An Interactive Approach To Online Presentations
Two years ago, universities around the world saw a dramatic shift in operations as COVID-19 forced the majority of courses to change to online classes in a very short period of time (Dhawan, 2020). COVID-19 is a severe acute respiratory virus syndrome that is highly contagious and spreads through human interaction. It became known worldwide in December 2019 and was classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11, 2020. Its high rate of transmissibility posed a major public health challenge in its potential to spread quickly to the point of overburdening health care systems (World Health Organization, 2021).
The change to online teaching was not without challenges. Aside from the technical aspects and difficulties, students sometimes found online teaching to be boring and unengaging. Students desired two-way interactions in lessons, an approach that can be difficult to include in online lectures (Dhawan, 2020). However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Course content and structure are often pointed to as a major factor that results in this sense of dissatisfaction (Song, 2004). The careful selection, use, and implementation of techniques to increase interactivity and communication is a solution to this problem.
Video presentation review and feedback is a tool for creating collaboration and interaction in online lessons. It is a digital approach, assigning a group of students to prepare a presentation on a topic and then providing feedback and critique of that presentation. The process consists of two parts:
- Assign students to a group project where they collaborate to create a group presentation video.
- Provide video commentary as the evaluation of their video.
1. Assign Students To A Group Project To Create A Video Presentation
In this first step, students are formed into small workgroups and assigned the task of collaborating to create a video presentation on a topic related to the course. The format I suggest is to create a narrated Microsoft PowerPoint (or similar software) presentation. A target time limit should also be provided in order to set some boundaries for the assignment. Another instruction is that all of the members in the group are required to be included in the presentation. The final instruction given is a submission mode and deadline.
The collaboration happens next, rather spontaneously, as students come together to discuss the assignment. Topic discussions, distribution of tasks, responsibility for video final assembly, and other such tasks force students to collaborate and interact. In doing so, they work together to solve the problems necessary to complete the task.
In some instances, students may be unfamiliar with the technical processes necessary to compile the presentation in video format. In these cases, a short five-minute instruction and demonstration of the process can help. First, each student creates individual presentation slides. Next, the “record slide show” features are introduced, explained and demonstrated. It is important to note that this can be done with the students visible via webcam in a corner of the presentation, or as an audio-only narration. Once each student has created their part of the presentation, the individual presentations can be combined into the final presentation, then saved as a video using the “save as type” feature and selecting “MPEG-4 video” as the output format.
While the process is designed to create collaboration and interaction among students in the group, the majority of the work on the assignment can be done independently. This means that the exercise is well suited to both synchronous and asynchronous eLearning sessions.
2. Provide Video Commentary As The Evaluation Of the Video
Any presentation given by students in a course should include some feedback and evaluation, and video presentations are no exception. The difference in this particular procedure is that the feedback itself is also given in video format.
Once the assignments are received, the instructor should first watch the videos, making notes of any feedback that is to be given. Praise, critique, correction, and compliments—all can be given as feedback and should be noted. Next, the video presentation from the students can be imported into a new PowerPoint presentation. Using the same “record slide show” feature used to create the original video presentation, the instructor can record a video presentation of themselves providing running commentary of the presentation. The commentary can be made before starting the video, during the video playback, while pausing the video at certain points, or after the video from the students is concluded. The options available are actually more beneficial than providing commentary only after the conclusion of a live, in-class presentation.
The complexity of the production is at the discretion of the instructor and based on the technology and equipment available. At the most basic, voice-only narration can be used to create feedback. A step up would be to use a web camera to record a small video of the instructor in the corner of the presentation as they watch the video and deliver the commentary. I personally use a very basic open source studio software, combined with a green screen background, and the integrated webcam on a laptop computer to place a video of myself in front of the students’ video as I provide the running commentary.
The final product of the process is a video of the instructor giving commentary to their students on a video presentation for the course. That video can be provided to the students via email, uploaded to a hosting service, or in any other way that is suitable.
In using this process in a few courses and on several occasions, I have seen overwhelmingly positive feedback from students. They enjoy collaborating with their colleagues in creating their videos. They also appreciate the personalized feedback that they receive from the video review. That feedback comes in a format—video—that the majority of university students prefer over written commentary.
COVID-19 did not create eLearning. The practice has been in place and has been increasing in use for a long time prior to December 2019. This trend will continue after the pandemic as well. As it does, some of the lessons learned out of necessity will be useful moving forward. Video presentation review and feedback is a technique that can be integrated into eLearning courses delivered partially or entirely online.