No need for extra kit as students download Vevox onto their phones and tablets to help enhance engagement, understanding and insight.
“Collecting and then charging up handsets from our student response system used to take hours. We then had to carry the kit around the university on a trolley. As the campus is a mile from end-to-end, this was no easy feat,” says Michael Wood (Mick), Senior Learning Technologist and part of the Digital Services Team at University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).
The university, with a staff and student community of around 38,000, is one of the largest in Europe, known for its commitment to academic excellence and an expansive, outward-looking vision. It is currently engaged in a 10-year, £200 million campus masterplan to benefit the university itself, its home city of Preston and the economy of the North West of England.
Practical and logistical challenges
In line with this progressive strategy, UCLan has always been keen to use new technologies to help improve learning. The institution was also an early adopter of ‘clickers’ to help enhance engagement, assess student understanding and provide feedback to lecturers. However, the handsets often went missing – it was very easy to inadvertently walk off with one – or were broken. There was also a question of scalability. With a finite number of handsets, it wasn’t possible to easily extend the use of the system.
So although students and staff appreciated the interaction, there were significant disadvantages. If UCLan wanted to continue to improve student engagement, as well as providing lecturers with insight into how well students had absorbed their teaching, then it was important to find an alternative. UCLan rolls out Vevox as supported system after positive pilot.
But, any new solution had to be easy to use.“We run around 300 types of software and our staff could spend more time on IT than on teaching. So any new solution had to be straightforward,” says Mick.
A solution beyond clickers
After looking at the availability of polling products and applications in the marketplace, and following lots of testing, UCLan chose Vevox. In doing so, they become the first higher education establishment to fully pilot Vevox, with view to centrally supporting the platform for the whole university.
An instant messaging and live polling platform, Vevox can be downloaded onto any mobile device (iOS or Android) or accessed via the web. Students can download Vevox onto their own smartphones or tablets, eliminating the need for the university to buy, transport, maintain or replace hardware. Lecturers are no longer responsible for distributing and collecting handsets.
Vevox enables students to take part in polling and Q&A sessions during their lectures and seminars. This enhances their engagement and helps lecturers assess levels of understanding so they can allocate their teaching time accordingly. A PowerPoint Add-in enables lecturers to create polls during the session and then show results, providing the flexibility to respond at once to issues arising from their teaching.
The ease of having no equipment other than the student’s own phones and a dashboard was one of Vevox’s main attractions. Also, as Vevox is essentially a Software as a Service (SaaS) platform, it can be accessed by an unlimited number of lecturers and students.“There’s now no barrier to numbers at all so we can run multiple sessions simultaneously, if required,” says Mick.
Positive reactions to Vevox all round
After the pilot scheme carried out in 2015/16, Vevox was rolled out as the centrally supported student response system over the next three years. Over 50 lecturers signed up to Vevox as part of the pilot and early feedback has been positive. Students appear enthusiastic too – overall, once they have logged into the app, 97% have participated in discussion, Q&As or polls.
Dr Tina Gornall, UCLan Associate Lecturer, explains how she used Vevox during a last revision lecture before an exam:“I programmed some multiple choice questions and asked students to ‘poll’ the answer, using their phones or tablets.They were allowed to confer and change their minds as much as they wanted before I closed the poll for that question.”
She continues:“I pushed the results button and they appeared on their phones showing what percentage had chosen which option. Then I could explain which answer was correct and why.”
“The students really enjoyed testing themselves in a non-intimidating way. As profiles can remain anonymous there was no naming and shaming. Also, it was useful for me to see which topics needed more work so I could think of different ways to approach these in the future.”
At the end of the ‘quiz’, she enabled the messaging function and asked the students what they thought of Vevox.The answers were unanimously in favour with comments such as “very useful”, “engaging”, “productive” and “a great piece of tech”.
From the statistics gathered, it’s clear that other lecturers taking part in the pilot have found Vevox useful too – on average they carried out 14 live polls per session with around 56 messages sent each lecture.
Rolling out the Vevox Institution Plan
Now the Digital Services Team have the task of encouraging take-up of Vevox across the university.They anticipate a huge increase in the number of lecturers using the platform and are working closely with Vevox to ensure this happens through an internal communications programme.“Over the years, Vevox has proven it’s a company we can work well with.The learning technologies market is a crowded one, but we could immediately spot the potential of Vevox. Everybody who sees it recognises its value,” Mick concludes.