Getting to Know Students: Surveys, Polls, Live Polling


It is often helpful to conduct anonymous (or not) polls and/or surveys before and during a course. These can be used for various purposes:

  • getting to know students and their needs and learning desires,

  • checking in on comprehension or formative assessment to see if students are progressing through the course content successfully,

  • examples of conducting quantitative or qualitative research.

  • get feedback from students about the course activities, materials, readings or other aspects in order to make adjustments for student needs

  • use as a "sign-up" for office hours or individual appointments

  • live polling during a Zoom meeting

Naturally you can do the same thing via email or with documents and attachments, but each of these options below collects and aggregates all the feedback and information for you so that you don't need to spend time doing that, you can spend your time reading the feedback, viewing charts/graphs of the quantitative results and responding.


Here are some tools available to you for running surveys and polls.

Blackboard Tests, Surveys and Pools

This tool readily available under Course Tools in the course management control panel, allows you to create surveys that are anonymous and which include open-ended questions as well as Likert scale or other quantitative ratings. Here's a nice step by step tutorial page that includes a video showing how to set up and run surveys. Here's the official Blackboard help page on setting up tests and surveys. NOTE: All surveys are anonymous. You cannot determine which users selected a particular response. HOWEVER, it may be possible to see who has or has not submitted a response, so in small classes this might not be considered totally anonymous.


This survey tool, along the lines of SurveyMonkey, makes it quick and easy to set up and run an anonymous survey. UMB has a campus license, so all you have to do is log in with your UMID and get your surveys rolling! Qualtrics has a lot of help and support options on their site, including a "basecamp" for on demand training to learn to use the platform and a slew of materials to help you get started using Qualtrics. Naturally, you can also search YouTube for videos about how to use Qualtrics.

included in our UMB Office365 suite of tools, this allows you to create and manage forms within the O365 environment. Here's their help site with excellent info on using this tool. Here's a little video on using this:

So those are all online tools for mostly asynchronous usage. Some folks would like to run live polls during class, to engage students with quick survey questions, check understanding across the class on particular concept or gather information from students, such as anonymous textual feedback or word clouds. For this, most folks these days are using something like or We recommend you check them out, set up a free account, set up a poll or two, and test them out to see which you like better. Before you use them in the classroom, prepare well by testing, letting students know in advance if you expect them to bring a device to use for polling (both of those will work with any smart phone or mobile device or possibly even flip phone). Start slowly by asking a fun question for everyone to test out providing input - and enjoy watching the realtime results projected on the screen.

Here's a little TED Talk on how to use others' feedback to learn and grow.


Oftentimes faculty members seek a way to have students sign up for a time for office hours or a private discussion, or for a specific assignment that requires a sign-up. There are many ways to achieve this, so it comes down to what you area comfortable using and doing. Here are some options:

this is handy not only for scheduling a meeting across many people's schedules, it can also be used for sign-ups for specific time slots.

Blackboard Tests, Surveys, Pools

this can be used as a sign-up mechanism. Find it under the Tools menu in the lower left in your course. More info above.

Blackboard Wiki Tool

this tool, also found in the Tools menu in the lower left of your course, allows you to essentially set up a google doc within your Bb course. You can pre-populate the wiki page with the times and ask students to add their names.


while this is normally used for surveys, it can also be used for sign-ups. See more info above.

Microsoft Office 365 Forms

see above on this page for info on accessing and using this to create a simple form to sign up for times

Google Drive/Google Docs

if you don't mind everyone see names of who is signing up, you can simply create a google doc and share it so that "anyone with the link can edit" and let students add their names next to time slots you set up in the doc.

Live Polling

Several faculty have shown interest in live polling during classroom or virtual Zoom sessions, as well as the ability to display a word cloud of responses.

IDEA Team has a pro account we can share with you, but only 1 person can use it at a time.

(you would need to set up a free account, which has limitations (unlimited questions, only 25 responses)

Google Docs/Drive

Here is an add-on for Google Docs that can turn the text of a google doc into a word cloud. Using this, you could:

  • Install the Word Cloud Generator google docs add-on to the google account you will be using during class:

  • Create a blank/new Google Doc or Google Slide and get a link for "anyone with the link can edit" so that students can add words or comments to the google doc - copy this link

  • Paste the link for students into the Zoom chat to click on and add their comments

  • Use the Add-Ons menu in your google doc menu to select Word Cloud Generator


it's also possible to use Zoom's built in polling feature, however that does not include a word cloud: