Bringing engagement to virtual learning spaces

Bringing engagement to virtual learning spaces
LASER Institute
North Carolina
Use case
Higher education

Using Poll Everywhere made the LASER institute very interactive and engaging. It was helpful as a participant to be able to provide real-time feedback and assess my understanding.

Carlton J. Fong was one of 42 scholars in the LASER Institute 2021 Cohort. Originally conceptualized as a face-to-face workshop, the Learning Analytics in STEM Education Research (LASER) Institute was forced to pivot to an online format due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because participants were connecting from around the country, the LASER Planning Team turned to Poll Everywhere for engagement and interaction.

The LASER Institute is a collaborative effort between North Carolina State University, University of Florida and the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, and is funded by the National Science Foundation (ECR: BCSER). The goal of the LASER institute is to provide professional development for early- and mid-career researchers who are interested in building their capacity to leverage new data sources and apply computational methods (e.g., network analysis, text mining, and machine learning) to support their existing research and develop new lines of inquiry. The first cohort included 42 doctoral-level early- and mid-career scholars.

All aboard

During their sessions, the LASER team used metaphorical train lines to support differentiated learning. As the Scholars moved through the material, they were taking different learning paths. In the latter part of the week, the facilitators wanted to get a sense of where the learners wanted to ‘go’ and used a poll to let them share their journey choice.


Temperature checks

As anyone who has spent all day on Zoom can attest, it is easy to get overwhelmed or start to feel disconnected. One of the activities the LASER team engaged in at the start of each day was to get a sense of how the Scholars were feeling and their progress on the previous day.


The Poll Everywhere activity also allowed the facilitators to get a quick snapshot of the progress and adjust their instruction for the upcoming day.


Let’s compete!

To give the Scholars a break from the academic side and create another opportunity for interaction and engagement, the LASER team used Poll Everywhere to host two lunchtime competitions. They leveraged the built-in Competition slides to ask a series of fun questions, such as “Where is Captain James T Kirk from?” These questions ranged from pop culture trivia to education-focused, such as, “How much does each recipient of the MacArthur “Genius Grant” receive?” The Scholar with the highest point total received a free year-long license to SnagIt 2021!


Chrishele Marshall, LASER Institute 2021 Cohort, shared their thoughts on the interactivity.

Any time I’m in a workshop where I can provide immediate feedback to the facilitators, the learning is more relevant because they can adapt and respond to the feedback. Poll Everywhere was the perfect vehicle for that. Not to mention it also brings an element of fun as a quiz tool!

Interested in learning more?

The LASER Institute runs cohorts during the summer, and information about applying for the next cohort can be found on the website. In August 2021, the LASER Planning Team offered a workshop, A LASER Focus on Understanding and Improving STEM Education, that was facilitated by the American Educational Research Association.

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