Digital learning: Getting started 3. Interactive classrooms

1. The

2. Electronic

3. Interactive

4. Digital

This resource outlines a number of digital tools available to support more interactive learning at The University of Sheffield, which has many benefits for teachers as well as students. It also provides some suggested ways to use these and links to additional guidance to get started.

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Although lectures appear to be at the centre of our students’ learning experiences, there are many criticisms that they are not a very effective way of learning or teaching.

Furthermore, they present our students with a very different experience from that which they will have had at school, where lessons are typically far more active and diverse.

Using interactive software in your lectures can provide a much more active experience for our students, leading to a far greater engagement with them and their learning.

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Ways to use interactive classroom software

  • Feedback. Enable students to ask you questions or clarify issues.
  • Gauge preliminary understanding. Use a voting system to ask students a preliminary question to gauge understanding, either about a previous class, the current class, or to gauge their understanding of a topic. This is good for setting the agenda for a class.
  • Gauge shift in opinion/understanding. Ask students a “before and after” question - one at the beginning of a class and one at the end, as a means of testing whether views or understanding have changed throughout the class.
  • Cross tabulate responses. Use questions in combinations and cross-tabulate their results to see if students' views are correlated with other factors such as demographics.
  • Diagrams. Use interactive whiteboard or voting tools to get students to annotate or label diagrams.
  • Group activities. Use Google Forms/Documents/Jamboards in conjunction with small group activities so students can document what they have done and then this can be shared with the group for discussion.
  • Stimulate discussion. Ask questions about specifically contested areas of knowledge or viewpoints, as a means of stimulating class discussion.
  • Twitter. Use Twitter to gather short form (280 characters or less!) responses to questions or provocations.

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Digital tools for interactivity in the classroom

Below are some suggestions of tools you might want to use in your teaching to carry out the activities listed above.


TurningPoint is the university-supported tool for collecting responses, feedback, and choices using mobile devices, desktop or clicker devices.

TurningPoint guidance

Google Jamboard

Google Jamboard is a browser-based interactive whiteboard software which allows users to collaborate in real time.

Multiple slides can be created, allowing different questions to be posed or activities broken up into different parts.

Google Jamboard

Google Docs

Google Docs allows real time collaboration between students and staff on documents.

Google Docs

Google Forms

Google Forms can be set up flexibly to suit your needs using a variety of question types, and results can be fed through to a Google Sheet for you to review.

Google Forms

Blackboard Collaborate

Blackboard Collaborate has a number of built in interactive tools that you can use when delivering sessions online. These include

  • Interactive whiteboard
  • Polling
  • Audience feedback (agree/disagree, emotion buttons).
  • Chat box

Blackboard Collaborate guidance

Please note: There are many third party sites and services available that offer online polling and voting. Please be careful when using these, as there can be no guarantee as to the security of any data you provide these services, or for how long these may be available. Please use one of our supported systems where possible.

What you can do

  • Try and practice with any of the tools you choose to use in your classes - it will make you feel more confident in using them and give a better experience for your students.
  • Let students know in advance if you expect them to use their own devices in the class, so they can charge them up and bring them.
  • If you’re working with very large cohorts, it might be worth checking that the wireless network in the room will be able to support a large number of devices, as many voting systems now use wi-fi.
  • Some students may not have smartphones or devices they can use in a class, so be inclusive you may need to provide alternatives for these (for example, TurningPoint clickers that can be loaned from AV).
  • Make sure any system you use will allow students with both Apple and Android devices to access them.

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