College students are increasingly part of a digital world, and moving some of the traditional course requirements into an online environment can be a benefit to your class. One of the options for a digital adaptation of a traditional project is the online presentation. Additional guidelines are necessary when considering how to take a traditional presentation from the in-person to the digital sphere. To add this type of project to your teaching strategies, consider the following tips.

Challenges to online presentations

According to Ryan Watkins and Michael Corry in E-Learning Companion: A Student’s Guide to Online Success, fourth edition, “online presentations are likely the adaptation most different from the traditional classroom activity. As a result, the use of online presentation is routinely limited and infrequent, often because the instructor is unfamiliar with strategies for making online presentations a successful teaching tool” (Watkins, 185).

The online presentation has some of the same goals as an oral or poster presentation: communicating ideas clearly and concisely so that the audience can easily take away new information. But while goals are similar, the audience is very different. Online presentations are typically not given live, but recorded in advance, so there is no chance for the presenter to interact with their audience in real time. Also, an online audience is likely to have a shorter attention span, according to Dave Palmer, instructional media agent from the University of Florida in his “Online Presentation Guidelines.

If you are one of the professors that Watkins and Corry discuss as being unfamiliar with online presentations, one way to become more familiar is to design and record some online presentations yourself, and use those as samples for your class. Tami Strang offered tips for instructors in “Five Guidelines for Effective Online Presentations” at Engaging Minds. If you are already well familiar with designing your own, keep that experience in mind while putting your guidelines into your syllabus.

Guidelines for online presentations

Elements of online presentation guidelines you can offer to your college students include:

  • Give clear requirements on software, format, and length. Will students use PowerPoint and audio elements? Will there be a video component?
  • Describe the delivery requirements. In what format will the online presentation be distributed to the class? Will they submit it via iTunes University in mp4/Quicktime format, post it to YouTube, or upload it to a class website?
  • If the students will be using PowerPoint, offer them tips on the number of slides, the amount of text and graphics per slide, and citation guidelines. The APA has specific PowerPoint guidelines that might be useful to include.
  • If presentations are primarily video, ask students to limit their presentations in time. Palmer recommended creating an overview video no longer than four minutes, and, for presentations longer than ten minutes, multiple segments of video that are shorter than ten minutes each.
  • Have students determine learning objectives. According to the “Best Practices for Creating Online Presentations” guidelines offered on the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers website, “A learning objective is a clear, concise description of what the learner will be able to do at the end of the course” or presentation. College students should form their learning objectives in active language.

What teaching strategies have you used when assigning online presentations? Share your ideas below!

Reference: Watkins, Ryan and Michael Corry. 2014. E-Learning Companion: A Student’s Guide to Online Success, 4th ed. Boston, MA: Wadsworth.