Preparing Students for the Workforce with Video Presentations

From an early age, students are taught to write in order to demonstrate understanding, engage their imagination, and express their unique perspectives. At all grade levels and across academic disciplines, writing continues to be an essential element of learning and communicating.

Yet, in an era dominated by email, texting, and tweets, another essential communication skill is arguably in even greater demand than writing — effectively delivering a presentation. This is the feedback colleges and universities increasingly hear from both private and public sector employers.

As a result, academic institutions are now thinking about new and better ways to sharpen their students’ public speaking and presentation skills.

The traditional challenge of in-class presentations

Delivering a polished presentation is a skill that has long been taught in the classroom, but it’s one that comes with an inherent pedagogical challenge. The amount of time required for each student to present has traditionally relegated in-class presentations to a once-a-semester activity.

This challenge has been compounded as class sizes continue to grow. Even in a class of 15 students, in which each student is given 10 minutes to speak, two and a half hours are needed for a single in-class presentation assignment. Add to that time for peer feedback and questions, and it’s easy to see why in-class presentations, although incredibly valuable, are too often seen as infeasible.

Technology offers a new approach

A solution, however, resides in our own pockets and backpacks. In recent years, high quality video cameras have become standard features on smartphones, tablets and laptops. While a decade ago, recording presentations would have required an AV specialist and access to costly equipment, today the same feat can be accomplished by standing a smartphone upright on a desk and pressing record.

As a result, video is becoming the preferred solution to managing student presentations at scale. Instead of presenting one-by-one, instructors can divide students into groups and record multiple presentations simultaneously. This small adjustment ensures that students still have the opportunity to present and review their work with their peers, while the instructor can review video of each student after class to provide additional feedback.

By using classroom time more efficiently, recording student presentations offers instructors the chance to make presentations a more regular and valuable type of assignment.

Student presentations are effective ways to ask students to demonstrate what they’ve learned. In this video for a foreign language class, a student gives a short presentation on Mexican food in Spanish.

Tips for structuring your class time to record student presentations

Set expectations and share suggestions for successful presentations

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 new.

Reassure the students that it’s fair and even expected to record multiple takes to get the presentation right. Repetition will also help students gain more confidence speaking and presenting.

Also, talk to students about the level of “production value” expected on any given assignment. For weekly presentations in which the focus is demonstrating knowledge, it may be appropriate to simply have a student seated at their desk, speaking into a webcam. For a more formal presentation, students might expect 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 feel more confident.

Give students the ability to record and upload their videos to a class website

Recording video from a laptop or mobile device is easier than ever. Most smartphones have built-in cameras and software for capturing video. Alternatively, if your school uses a video platform, it may even be possible to leverage the same system for capturing student recordings.

Once students have recorded their presentations, it’s essential that the instructor (and, depending on the goals of your class, other students) have access to the videos. Video files can be uploaded to a cloud-based file sharing service like Dropbox, or an established YouTube channel for your classroom. However, if your school has a video platform, students can typically upload videos directly to the LMS folder where other classroom videos are shared.

Have students prepare and record their presentations

Now comes the fun part: students prepare and record their presentations. If you plan to conduct the presentations during class time, you’ll want to ensure that you’ve arranged locations for each group to meet. Breakout study rooms are ideal, although any reasonably quiet space will do. You’ll also want to confirm that each group has the technology to record and upload their video.

Alternatively, you may opt to assign the presentations as homework. For many students, this is a favored approach because it provides a virtually unlimited amount of time to rehearse and re-record their presentation until they’re satisfied with the output. This also provides students who are less comfortable presenting with a safer environment to make mistakes and adjustments in order to better deliver their message.

Instructor or assistants review presentations for evaluation

After the presentations, instructors and assistants can provide feedback on student delivery and content. If time allows, this can be done in class. However, to maximize in-class time for presentations and peer feedback, instructors often choose to instead watch recordings afterward.

Having a recorded video can be exceptionally useful in making a critique. First, one-on-one feedback sent to the student after class sometimes provides a more comfortable environment for the student to receive the critique. In addition, recordings enable teachers to rewatch parts of the presentation to make more precise feedback at specific moments.

Video recording even enables instructors to go one step further and replicate the in-class presentation format by recording their feedback in their own short video.

Plan for peers to review presentations and provide feedback

In addition to the feedback provided by the teacher, peer reviews can provide students with additional insights and the chance to share tips and best practices with one another. If you’re planning to have students present in groups during class time, peer review will happen live within the small groups. Be sure to structure your class time to allow at least 5 minutes for peer feedback at the end of each presentation.

If instead you’ve tasked students to record their presentations at home, you’ll still want to plan for peer feedback. This can be done in a number of ways. You might review recordings in class, either in small groups that can provide more individually-focused feedback, or in larger groups that might generate more ideas. Alternatively, presentation watching can also be assigned as homework before class. In this scenario, students can watch their classmates’ presentations, take notes and begin to think critically about the feedback they’ll offer.

Today, presentations skills are essential to success in virtually every profession. Through the use of video, instructors can help their students become more confident speakers and better prepare them for the expectations of the job market.

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