OMBEA Audience Response System

Attended a webinar demonstration of OMBEA, an audience response system similar to TurningPoint which can use both old-school ‘clickers’ or a browser based response. It seems good, but it didn’t ‘wow’ me. The best part of the system is the ability to upload responses to any quiz or survey to their cloud-based system which saves the results and gives you options to perform some analysis on the data.

I’m not convinced that these traditional audience response systems offer great value for money in the era of online tools such as Socrative, mQlicker and Poll Everywhere, and the ubiquity of smartphones.

At Sunderland we have SMART Response handsets which, for me, typify the problems with them and prove the need to move to entirely software driven solutions such as Poll Everywhere. The response handsets are expensive, the batteries run out (from personal experience, I would estimate that around 5-10% of handsets are not going to work at any given session due to faults like this) and the numbers of handsets we have is a mystery as they are spread out between different departments and faculties which guard them like Gollum. Getting enough together for a significantly sized session can be a nightmare.

Last year I was asked to advice on whether or not to use our SMART Response handsets or an online tool for a conference with an expected attendance of around 200. I recommended Poll Everywhere, but a senior manager was concerned that not all attendees would have a smartphone and thus some may be excluded. So I ran a poll to get some evidence and numbers, the results of which can be found on the team’s blog here. Only 2% of students said they didn’t have a smartphone or tablet, rising to 4% of staff, which I would argue is going to exclude less people than faulty audience response handsets. With Poll Everywhere, which allows people to respond via SMS, I think it’s fair to say you are doing your absolute best to accommodate the 2-4% of non-smartphone users as well. If you really felt the need to go further, well, we are also now in an era where £50 can buy you a pretty decent tablet.

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