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There are a variety of options for online classroom assignments, each assessing a different level of student learning (see Bloom’s Taxonomy for more information on these levels).  Quizzes and tests assess student knowledge and comprehension.  Discussion board assignments give students a chance to show their analysis and application skills.  Longer written assignments, like essays and presentations best capture higher levels of learning, or their synthesis and evaluation capabilities.

Since presentations are so heavily associated with face-to-face communication, and therefore perhaps less associated with the online classroom, I thought I’d list a few of the benefits of assigning presentations to your online students.

  1. Opportunity for extemporaneous discussion.  Nothing demonstrates a student’s knowledge and critical thinking ability more than extemporaneous conversation.  True, presentations are prepared, but there is at least an opportunity for a dialogue back and forth that is unplanned and that illustrates a student’s deep understanding of a topic and the ability to synthesize the big picture.  This is harder to do online than in the traditional classroom, but there are ways to have students deliver virtual presentations that offer real time Q&A.  Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Adobe Connect, GoToMeeting, and Skype are options.
  2. Gets to the gist.  Students read a lot in the online classroom.  They write a lot.  They watch a lot of videos.  Presentations, especially the bullet pointed slide components of them, allow students to synthesize the gist of all of that information and, in doing so, they show the instructor that they aren’t lost in the weeds.  That they “get it”.  They show you they are listening and know how to listen to the song, so to speak, and not just the drums, the guitar, and the voice depending on which is louder.
  3. They are fun and less intimidating.  While an instructor may still require speaker notes to be cited, referenced, and formatted just like essays, the presentation as an assignment medium can be less intimidating and perhaps more fun than a traditional writing assignment.  Although they are just as complex as essays, they tend to be more approachable and students can have fun talking about their topic creatively, with photos, video clips, jokes, and sidebars.  And, use of all of those devices goes back to point number two – if a student can select a relevant video, tell an appropriately related joke, or chose an image that captures a big idea, he or she is showing you that they have indeed synthesized the gist.
  4. They are interesting to read and fun to grade.  There are three audiences for the presentation assignment:  The student doing the assignment, the rest of the class (if you choose to have the assignment posted publicly), and the instructor.  For the other students in the class, presentations provide an approachable, easy opportunity to see what other students have uncovered in their research (having them read each other’s essays, in other words, wouldn’t be as palatable).  As instructors, it is more fun and engaging to watch, listen to, or read presentations if not simply because of the entertainment value.  Just hearing a student’s voice in a voiceover is a welcome departure from reading, reading, reading.

What are some other benefits of the presentation assignment in the online classroom?  What are some of the technologies and methods you’ve used to help distance learners present their ideas dynamically in the virtual environment?  Please comment below!

2 Responses to “4 Reasons to Assign Presentations Online”

  1. Laila Suleiman-Khel

    Dear Adjunct World website managers,

    I just completed my Ph.D. in clinical psychology and I am searching for a full time job in San Diego area. Is there an expedited way of finding a job. I apply for different positions but I do not hear back from them. Please let me know how you can help me. I can send you my current resume. Looking forward to hearing from y

    • Brooke Shriner

      Yes, Laila, please email me your resume and I’ll see what advice I might have. Are you looking for a full time traditional teaching job or specifically online? AdjunctWorld is primarily an online adjunct job database, but as I also have a PhD in clinical psychology and have been around for a while, I might have some more specific advice to offer.


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