This guest post comes from Patrick Bijsmans (Maastricht).
The ongoing Covid-19 crisis has forced us all to rethink our teaching, but not all innovation has to start from scratch. For instance, when you feel uncomfortable with recording a video for your lecture, you can also simply use the narrated slides option in your presentation software.
And when you want to stimulate student engagement and interaction during an online talk, existing audience response tools such as GoSoapBox, Kahoot!, Mentimeter and Wooclap are ready for online use.
I’m a frequent user of Wooclap myself, but also have experience using GoSoapBox and have trialed some other options too. My choice for Wooclap is partly one based on its user-friendliness – though the additional perks that come with Maastricht University’s subscription are welcome too. I’ve been using Wooclap offline for quite some time already, and I’ve continued using it when we went online.
Wooclap comes with an easy-to-use, clutter-free interface, minimising possible distraction for you and for your audience. It is also easily accessible, regardless of the device that students are using. The weblink is short, plus you can generate a QR-code.
The existence of different types of questions and various ways to present results is really helpful. You can ask multiple-choice and open questions and conduct polls. You can have students fill in blanks or locate something on an image. When you want students to actively work together, you can opt for the brainstorm option. Issues can be sorted or you can ask students to prioritise what they would like to discuss.
Answers can be given in writing, but you can also ask students to make a meme and upload it. Even when you decide to only use multiple-choice and open questions, you can choose to present answers to the latter as a word cloud instead of a list of answers. This presents a nice and useful overview, because with a big group you’ll never be able to read every answer.
It is very easy to reorder questions and to integrate slides – though the later comes with potential limitations when you are a savvy user of funky slide transitions and other moving bits and pieces. Other useful options include a timer for answering questions and allowing audience members to ‘like’ each others answers. One option I haven’t used yet, is gamification, which allows you to rank participants – and hand out prizes – adding a fun element to your talk. But one which can also create a sense of unease among your audience.
What I also find particularly useful is the ease with which you can copy polls and questions; convenient when you want to re-use polls while keeping existing data. Indeed, you can also export results, so you could for instance look at differences between cohorts of students.
Online vs offline use
To me, the offline usefulness of Wooclap is evident. It is a really simple and fun way to involve your audience in an active way, individually and in groups. I have for instance used Wooclap during interactive lectures on Euroscepticism, academic skills, you name it. You can ask students to ‘define Euroscepticism’ but you can also ask them what type of resources they’ve consulted for their research paper.
When I write “really simple” I do not mean that it is self-evident. You’ll still have to explain what the purpose is of using Wooclap. Sometimes additional instructions are needed, in particular when it comes to brainstorming – talking to each other may be easy, but how do you succinctly contribute to an online brainstorm? – but you may also want to take the time to explain your questions. This is where integration of slides comes in handy.
Using Wooclap in an online setting requires additional planning. Two challenges are noteworthy. First, you may have to switch between several screens, sharing one screen, stop sharing it, and moving on to the next. As I mentioned, the integration of slides goes a long way towards solving this challenge – but comes with its own limitations. Second, in a lecture theatre it is relatively easy to get a sense of how engaged students are with your Wooclap tasks. Yet, not being able to see your online audience it is easy to fail to engage audience members.
These limitations should, however, not stop you from considering using Wooclap. A good plan for your talk is a must. I recommend either having a few short questions at the beginning of the lecture to, for instance, gauge students knowledge of a topic, or to have them mid-way to, for instance, see whether you are getting your point across. If you plan to have several questions – I’d say anything above five – best to distribute them across your talk instead. Because, while Wooclap is a fun and useful way to engage your students, you can also overdo it, with students ending up asking for its purpose.