Save students’ wallets, use free UT Instapoll in classrooms

Abhirupa Dasgupta

As a freshman, I was shocked by how much money is required to just exist as a college student. At a minimum, we have to pay for tuition, housing, food, transportation, textbooks and school supplies. We can moan and groan about our shallow pockets — which grow shallower every day — but we simply can’t avoid paying for these bare necessities. 

However, some costs can definitely be avoided. 

One of the most irksome parts of my college experience so far has been the amount of money I’ve had to spend on polling services my professors have required for their classes. They use polling services to take attendance, gauge participation during lectures and provide extra credit opportunities. 

“My primary use for polling is to understand where the students are and whether they’re getting (what I taught them),” said assistant professor Shagufta Shabbir. Polling plays an important role in student engagement, and I personally have benefited from the practice questions and further clarification that professors provide after a particularly difficult poll question. However, polling services rack up a hefty price for students. 

In my three semesters at UT, I’ve bought and used four different polling services adding up to a little more than $100. Spread out over the course of a year and a half, this doesn’t sound like much, but this sum has been rendered useless by the advent of UT Instapoll. This polling service was launched spring 2019 by the UT Liberal Arts Development Studio, and it is integrated with the UT Canvas system. By far, its most appealing feature is that it’s completely free for students and faculty to use. For this reason, professors should transition their polls from external providers to UT Instapoll.

“I used to use iClicker, and I switched over to Instapoll because it was costing a lot of money for students,” Shabbir said. She also noted that technical difficulties with manual clickers sometimes disrupted class. “With iClicker, I used to get at least 100 emails with students who couldn’t answer or they were running late so they couldn’t answer or they forgot their clicker, … and students don’t complain as much with Instapoll,” she said.

Additionally, because it is connected to Canvas, Instapoll can be consistent across all classes. Neuroscience junior Aneesa Khan currently uses three different polling services for her classes. “I think it would be better if there was a standard (among my professors),” Khan said.

Even with all these benefits, Instapoll is a new service, and it doesn’t have some of the features that well-established polling services do.However, Shabbir noted that she had the opportunity to talk to the Instapoll software developers and give them her insights to make the service better calibrated to her needs. Regardless, in its current form, Instapoll provides her with the same type of data and classroom statistics that she got from iClicker.  

Instapoll is currently being utilized in 137 courses, but that number should be a lot higher. For the coming years, professors should leave external polling services behind and embrace Instapoll. So far, it boasts fewer technical difficulties, more consistency across courses and a friendly user interface. And, most importantly, it affords students the chance to trim off one expensive section of their already long list of academic necessities. 

Dasgupta is a neuroscience sophomore from Frisco.