October 27th, 2014

Maximize In-Class Time by Moving Student Presentations Online


As a faculty member, I am always challenged with finding pedagogical techniques that allow my students to connect with course content, each other, and myself in new and interesting ways. Student presentations can help achieve this goal, but they require a wealth of time for each student to present and get immediate feedback from peers and the instructor. Some classes are so large that in-class presentations may not be feasible at all. Or, if you are a faculty member who is not on a block schedule, you would have to use several of your 50-minute class sessions to allow each student a chance to present his or her work. What’s more, some students have a difficult time listening to dozens of peer presentations in one sittings and may tune out after the first few presentations.

After facing all of these issues, I sought out other options that would allow for quality student presentations, but did not take up too much valuable in-class time. The answer for me is virtual student presentations, which allow students to research scholarly literature related to course content, present their findings, and receive peer feedback; all outside of class time. With virtual presentations, students can not only connect with content, the instructor, and each other; but they can also build their capacity to leverage technology to impact their learning.

Here are the four steps to implementing virtual presentations:

Step 1: Work with students on a presentation topic. Typically, I have students research a specific course-related topic already covered in class with the intention that they will develop a deeper level of expertise. Students also can use these presentations to flesh out content that is mentioned in the course textbook, but is not written about in detail. Either way, the topic should connect to course objectives and content in an intentional way, as well as provide students the opportunity to choose a topic that interests them. Once a topic has been determined, you must choose a distinct purpose for the presentation. I have had students synthesize and explain the findings of several research articles, as well as discuss how they plan to use the information in future practice

Step 2: Provide guidelines. This includes giving students specifics on the length of presentation, professional appearance, and how to engage an audience during a presentation. The technology options are endless so it is essential to provide students with some boundaries and expectations. I have found that shorter presentations of 7-10 minutes result in a higher quality. Two platforms that have worked really well for students to record and present their materials have been: Present.me (https://present.me/content/) and Knovio (http://www.knovio.com/).

Step 3: Create virtual space for sharing presentations and getting feedback. One of the benefits of virtual student presentations is the opportunity for students to learn from each other. Use a space within your Learning Management System (LMS) for students to post their presentations and get feedback. At my university we use Blackboard Learn, and I set up a discussion board forum tab where students can publicly post the link to the presentation and leave written feedback for their peers. In addition to students reviewing each other’s presentations, the course instructor should view and provide feedback. This feedback can be recorded and uploaded as an MP3 file or written as text.

Step 4: Facilitate full-class discussion. It is always beneficial to close the assignment with a brief in-class discussion highlighting everyone’s key learning points, if class size permits. This gives students who did not review certain presentations the chance to gain more knowledge, or for the instructor to ask deeper universal questions to the entire class.

Virtual presentations have worked well in my course, but I am always looking for other technology tools that can help students meet the course objectives and beyond. What other websites, tools, or techniques have you used to allow students the chance to present their work and get quality feedback from their peers, without losing quality in-class time?

Stephanie Smith Budhai is an assistant professor of education at Neumann University in Aston, Pa.

  • bjohnson

    Fabulous idea. I think it'll be a lot of fun!! Reading the material over & over to prepare for video should improve comprehension of subject matter.

    • Stephanie Budhai

      Exactly! The students actually end up "practicing" more since it is recorded, thus learning the material more thoroughly.

  • mcraig

    Interesting article. Do you facilitate the full-class discussion online too using a synchronous chat feature? Or is this course a hybrid format?

    • Stephanie Budhai

      I have used this in both traditional bricks and mortar courses as well fully online courses. In the traditional courses, I have facilitated the conversation in the classroom but in the online courses, the conversation was done asynchronously. I like the idea though of trying a synchronous component. Thanks for the suggestion.

  • I completely agree: Save face time in class for quality interaction, not three days of mind-numbing novice presentations. I have used Voicethread for years because it allows students to get feedback from assigned peers on a practice run, and then they do a final version for assessment. Voicethread is asynchronous, too. Fabulous collaborative space!

    • Stephanie Budhai

      I love Voicethread but it can be expensive without an institutional license. You are correct about the three days of presentations.

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  • NPelley

    I use http://presenterspodium.com/. A great tool for online presentations.

    • Francesco

      I don't think this is free…

  • I have been using Padlet for students to make presentations and share and then comment etc. It is user friendly and free. http://padlet.com/

    • Stephanie Budhai

      Thanks for this resource; I have to check it out. What are some of the features you enjoy most with the free version?

  • atw

    present.me is not free software. The 7-day trial is quite brief, so do you have a university account that you make available to your students or do you want them to use the 7-day trial? Voicethread is another one that is not free, at least if you want to truly use it effectively. I think my question is, does the institution provide the tool? Or do we expect students to provide the tools they use? In that case, the cost factor is going to be significant.

    I have used wevideo.com for presentations, as I can get the whole class in there and we can work collaboratively. They do have limits on how much can be exported and how much storage you can access, but the collaborative options made this quite an attractive solution for me.

    • Stephanie Budhai

      My students only have one presentation per course, so they are able to use present.me and/or Knovio without having to pay. If all of their professors required them to use only present.me, then this would not work. I am glad others are sharing free services so that students can have more options if they already met their maximum limit for a particular site. Blackboard Learn also has a recording feature if your school is using that LMS.

  • I can do this

    As an EFL teacher in a public Mexican university, I have found that before taking my very ordinary EFL class, 1) most of my students had never used an online presentation tool such as Voicethread, Knovio. or even embedding voice onto a PPT and posting it onto a blog and that 2) most of them are schooled previously in very traditional methodology.

    My coworkers tout the in-class presentations as a great way to gain practice in public speaking (and I argue …in a foreign language, for beginners?), even though evidence shows otherwise. I prefer to have the after online-presentations discussion in class to provide my EFL university students with a F2F opportunity to express their opinions, state their preferences and formulate reasons why they have chosen preferences. These are actually competencies for which they must gain prowess, not giving a memorized one minute speech in a foreign language.

    Thanks for writing this article and making the case for online presentations so clear..now I have more support and reasons for the things I do. And thanks to those who commented with other online presentation suggestions.
    Ellen in Mexico http://teacherchallenge.wordpress.com

    • Stephanie Budhai

      Your welcome and please keep us posted on how things are going with making the case for online presentations at your school.

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  • Phyllis

    I have done this, and I love it. The students do too.

    • Stephanie Budhai

      What platforms are you using, Phyllis?

  • Matthew Fanning

    I think this is a great idea. Students are essentially teaching each other course material. This should lead to a higher level of retention, while giving students an opportunity to practice and refine skills employers value most. Great post.

    • Stephanie Budhai

      Thanks, Matthew. Thank you for mentioning the connection to career skills as well.

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  • Joe Sisco

    I would like to add one more piece to the puzzle. To create a more active learning experience, the 'presenter' could do a couple of things. First, provide some sort of viewing guide, whether it be a list of guiding questions to focus on throughout the presentation or even a set of questions that follow. This could be as elaborate as the presenter deems appropriate – i.e. a quiz that is assessed or just anecdotal comments. Either way, a face-to-face presentation could follow that addresses the questions that may arise after the participants have 'taken' then presentation.
    Second, it would be the obligation of the presenter to make the presentation somewhat interactive, not just a series of slides presented in a linear fashion (example: http://bit.ly/slides_essentials). This is accomplished by leveraging the hyperlink feature in Google slides.

    • Stephanie Budhai

      Thanks for this suggestion, Joe. I have to explore the hyperlink function within Google Docs.

  • Maxine Pond

    This is a timely discussion as our next section will focus on small group presentations. I have not used this technology but could learn of course.
    I do have several other methods for reducing class time used for presentations. 1) Divide the class into groups of 3 or 4. Students present to the small group, ask and answer questions, and do an evaluation/feedback form for each other. An extension is to have each group select one presentation to be presented to the whole class. 2) Conduct an interactive poster session. Depending on class size determine how many presentations in a day 25% – 33% works. Presenters go to their presentation area while I divide the rest of the class into groups. Groups then rotate from poster session to poster session at timed intervals. The next day/time there are different presenters and different audience. I like this method because the presenters have the opportunity to present the same information multiple times. This is a great fluency and confidence building exercise.

    • Stephanie Budhai

      These are great suggestions, Maxine, for preserving in class time. Which method have you found most effective?

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  • Michelle O.

    I may be in the minority here, but I feel like online presentations should not replace face to face Public Speaking. I teach all of my Public Speaking classes in an "enhanced online" format. The content/quizzes/discussions, etc are online in weekly lessons, then the students meet on campus three times during the semester to present speeches. The course is capped at 27, and we meet for three hours and everyone has time to present a 5-7 minute speech. There are a couple of short breaks incorporated also to keep everyone awake. I agree that using three consecutive 50 minute class sessions was counter-productive for the most part, but having everyone come together in a long meeting once a month has been wonderful. I was shocked to hear that your students only have one required presentation? Is that for the entire semester, or are there more?

    • Stephanie Budhai

      Hi Michelle, I can see why in a public speaking course you would want the students to speak in front of the class in person. I am in Education where students spend more time lesson planning and working with children, so one presentation a course is more than sufficient. Putting the presentations online has actually allowed for more time at K-12 schools where students can develop and refine their pedagogical techniques.

  • Phyllis

    I totally agree, Michelle. Here, so many of our students are not adept at filming themselves and posting the videos.

  • Stephanie Budhai

    Hi Phyllis, what is great about knovio and present.me is that all you do is go to the website, click on record, and speak. Anyone, regardless of technical skill, has been able to successfully record their presentations. When the presentations are completed, they are given a link that they can share as opposed to having to upload a large file. I encourage you to try if your only concern is the adeptness of students.

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