Audience Response Systems

What are they and how can they be used in learning?

Audience response systems give students in lectures a way to answer a question, most often a multiple-choice question, either via a bespoke handset sometimes called ‘clickers’, or via the student’s own laptop or mobile device. The responses are then aggregated, often into a bar chart, and displayed on the screen at the front.

Audience response systems are a simple way of making lectures more interactive. They can be used as a quick sample check (in which case not every student’s response is required), or as a more comprehensive one-vote-per-person poll.

Quick-start ideas for audience response systems

  • Icebreakers for initial lectures e.g. students perceptions and fears about university life/study.

  • Quick formative assessments - checking whether students have understood information and concepts being covered currently in the lecture, or checking comprehension of assigned reading.

  • ‘Contingent teaching’ i.e. switching lecture focus depending on results of the survey.

  • Evaluations of lectures

  • Spark discussion and debate with ‘no-correct-answer’ questions

How do audience response systems work?

The following steps show in general terms how two systems, TurningPoint and Participoll, work. There are new systems and apps being created all the time, and many of these work quite differently.

  • Instructor creates a PowerPoint presentation using a computer which has been installed with or otherwise linked to the audience response system software. Sometimes this is done through a browser; other times it requires installation of software or a PowerPoint plugin.

  • Instructor incorporates questions, often multiple-choice, into her presentation, setting the correct answer.

  • In the lecture, the instructor may wish to use her own laptop if that is what she used to prepare the presentation. If using the room’s demonstrator computer, it should be tested with the system in advance. With bespoke clicker systems like TurningPoint, a USB dongle must be used on the instructor’s computer.

  • Students connect to the channel or class, via handsets.

  • When an interactive slide is shown and the instructor invites answers, students enter the letter of their answer. Some systems allow students to type in short answers or short questions to the instructor.

  • A bar chart or other depiction of the class’s responses is shown on the screen. Some systems allow students to communicate privately with the instructor.

  • Most systems allow the presentation to be preserved, with the questions intact. Some systems export data which allow the instructor to examine how students were responding.

What systems are available?

TurningPoint: Supported by the University

More information on using TurningPoint (IT Help website)

TurningPoint software is free, downloaded via the Program Installer on University PCs. Because TurningPoint functions using radio frequency, it will work regardless of wifi or 3G/4G coverage. TurningPoint supplies detailed reports.

Hiring TurningPoint equipment

To hire TurningPoint handsets contact the University Learning and Teaching Room Support. You can email at, phone on 2919, or visit the Medical Sciences Building.

Buying TurningPoint for your own department

USB receivers are £135 each.

Handsets (‘clickers’) £50 each.

Using TurningPoint clickers plus students’ own mobile devices

It is possible to have some students in class using TurningPoint clickers, and other students in the same class using their own phones with the free app called Responseware, available for Apple and Android devices. However, though the app is free from the store, a license fee must be paid in order for it to work. The price is $15.00 yearly. The purchasing model seems to assume that students will pay for this license themselves.

Unsupported systems

The following systems are not supported by the University, but may be used if all of the following are true:

  1. No student names or university IDs will be transmitted
  2. No other protected data will be transmitted
  3. You accept that any ‘held’ data may disappear at any time without warning


This uses students’ own devices. Check first to create your account; use your university email address to set up and follow these steps to upgrade to a premium account (login required). Download the Add-in from You will be led to create a url (internet address) where students must go to answer questions, so you will need to give out that url during class. Must be set up and run from a Windows computer, but any device with a browser can be used to answer. Question types: multiple choice only.


Using a computer, make a Teacher’s account at You will be given a ‘Room number’ which students will need to join your quiz or poll. Students must download app or run from browser on their own device; no account necessary for students. Technical (not license) limit of 50 at one time. If you wish to show the class students’ answers, show Socrative through a web browser onto projector. Socrative works independently from Powerpoint. Students can work quizzes independently from teacher’s leading. Question types: multiple choice, true/false, short answer. Sends reports.


Using a computer, make an account at Nearpod quiz must be controlled by the teacher, use an app on students’ own devices. Nearpod incorporates with Powerpoint. Nearpod allows students to draw answers onto an image. Sends reports.

Also note that the above systems depend on wifi in the room, and possibly using 3G as a backup. Check the wifi in the room via the teaching room directory and/or by trying things out in the room ahead of time.


Draper, S. (2011). Interactive Lectures Interest Group list of resources. Interactive Lectures Interest Group Website. Retrieved July 25, 2014, from

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Masikunas, G., Panayiotidis, A., & Burke, L. (2007). The use of electronic voting systems within business and marketing: a case study of their impact on student learning. Research, 15(1). Retrieved from

Page, E. M., & Read, D. (2010). EiC Nov 2010 - Feature - Electronic voting systems in undergraduate teaching. Education in Chemistry, November. Retrieved from

Simpson, V., & Oliver, M. (2007). Using Electronic Voting Systems in Lectures. Retrieved July 25, 2014, from

Thalheimer, W. (2007). Questioning Strategies for Audience Response Systems. Somerville, Massachusetts USA. Retrieved from

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