Seemingly since the dawn of time, writing has been the primary mode of academic activity. From an early age, students are taught to write to demonstrate understanding, make an argument, and even generate new knowledge for themselves. And that made sense. Written communication is easy to generate and is incredibly portable. Even today, several dozen pages containing tens of thousands of words can be easily captured in a text document that can be sent via email what seems like no effort at all.
In the rush of today’s business world, however, the “paper” is feeling increasingly, well — flat. While written communication — especially email — continues to be an important communication tool, professionals now are increasingly realizing that neither their colleagues or customers want to read long-form content.
With a mandate to prepare their students for the working world, schools are taking note — and thinking about new and better ways to sharpen their students’ practical communications skills.
As they do, another traditional form of communication has risen to new prominence: the presentation. Unfortunately, the sheer volume of time required to give every student in a class time enough to present means that, traditionally, in-class presentations have been reserved for end-of-semester assignments. After all, in an environment where class sizes are growing to compensate for shrinking resources, every time a student is added to the class, total presentation time grows accordingly. If every student in a class of 15 is given just 10 minutes to speak, that means two and a half hours are needed for a single an in-class presentation assignment. At that point, when can there be time for peer feedback and questions?
With a rapidly decreasing barrier to entry, video is emerging as the silver bullet in solving the problem of student presentations. By dividing students into groups and eliminating the need to have everyone in the class watch every presentation, instructors can use video to give students the opportunity to present and review their work with their peers while staying within available classroom time.
With less demand on classroom time, this approach offers instructors the ability to make presentations a regular and valuable type of assignment. Here’s an example of how to structure class presentations using recorded video:
As with any assignment, the first and most important step is to set expectations. This is especially true when the format of the assignment is less familiar.
Assure the students that it is right and appropriate to record as many takes as they need to get the presentation right. Repetition will help students gain more confidence speaking and presenting.
Also, be sure to talk to the students about the level of “production value” that is expected on any given assignment. For a weekly presentation in which the focus is on clear and concise delivery, it may be appropriate to simply have a student seated at their desk, speaking into their webcam. For a more formal presentation, students might be expected to use a study room and dress as they would for a formal in-person presentation.
Whatever modality is chosen, setting expectations will help students avoid guesswork and to feel more confident.
Recording video from a laptop or cellphone is easier than ever. Most smartphones have built-in cameras and software for capturing video.
If your school uses a video lecture capture solution ike Panopto, it may even be possible to leverage the same system for capturing student recordings. Lecture and presentation recording software typically offers more capability than just recording to YouTube. In particular, the ability for a tool like Panopto to record PowerPoint or Keynote presentations directly means that students don’t need to edit slides into their video or risk having the slides be illegible on camera.
Once students have recorded their presentation, it’s important that the instructor and other students have access to the videos. Files can be uploaded to cloud-based file sharing service like Dropbox, or a dedicated video content management system like Panopto. Using a VCMS is often preferred, as it gives the instructor an easy, centralized way to manage all of the video files and share them with exactly the right people.
How ever it is done, it’s important that files can be found, shared and secured when necessary.
Now comes the fun part: students prepare and record their presentations. Instead of taking valuable classroom time to have every student present for the class, making presentations as homework gives students nearly unlimited time to get their presentation just right. Students who are less comfortable presenting have an opportunity to review their recording and make the small adjustments that will help better deliver their message.
When setting expectations for video presentation assignments, ensure that students know the due date. Since other students will need to review the presentation during class time, can it be just-in-time (before class), or is time needed to collect and review the footage ahead of class?
By the time students get to class, their presentations should be complete and uploaded to the class website.
Now, break students up into groups of whatever size makes sense for the class. Smaller groups offer more time for focused conversation and individualized peer feedback, while larger groups can sometimes generate more ideas.
Students should watch each video together and discuss, giving feedback on both the content and delivery.
Alternatively, the watching of presentations can also be assigned as homework before class, if students are given enough time to both prepare their own presentation and review others’. In this scenario, students can watch their classmates’ presentations, take notes and begin to think critically about the feedback they will offer.
In a video platform geared for education, timestamped notes right within the video player can help students organize their thoughts and can even be made available to the video’s author as another source of feedback.
If it is important to grade the presentation, a central video management platform like Panopto can help instructors manage the evaluation process as well. By using Panopto’s secure student dropboxes, which are integrated into popular learning management systems, instructors can make sure that their students’ videos are easily accessible.
Once videos are uploaded into the video content management system, instructors and teaching assistants can then use Panopto to annotate their student’s videos to provide feedback.
As an alternate approach, instructors can even go one step further to replicate the in-class presentation format by recording their feedback in a short video, right from their desk. This way, students benefit not only from focused discussions with their peers, but also from their teachers.
Presentation skills are more important than ever, and with recorded video, instructors can give their students the opportunity to become more confident speakers. By making student presentations a regular type of assignment, and by receiving regular peer and instructor feedback, students can not only feel more comfortable but also critically evaluate their progress.
Panopto started in universities to capture instructor presentations and is now used by tens of thousands of students and professors every week around the world. With recording software that can be downloaded on any Windows, Mac, iOS or Android device, anyone can record video from their laptop or smartphone and have it automatically uploaded to a class website using Panopto’s industry-leading video content management system.