Web-Based Audience Response System

Canvass is a general purpose online survey tool. We’ve extended it to support live classroom surveys and quizzes (aka an Audience Response System (ARS)). Since Canvass is completely Web-based, the audience members may use whatever device they prefer: smartphone, PDA or laptop. There is no need for students to buy proprietary “clicker” devices! There are no software plug-ins, radio receivers or USB dongles on the presenter’s computer!!

Canvass ARS is very flexible and scalable. Instructors have the choice to use it as a stand-alone presentation tool, or integrate it with presentation software such as Powerpoint. It blends easily with other instructional technologies such as teleconferencing, streamed video events and Webinars. The audience is not limited to a single physical location. You can also use it to record votes during a meeting. In fact, you could run an entire presentation with audience responses from your smartphone!

We’ve tested Canvass ARS with up to 120 simultaneous users and estimate it will support several hundred. The default “clicker” interface makes minimal demands on the network and server. In most venues, smartphone users have the additional benefit of redundant networks (telephone data service and wireless Ethernet). If one network is problematic, they can jump to the other.

Starting Up

Start by logging in to Canvass. Select the form you wish to use from the list…

If you own the slides, you will see the Master Slide interface described below. If you are in the audience, you will see the “Clicker.” Note that the instructor must login to activate the slides before the audience sees the clicker.

Using the “Clicker”

If you are in the audience, you will see the simple “Clicker” page shown here. It is designed to work well with PDAs and smartphones but can be used from any device with a browser. You may click on the voting buttons at any time, however, your clicks will only count when the presenter has the question open on the screen. The system confirms your submission by displaying the your choice (“C” in the example below). As long as voting is open you may change your mind as many times as you like. Once voting is closed the Clicker will display “Closed” at the top. If you click on a choice that is unavailable, the Clicker will display “Out of Range”.

Note that if you are using a smartphone, you will frequently have two ways to connect: the phone network (aka “3G”) or the campus WiFi wireless network. If you are having trouble with one, try the other!

Using the Master Slide

If you are the presenter, you will see the Master Slide similar to the one shown below. At that point your session becomes active and your audience may login. (This screen shows the Canvass URL in case the audience needs it.) The audience counter (“23”) and picture grid will update automatically every ten seconds. Click on Clear Responses if you wish to start fresh. Click on Next to go to your first slide.

Once you go to a Response Slide the voting is open and the audience may use their Clickers.

The response counter will update automatically every five seconds as shown below.

When you are ready to view the results, click on Done. This will close the voting and display the results. Additional votes from the audience will be ignored once the voting is closed. To re-open the voting just click on Refresh. Use the Back and Next buttons to navigate to another slide. Note that you have the option to mark the correct answer with a star (*) as shown here.

Linking from Powerpoint

As shown above, Canvass provides a stand-alone interface for your presentation. There is no need for other software if you are primarily focused on the questions. You also have the option to link Canvass from Powerpoint, Keynote or other presentation software. These links have the following format…


Where “yourform” is the short name of your form and “2” is the slide number.

Just prior your presentation you must login to Canvass to activate your session (slide number 0). It may be helpful to leave the Master Slide on the screen as your audience is getting settled just to remind them to login. From that point forward you may open and close the browser as often as you like. Your slides will become inactive after two hours.

Future Development

The current system is roughly equivalent to Turning Point and other commercially available systems. It is limited to single best answer questions with up to seven answer choices (A-G). This is just a starting point for more sophisticated “clickers” such as continuous polling to give real-time feedback to the instructor, short typed questions sent directly to the instructor or shared with the class, sign-in for attendance, etc. There are many possibilities!