Learning Technology@LJMU


Good Practice Post: Active Learning with Vevox (Staff)

Good Practice Post: Active Learning with Vevox (Staff)

Vevox facilitates classroom voting as well as additional functionality, and used appropriately could improve teaching practice. This post aims to help share this developing practice and to support others who are using the system or are considering it. It shares ideas, tips and issues from 15 LJMU staff who have consistently used Vevox in their teaching. A recent literature review of 66 classroom voting studies found that these types of tools can positively impact on student actual performance, student perceived performance, attendance and participation (beyond just voting). Read about this research here: https://doi.org/10.1177/1052562912454808

1. Use observational questions at the beginning of a new topic or lecture to understand students perceptions

This scenario allows you to share student perceptions or survey student opinions/feelings about a particular subject anonymously and display outcomes to the whole class. Vevox word clouds or free text responses allow you to collect longer answers from students (Richter, Byrne). For instance, “I ask them to tell me which factors make stress a negative, unhealthy state” (Richter) or “gather information on the students’ knowledge and ideas about the topic, or a particular concept, at the beginning and during the lectures.”  

Word clouds can also be used at the start of a topic to help share knowledge and understanding of the topic. Current examples of word cloud questions used “… at the beginning of a lecture on the global burden of disease and risk factors.” (Perez De Heredia Benedicte) include:

  • Level 4 biologists. “What is biology about?”
  • L6 Animal Welfare: “What are the main causes of pet obesity?” 
  • L6 Health & Disease: “What are you most afraid of?”

Other examples include asking “… general questions about an issue to get the students thinking about a particular legal topic before outlining the actual legal principle.If you see an item in a shop with the wrong prices, being cheaper than the same items, can you: Force the shop to sell it, Sue for breach or There is nothing you can do’” (Baker). Alternatively they can be used “to determine what kind of Trustee they would be in relation to making investments – e.g. are they cautious, making only safe investments or adventurous trustees making risky investments. It makes a seemingly boring topic come alive by making it real and personal to each of the students.” (Lawrence)

Other academic staff recommend posting “deliberately controversial questions, It gets the views of the less outspoken students and their voice gets heard. E.g. Should some sex offenders be treated or prosecuted? Then debate the response.” (Carr)

2. Reinforce learning

Vevox MCQs can be used to check or reinforce understanding and Wordcloud questions to stretch students with more complex questions. Here are some examples:

  • During a long lecture “recapitulate certain concepts”, helping students develop connections and a stronger understanding (Nowack). “I had a pre-practical workshop and spoke about cellular respiration in Mitochondria. A few weeks before I taught them that Bacteria do not have organelles, i.e. no Mitochondria. So today I asked them if Bacteria can do cellular respiration. Most of them chose the wrong answer and we discussed it.” (Nowack). 
  • At the end of the lecture to gauge understanding of what has been covered in the lecture (Boddis, Byrne, Nowack, Morris, Durowoju, Baker, Carr, Perez De Heredia Benedicte). This is “to assess if the key concepts have been delivered and received satisfactorily – it helps the students check whether they understood the lecture, and me assess if there is some problematic point in the lecture delivery, something that wasn’t generally not understood” (Perez De Heredia Benedicte). “Those questions also serve as a talking point to summarise the lecture. This has been effective as the summary result of the Vevox poll helps the visibility misconception or misunderstanding and I then get the opportunity to correct such misconception right there in class” (Durowoju).
  • MCQ questions can be used to test two concepts (1 & 2) at the same time. It generates four responses:
    • A – Concept 1 Right, Concept 2 Right
    • B – Concept 1 Wrong, Concept 2 Right
    • C – Concept 1 Right, Concept 2 wrong
    • D – Concept 1 Wrong, Concept 2 Wrong
    • E – No idea

‘No idea’ provides a means to reflect on teaching practice. “This approach also means I can verbally praise incorrect students when the votes are in, ‘those that chose B, you got concept 1 wrong but correctly applied concept 2.’” (Denton)

  • Vevox is really useful for aiding revision:“4-5 revision questions at the end in L4 and L5, fewer in L6, as the interaction during the lecture is usually higher” (Perez De Heredia Benedicte). 
  • Try distributing questions around every 20 minutes or after a specific section in a lecture (Boddis). 

3. Diagnostic Questions

Help identify issues students might have, and use that feedback to make changes to the module. For example use diagnostic questions:

  • On a transition day to assess students study skills, with 5 brief questions then signpost them towards resources. “My last question was how to reference an eBook in the ref list and results were 50/50 split, so it helped to show there is work to be done and taught study skills in a more integrated way” (Hutchison). 
  • During level 4 induction they are asked a few icebreaker questions such as where they are from which is used to inform a session the next day on ‘life as a student’ (Harrison).

4. Co-creation of Knowledge

Make shared understanding more explicit to allow the co-creation of knowledge, for example: 

  • “word cloud function in Vevox helps me co-create knowledge with my students. E.g. I ask my students to define a concept from their perspective. From the word cloud result, we (both I and the students) can deduce which keywords are important to that definition.” (Durowoju) 
  • Use a scenario. E.g. a seriously ill woman who asks how ill she is. “I give then 5 options one at a time to think if it’s ok e.g. tell her like it is? Yes/No, or tell her you don’t know and to ask someone else Yes/No. It pulls out lots of opinion on truth telling, student nurse limitations etc . . there is often lots of subjective opinion about this.” (Hutchison)

Use it to support in class discussion, “not as a replacement, but to tease out opinion” (Kealey). If you are using it more than once with the same group get them to use the app, it remembers the last session and is therefore quick to access. (Denton)

5. Enhancing the student voice

Vevox helps to capture the student voice and feedback on a particular programme or teaching practice: 

  • Rate student satisfaction of the current lecture (Richter) or induction (Morris), or module feedback (Kealey).
  • During induction ask students to share feelings, and concerns about the coming year, they realise they are not alone and you can provide support information  (Harrison, Morris).
  • Identify student preferences, “Everyone sees the poll result and the decision is made right there based on the preference of the majority. I find this motivates the students as they feel that they have a say and what they say matters in the module” (Durowoju).
  • “The anonymity encourages students to provide feedback on the programme, use both the poll and word cloud function” (Carr).

6. Gathering students’ individual questions

Vevox can be used to gather individual students’ questions using the Q+A function: 

  • The comments are left open (with Moderation option on) for students to ask questions (Richter, Perez De Heredia Benedicte). “I check during the lecture break, if there are any questions/comments, I address them in the second part. ” (Perez De Heredia Benedicte)
  • Use the ‘mute’ button or turn the projector to another device when checking students Q+A questions and comments (Perez De Heredia Benedicte)
  • Staff commented on the ways in which students abuse the anonymity within Vevox, leading to some weird/inappropriate messages (Harrison). The odd inappropriate word can appear, “The students were reminded of the importance of treating everyone with dignity, respect and in accordance with their needs, so I was able to reassert our position as tutors. A second word cloud did not reveal similar comments.” (Kealey)

Thanks to:

Andrew Baker
Fatima Perez De Heredia Benedicte
Andrew Byrne
Richard Carr
Olatunde Durowoju
Steve Harrison
Trudy Hutchison
Nick Kealey
Fleur Lawrence
Bob Morris
Julia Nowack
Howard Reed
Michael Richter
Philip Denton
Amanda Boddis

More information

You can find more information on vevox on the staff vevox guide page.

6 effective ways to use word clouds to increase audience engagement