How to take attendance online

High school student at desk

Gone are the days of passing around attendance sheets and counting heads. According to the Pew Research Center, 96% of adults between 18-29 own a smartphone – why not use a classroom response system like Poll Everywhere for attendance?

To help educators, we break down how to register students, take attendance, and download the gradebook report. An important note about online attendance:

Poll Everywhere is not foolproof. Students are clever, and workarounds exist. Following these steps will not result in 100% attendance accuracy 100% of the time but using this method may streamline how you manage attendance in your classroom.

To get started, you must first identify which type of account you have. The type of account will determine the workflow of registering students and taking attendance.

  • Institution-wide: In this workflow, Poll Everywhere is connected to your LMS.
  • Student Pays or Instructor: In this workflow, Poll Everywhere is not connected to an LMS.

If you do not have either an Institution-wide, Instructor, or Student Pays account, then you do not have access to the features necessary to take attendance using Poll Everywhere. Contact Sales to learn more about these features.

Contact Sales

Step 1: Register students with Poll Everywhere

You must register students with Poll Everywhere in order to track their attendance. If you do not register your students, you will not see their names after you take attendance.

Institution-wide

Import student rosters from your connected Learning Management System (LMS) into a Poll Everywhere participant group. This instantly creates a participant account for every student, and eliminates the need for spreadsheet uploads and student self-registration. Students are automatically organized into participant groups based on the course names from the LMS.

For more information on importing student rosters into Poll Everywhere, please read the LMS integration section of the Poll Everywhere Instructor guide.

Student Pays or Instructor

Send students a personal invitation link. When students open this link, they will be prompted to certify their email, phone number, and to create a password. Instruct students to use their university email to avoid grading discrepancies that may occur from different emails.

Organize students into participant groups based on course, such as ECON 101, with the invitation link or manually after students are registered.

For more information on distributing personal invitation links to students, please read the distribute a link section of the Poll Everywhere Instructor guide.

Poll Everywhere participants screen

Step 2: Create and present your attendance activity

Once all students are registered and organized in your Poll Everywhere account, it’s time to create your attendance activity. This is done the same way regardless of whether you’re on an Institution-wide or Instructor plan.

An attendance activity is simply a nonsensical question with no clear right answer (such as the example below). You want a nonsensical question so that it’s harder for students who aren’t in attendance to guess the correct response. Multiple choice activities are best because the correct answer can be easily displayed in a gradebook report.

Pro tip: Enable registered participants only when you create your attendance activity. This ensures that the correct students are tracked and only those registered for that specific class can participate.

Present your attendance activity to your students and state aloud which response is correct. In theory, only the students in class will respond correctly. Again, it is not foolproof but it can reduce instances of fraudulent behavior. Here are some additional tips for making this activity more effective:

  • Set one response as correct by clicking the checkmark icon on the poll editing screen.
  • Include lots of responses to decrease the likelihood of someone guessing the right answer.
  • Set a timer of 30 – 45 seconds. When that timer runs out, the activity automatically locks.

If you are on an Institution-wide plan, you can also take advantage of the do not show activity title on participant devices setting. Enabling this setting will hide the title of that Poll Everywhere activity on students’ devices. That means only students who can see your presentation screen (i.e. those in class) will see the title of that activity.

Example attendance poll

Step 3: Review attendance scores

This is where all that registration and grouping back in step one pays off. After your students respond to your attendance activity, you can review those results to see exactly how each person answered. There are two ways to do this, depending on the type of Poll Everywhere account you have.

Institution-wide

Transfer a Gradebook report from Poll Everywhere to your LMS, complete with overall participation scores and graded multiple choice activities. The Gradebook is a compact table with participants listed down the left and questions across the columns.

For more information on exporting grades to your LMS, please read the LMS integration section of the Poll Everywhere Instructor guide.

Student Pays or Instructor

Create a new Gradebook report. The Gradebook is a compact table with participants listed down the left and questions across the columns. It shows scores, participation, and attendance. You can export the report to a CSV or Excel file to add attendance data to your preferred record.

For more information on creating Gradebook reports, please read the Gradebook and other reports section of the Poll Everywhere Instructor guide.

Example Gradebook report

Additional attendance tips 

Clever students will always find a way around attendance. No method is faultless, but here are some additional tips you can implement to improve the accuracy of your attendance activities.

Mix up when you present your attendance question. It’s easy for students to pop in at the start of class, respond to your question, and then leave. Checking for attendance closer to the middle of class is a simple way to ensure genuine results.

Several names and responses may appear in a Gradebook if you’ve the same attendance activity multiple times. Filter out what you don’t need by clicking Participants on the left side and using the drop-down menu next to group. This also shows you who did not respond.

Taking attendance will always be tricky, especially as students find ways around the system. That is why it is important to stay up to date with teaching trends. For more classroom tips, check out 10 ways to gamify your classroom.