UT Instapoll provides new competition for subscription-based attendance apps

Thomas Galindo

Say goodbye to subscription-based attendance apps — UT Instapoll is the way of the future.

The Liberal Arts Development Studio has just done a huge favor for students who have ever forgotten their iClicker remote, or had to pay a subscription fee for apps such as Squarecap or Top Hat.

UT Instapoll is a free classroom response system, saving students money and professors a headache, debuting on Canvas in spring 2019. Currently, there are approximately 5800 active unique students using this product in around 120 different classes. 

Although UT Instapoll just became available on Canvas, this idea for a classroom response system has been in the works for approximately a year. Sarah Eichhorn, executive director of the Texas Institute for Discovery Education in Science from the College of Natural Sciences, approached Marla Gilliland, director of course development for the College of Liberal Arts, about potentially expanding the capability of this product. 

“We went over with Sarah to showcase the tools we use in our online course and at the time she (suggested using Instapoll in classrooms as well), because our students are required to purchase multiple tools for their classes, instead of using it the same way we use it for our online course,” Gilliland said. 

After recognizing the potential value of an attendance service to students and professors, Gilliland and the development studio went to work that summer to evolve this originally online exclusive feature into a useful tool for all of UT. 

Eichhorn and Gilliland said that while there were a few technical hiccups in the program during this period, the studio quickly incorporated their feedback into its final version. Upon the tool’s completion, the studio decided it was time for a trial run and gathered 10 faculty members, mostly from CNS, and their 2700 students to be guinea pigs.

Eichhorn said CNS was the natural choice for a trial run not only due to their size, but also the conscious effort of the college to adopt more engaging methods of instruction.

“(CNS has) such a large number of large courses, and there’s a lot of research literature on effective teaching methods that point to active engagement for students,” Eichhorn said.

Among professors who decided to use UT Instapoll in its debut semester was assistant astronomy professor Keith Hawkins. In his first semester at UT, Hawkins said he felt it would be a great tool for his large astronomy course. 

“I’m glad it came out when it did, it’s actually a great resource to have,” Hawkins said. “There are certain things I would like to see improved, but for its first launch it’s actually really good.” 

Hawkins pointed to the fact that UT Instapoll is free as its significant advantage over systems such as iClicker. 

Physical culture and sports sophomore Micaela Arguijo said she likes UT Instapoll better than iClicker for a number of reasons. 

“Because iClicker is a remote, it is easier to forget, and UT Instapoll is easily accessible through Canvas and has no batteries required,” Arguijo said. “It’d be nice if all my classes used (UT Instapoll) because it does a good job of keeping students engaged.