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Presentations in Digital Learning

Dr Niall Kennedy is a teaching fellow in the department of French.

Here he talks about his experience of using presentations in digital learning as part of the Here he talks about his experience of using presentations in digital learning as part of the SF Political Thought in France, the SF Modern French Literature and the SF Linguistics 1.

Dr Enda Bates photo

What might an ‘assignment brief’ look like for this assessment type in your context?  

Our Student Handbook simply asks for “ 1x10 min pre-recorded oral presentation in French, to be submitted in term” worth 40% of the overall mark for the module. The exact format, submission date, and title of the presentation is to be agreed with the seminar leader, but must be on a different author or topic from the written submission worth 60% of the mark. Students generally choose to upload a PowerPoint with recorded commentary, or to host their audio file on HEA Media hosting. Before the pandemic, students delivered their presentations in class.

Our Handbook also provides guidance on making a presentation, including suggestions on software, and tips on delivery, structure, and audience awareness. We also include a link to the TCD learning resources webpage on presentations:

What are the main advantages of this assessment type?  

The combination of a spoken presentation and a written essay or commentary allows our department to accomplish a range of programme-level goals in assessment. By requiring the students to make their oral presentation in French, we make progress towards our goal of equipping the students to produce scholarly work in both English and French. We also give students the opportunity to have additional oral practice in French, and for them to be assessed on intonation and pronunciation. Giving presentations in a foreign language builds student’s confidence in their spoken French, and in their public speaking abilities in general, and equips them with a useful life skill. Class presentations also provide students with an opportunity to engage in peer-to-peer learning.

Presenting students have the responsibility of researching their own topic, and presenting it in a manner which is both engaging and comprehensible to their peers. This added responsibility may encourage students to spend additional time on their research and on preparing their presentations.

What are the main challenges for using this assessment type?  

The best way to ensure that the peer-to-peer element happens is for class time to be given over to students to make their presentations. However, in a large SF class of around 20 students, it takes up a significant amount of class time for everyone to deliver a presentation, significantly reducing the time available for teacher-led or small group activities. Furthermore, there could be equity issues at play, particularly for students dealing with anxiety or other difficulties with mental health, if public presentations are made compulsory.

Pre-recorded presentations to be circulated to other students help to get around these difficulties, but in this case students lose the practice at speaking in front of an audience. It also becomes more difficult to ensure that other students watch all of the presentations.

Why do you use this particular assessment type in a digital context? 

One of the big challenges for the French department this year has been to give the students sufficient practice in spoken French, as poor internet connections can make it difficult for some students to fully participate in their oral classes: so compulsory presentations help to remedy this somewhat.
We also see diversity in the types of assessment required to be good as different assessments will play to different strengths, and particularly under the current conditions it can be difficult to keep up student motivation.

However, trying to integrate this assessment type with Blackboard has proven to be more of a challenge than we anticipated. We had thought it would be easy to circulate each presentation to the other students but it hasn’t been possible to do this on the platform we are using. Since students use different operating systems, and some need to grant permission to access the relevant files to each new user (eg if they are using Google Drive) in the end it wasn’t really practicable to share the files to the whole class

What advice would you give a colleague thinking about using this type of assessment?  

I think more effort needs to be done to find a platform where presentations can be easily uploaded and accessed by everyone in a class. Diversity in assessments is good, and students can find the process of researching and delivering a presentation to be enjoyable and engaging, but I would also advise colleagues to remain aware of equity issues: for some students the challenges involved in this type of assessment might outweigh the benefits to be gained from it.

Do you recommend any resources or technologies to support this type of digital assessment?  

I found that the most easily accessible presentations for me as a marker were either uploaded to HEA Media hosting, or else recorded as a single audio file and uploaded to Blackboard, accompanied by a PowerPoint. PowerPoints with audio files encoded into individual slides proved cumbersome as the marker had to request access to each individual file, while some students also found the process of uploading their presentations to be difficult.

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