Some thoughts on presentations.

What technology should we be recommending to tutors who want to use narrated presentations on online courses?  And in what ways should they be encouraged to deliver them? These are questions that I a struggling with at the moment at work.  For the last few years I have been encouraging people to use Adobe Presenter but recently I have gone off this as the version I bought only produces Flash files (apparently the latest version includes a facility to export for i-devices). Instead I  have been telling people to use PowerPoInt (the Office 2010 version).

My main considerations have been ease of use (to make and play back) and size of generated files. Now, having viewed two presentations on OLDS MOOC I want to add another consideration – ease of pausing and rewinding. I also want to remind our tutors that transcripts are not only necessary for accessibility purposes but also to aid usability, which for a student means learning.  These thoughts have been triggered by two presentations, both of which are excellent in their content but fail (I think, correct me if I’m wrong) to provide the usability I seek as a student.

The first was a Prezi presentation. What I, as a student, wanted to do was take notes as I watched it. But I’m a 21st century student and I wanted to copy and paste my notes. This is what I expect to do especially if there is a lot of text in the presentation – lots of interesting quotes that I’d like to take away with me.  However, you cannot get to the text in a Prezi (as far as I know) and when I found the transcript, that, of course, was a transcript of the audio narration, not a text version of the images in the presentation.  Not what I was looking for and something that made me a little frustrated.

The second presentation which has prompted me to rethink our advice to tutors was a PowerPoint presentation that was uploaded to SlideShare and audio narration added via SlideCast.. Here I was frustrated because there was no transcript and so I was trying to write down what was being said.  I was having a lot of trouble understanding one particular slide and I wanted to write down exactly what was said. However, I was unable to pause and then rewind the audio.  I could jump back to the beginning of the slide but I was trying to take notes and didn’t want to do that.  I just wanted to go back a little way to catch one particular word.  If there had been a transcript I’d have just read that, but there wasn’t one.  There were notes but they didn’t tell me what I was failing to grasp on that slide.  Another little irritation is that the slides were not numbered so it was difficult to refer to them or even quickly find the notes that accompanied any particular slide.

So, thoughts on presentations:

  1. Allow students to copy and paste if there are lots of words on the slides.  This would exclude Prezi.
  2. Choose a presentation player that allows the viewer to pause and rewind with a slider control.
  3. Ensure that there is a transcript of the audio or notes to accompany the slides that convey the same meaning as the audio and could be used instead of the audio to explain the slide.

So I not only need to think about what presentation software/online service to recommend (and I’ve seen quite a few new ones on OLDS MOOC , used by students) but also how to distribute it.  Perhaps a quick review of some of the options will be a nice project for someone in my team during the summer.  Though there’s undoubtedly already one available.  Must get on to Google.

Final thought – Although I have rejected Prezi for the reason stated, it does do things linear presentation tools don’t. So perhaps it’s a swings and roundabouts thing.  More though needed.

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