As a postgraduate student, I have sat through more than my fair share of lectures. A common occurrence in these classes is that after the first few months, when the novelty of attending university has all but worn off, many students find themselves struggling to maintain focus. This is the exact moment when a teacher is likely to whip out audio-visual presentations to break the monotony.
Presentations are a fun way to engage students’ attention, but they are not without their fair share of problems. I often find myself so engrossed in the slideshow that I forget to make any notes altogether. And even when I do remember, it becomes difficult to keep up with the slides, pay attention to the professor’s explanation, and jot down my own inferences all at once. Sometimes, I may even want to make additional notes only to realize that the lecturer has already moved on to the next slide, in which case I can do either of two things:
(I) Request them to go back to the last slide, thereby slowing down - or possibly even ruining - the flow of the entire presentation, or
(II) Chicken out and resign myself to the idea of an imperfect education.
Neither scenario is particularly gratifying to any educator, who, after having possibly slaved for hours to perfect a presentation, is baffled by its inefficacy when faced with the less-than-ideal results of a class assessment.
So does this mean universities should scrap presentations from the lesson plan? Having spoken to classmates and students across campus, I can safely say that nobody want to see them go. With the right tweaks, slideshows can become an engaging tool of communication as well as a powerful revision strategy for students long after the class is over. Here are a few ways to achieve this:
1. Make Presentations More Accessible
I cannot stress this enough: Let your students know how and where they can view your presentation later. Chances are, the actual slideshows used to deliver a lecture are more helpful than any personal notes scribbled during the presentation. The traditional way to do this is to send the presentation as a mass e-mail to the entire class afterwards. However, in my personal experience, a hastily compiled list of e-mails is bound to miss a few people, and most students won’t even realize they didn’t make it to the mailing list until it’s too late. A fail-proof alternative is to upload the slides on Glisser, and give their unique URL to students before a lecture. This gives them the option to type in their own e-mail address at the end of the presentation and have the slides immediately sent to their inbox, leaving them with one less thing to worry about while preparing for exams.
2. Enable Coordination between Notes and Slides
Since slideshows usually display only the main bullet points and complementary diagrams, students often want to write down additional information relayed by the speaker. However, it is often confusing to later identify which section of the notes corresponds to which slide. Many attempt to avoid this by jotting down the number of the respective slide in their notes, but the chances of losing track during a particularly difficult class are monumental. The same goes for trying to take notes on labeled diagrams featured in the slide, as it involves having to draw the diagram in question before repeating the aforementioned steps. Glisser makes life easier for students by letting them write notes electronically on the slides themselves, so they can concentrate on the presentation instead.
3. Determine and Answer the Most Important Queries
Given that university lectures are usually attended by an average of fifty to sixty people, it is next to impossible to address everyone’s questions about a presentation. Ideally, a professor ought to answer the most popular questions across the student base, but there is no way to predetermine them before a presentation. Glisser lets students post their queries and even vote for those raised by classmates during an ongoing presentation, then draws up a list according to rankings at the end. Such a comprehensive list will allow professors to clear at least the most common doubts in the event they run out of time before covering all of them.
4. Collect Instant Feedback
Most universities ask for feedback only at the end of a programme. This offers little incentive for students to make time for submitting comments since they will not personally benefit from them. Besides, any suggestions provided after a lapse in time is likely to be vague and generic, which makes it difficult to implement them. The easiest way to avoid this would be to acquire immediate feedback on class presentations, but the limited time frame of individual lectures rarely allows for this. Students are also understandably reluctant to write out elaborate comments at the end of a long class. Avoid this by adding multiple choice questions to your Glisser presentation, so people can register their opinion in a matter of seconds. For the particularly lazy ones, Glisser also has the option to simply press like on the slides they enjoyed. Teachers in turn will receive a copy of the data acquired to find out exactly what worked for the students, and make changes accordingly for subsequent presentations.
That’s not all, either! The most convenient feature of Glisser is that no prior downloads are necessary to access files. Students can simply Copy + Paste the URL into their laptop or phone browser for a truly immersive class experience. If you would like to try Glisser for yourself, click here to visit their official website.