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7 reasons NOT to move presentations online

August 26, 2015
UPDATE: early readers got the impression that I don’t want students to make videos of presentations. To be clear, I’m asking you to think carefully before eliminating an existing in-class presentation assignment.
@CT231 student presentation
Photo by Catherine Cronin, Flickr

Do you feel like student presentations take up too much class time? Writing for Faculty Focus, Stephanie Smith Budhai suggests that you can Move Student Presentations Online.

It all sounds so simple and it’s really not a bad idea.

Please think about what could happen, though, and address the following ramifications as you consider changing your course.

  1. Life skills – students in your class will have one less experience presenting live and face-to-face.
  2. Good will – students may resent your requiring a skill they did not expect to need.
  3. Familiarity – you may need to evaluate work in a medium where you have no experience.
  4. Subject matter – students may submit creative work where the content is awful.
  5. Production value – students may produce videos you can’t hear or see well enough to grade.
  6. “Me” time – you may be tempted to use freed-up class time for something less student-centered, like more lecture.
  7. Workload – you may spend hours grading instead of giving immediate feedback.

What were your goals for assigning an in-class presentation? If the face-to-face experience was an important factor, then maybe you just need some ways to reduce the time requirements.

Reducing time spent viewing presentations

  • Too many students? Ask pairs or groups to make presentations instead of individuals.
  • Students going over time? Restrict the time length by assigning a speed presentation (there’s more here).
  • Wasting time setting up? Have students submit ahead of time, then arrive early and load everything before class starts.
  • PowerPoint format issues? Ask students to submit a PDF with their PPT; the backup slides won’t show effects or videos, but they also won’t have problems with fonts or layouts.
5 Comments leave one →
  1. August 27, 2015 12:55 pm

    Students should benefit from watching a certain number of presentations … maybe a half dozen. Watching 25 presentations might be worse than watching 6. The skills involved in giving a short 3-minute synopsis are different from the skills in making a technical presentation and answering questions. I would like them to practice the latter skills. The bottom line, I think, is not the medium (live vs. recorded), but the interaction of the presenter and the audience.

  2. Chris Clark permalink*
    August 27, 2015 12:47 pm

    Ed, thanks. I do not recommend asking all students in a large class to make live presentations.

    I am also a proponent of asking students to make videos. I spent a great deal of time over the past three years working on our Remix project.

    One of the things that bothers me in this situation is that people seem to equate a video with a live presentation, as if conveying content is the main goal. If that’s the case, then have students write a paper. But a paper is not a video and a video is not a live presentation.

    I guess a lot of my initial negative reaction to this trend comes from the fear that instructors would move from live to video simply to gain a lecture hour.

  3. August 27, 2015 12:19 pm

    I can see both sides of this issue, but my #1 reaction is that it serves no one’s interests to make ALL students watch ALL presentations by other students in a large class.

    If your class is small and all presentations can be done in a single class period, then, by all means, have all students present.

    If your class is large, and the presentations would drag on for weeks, then think up something else. It’s bad enough for the students to watch YOU lecture for weeks on end, but at least you have some experience doing it, and you will cover the material in some semblance of logical order. Watching other students who are novices at presentation present material that has no particular relation to the preceding or following presentation will, in the long run, be much more boring than watching you, and besides, they have no opportunity to reinforce their learning by doing a related homework problem or studying for a test. So the students will forget what they have seen … except that they MAY take away some tips on how to, or how not to, make an oral presentation.

    In a large class, the ideal approach would be to divide the class into cohorts of about a dozen students, each watching four or five group presentations, where all members of the group share in making the presentation. Then the students can complete a reflective exercise on the topics of the presentation, AND presentation techniques.

    Of course, there are formidable logistical challenges in achieving this. You need to reserve rooms, and you need to fit it into students’ schedules since some presentations must, of necessity, occur outside of class. And it would be time consuming for you.

    So I like the idea of peer-reviewed online presentations. The key, though, and this was not emphasized in Budhai’s post, is to assign certain students to provide feedback to certain other students, and then do something with the feedback … either have the presenters factor it into their project, or have the course staff evaluate it. This could be done through the peer-review system in your MOOC, or with a standalone peer-review system like Peerceptiv, Peer Scholar, or our (the poster’s) own Expertiza.

    Students will likely learn more from reviewing others’ presentations than from getting feedback on their own. Their eyes won’t glaze over after watching dozens of students present. And the need to comment on each other presentation means they need to pay attention while watching it. Finally, the approach scales well to large classes.

  4. Chris Clark permalink*
    August 26, 2015 4:50 pm

    Help me understand. Is your point that it’s ALWAYS better to assign videos rather than live presentations? My piece doesn’t argue with video assignments as a strategy. I’m concerned that the prevalent all-or-nothing mentality will lead people to conclude that live presentations should eliminated. I’m trying to provide counterpoint.

    Now for some fun in reply …

    1, Video isn’t necessarily online; it could be emailed to a prof or submitted in Google Drive.

    2. Capturing unedited PowerPoint presentations will not give students much appreciation for video production.

    3. I’m not about to tell a tenured full professor that she doesn’t have an adequate understanding of her world.

    4. Students are more likely to expect that creativity-alone will suffice in a video, as opposed to a paper.

    5. Most professors can’t tell students how to fix poorly lit video, as they would with poorly written text.

    6. This is my main concern, as you suspected.

    7. Agreed.

  5. August 26, 2015 2:10 pm

    Just for the sake of argument:

    1. Life skills – students in your class will have one more experience developing an online communication, a skill they may value later, in work, family or civic life..
    2. Good will – students may value your requiring a skill they did not expect to need but, thanks to this experience, now realize they do need.
    3. Familiarity – you may need to evaluate work in a medium where you have no experience, which is great. Every bit of new experience can enrich how you interpret your previous experience. You may become more visually literate (able to interpret more than just words) especially if you decide to help your students develop the visual side of communications. (Students have many more options for developing visual representations online than they do in a f2f classroom where the audience may be distant.) (that’s a reminder that students may prepare online presentations and still show them f2f, if you choose.)
    4. Subject matter – students may submit creative work where the content is awful, or wonderful, just as they might with any assignment.
    5. Production value – students may produce videos you can’t hear or see well enough to grade, which should be a learning experience for them (see #1 – you have to crawl before you can toddle.)
    6. “Me” time – you may be tempted use freed-up class time for something less student-centered, like more lecture. (I am beginning to suspect this whole list was ironic, and I bit.)
    7. Workload – you may spend hours grading instead of giving immediate feedback, if you so choose. But you have many other options for grading presentations and giving the kind of feedback that is pedagogically valuable.

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