning to pre-test learners’ knowledge of the topic or as a soft opener to have learners answer trivia or personal

questions to begin community-building. You can also create surveys to determine interest in a topic or as a re-engagement technique merely by having participants indicate their feelings about the pace of a



When using this feature, know what polling and survey tools are available in your platform, whether or not you are able to share results immediately or in a delayed fashion, and if feedback is anonymous.

Below are a few guidelines for how best to create and use polling for quiz questions, multiple-choice questions, matching items and post-testing.


Creating and implementing quiz questions

  • Purposeless quiz questions are not a good use of webinar time. Make sure questions require higher-order cognition and not just merely fact recall. Don’t ask “What does the ‘C’ in CORE stand for?” Instead, ask something like “Which of the following is an example of a closer?” The second question makes the learner look for what principles apply to a closer while the first merely requires recall.
  • Use a visual timer to show the amount of time for each question or let learners know how long the poll will stay open. Also, let them know if answers can be changed or if it stays selected once it is chosen.


Multiple-Choice Polling

  • Express the full problem in the stem, or main statement. Make sure that participants can understand the problem before reading the alternative answers. Usually, direct questions are clearer than sentence completions.
  • Make all choices similar in structure and equal in length. Do not give away the best choice by making it longer or more detailed.
  • Vary the position of the best answer. Research shows faculty tend to locate the best answer in the B or C position. Instead, use a deck of cards to locate correct responses randomly. For example, if you pull a heart, put the correct answer in the first position. Draw a spade? Place the answer in B, and so on.
  • Keep the test length manageable. From Joseph Lowman’s book Mastering the Techniques of Teaching, we know participants can only complete between one and two multiple-choice items per minute. Use that information to calculate how much time you’ll need for your polling.


Matching Test Items

  • Try to order the responses. If you order the items in Column 2 alphabetically, chronologically or conceptually, participants will be able to read the series more quickly and locate answers
  • more rapidly than if there is no order.
  • Create more responses than premises. In general, give participants five to 10 alternatives in Column 2. If you include distracters in Column 2, let participants know that some of the entries in Column 2 do not apply.


Post-test item analysis

  • Use the results to improve your tests. If everyone in the class is getting a quiz question wrong, think about revising or rewording the question. If the question is too difficult or too easy, think about throwing it out and creating a new one that will be more fair.
  • Solicit participants’ comments about the test.

This was excerpted from Becky Pluth’s book Webinars with Wow Factor: Tips, Tricks and Interactive Activities for Virtual Training. Used with permission. Available from The Bob Pike Group by clicking here

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