Oral Presentations

With some thoughtful reflection and minor modification, student presentations can be as valuable online as they are in person. In deciding how to modify your assignment for remote teaching, it is key to reflect on what you hoped to assess about your students' learning through their presentations in the first place. Were you looking to evaluate how they make an argument in a new form, conduct research, work together in a group, and/or learn to use visuals? You may have had many objectives for your assignment. You still might be able to fulfill all of them; however, you may need to consider modifying or removing one of them if it would be difficult to include all of them in one assignment. (E.g. given that it is difficult for students in disparate locations to present together, it may be worth asking whether it is more important for students to demonstrate their ability to work together to prepare the presentation, or to make an argument on the spot. If you want to assess both, do you need to modify your assignment to have some individual components and some group components?)

Below we suggest three ways to incorporate student presentations into a remote class: (1) live via Zoom; (2) pre-recorded via Zoom; and (3) narrated slide decks. (It is also possible to have students submit pre-recorded presentations via Canvas’ media recording function, but we find this option to be less effective than the other three options presented here.)

Live Presentations in Zoom

Best for:

  • courses in which all students have reliable access to the internet and are comfortable with Zoom functions such as screenshare.
  • attempting to reproduce the interactivity or spontaneity of live presentations in a classroom.
  • assessing/providing feedback on students’ ability to present (and possibly field questions) "live."

Although we are meeting remotely, it is still possible to have students give live presentations using Zoom. As with in-person presentations, it is important to plan enough time for questions and transitions between presentations. Because of the new technology involved, it may be necessary to plan for even more buffer time. If students are using visuals (in the form of a slide deck, video, etc.), you will need to (1) give them permission to share their screen, (2) have them share the resource with you and then you share the resource using Zoom’s screen share, or (3) pre-circulate (through chat, Canvas, or email) the visuals so that everyone can have the resource open at the same time as Zoom. Options 2 and 3 require that the student direct you or the class how to move through the resource during their presentation. Here’s how you can give every student permission to share their screen during the meeting; you can also choose to make the presenter(s) co-host (which will allow them to share their screen) during the meeting by selecting Participants, navigating to the person’s name, selecting More, and selecting Make co-host.

Pre-recorded Presentations in Zoom

Best for:

  • presentations that do not rely heavily/exclusively on slides (although a student can use Zoom to record a presentation that includes a slide show).

Here's one way to have students give pre-recorded oral presentations (with or without accompanying visuals) using Zoom. If students are presenting using a slide deck, it may be easier to have them record their presentations directly into Powerpoint and submit those.

1. How to record a student presentation

Students can use Zoom (harvard.zoom.us) to create a permanent link that can function as a sort of "private video studio"; any time they go back to their Zoom account and click on the link, it will start a solo "meeting" that is recorded until they either stop the recording or leave the meeting. This is a great way for them to record themselves giving a presentation which they can share with others, in any of their courses. Your students will have all of the capabilities that any Zoom meeting host has—for example, they will be able to share a slideshow or other piece of media from their screen while they talk. Here’s how they can do it:

  1. Navigate to harvard.zoom.us and login. They should see the button to “Schedule a new meeting” right near the top of the screen. They should select that option. 
  2. They can name the meeting anything they like—maybe something like “My personal recording studio”—and leave the description blank.
  3. Continuing onward, they should ignore the “When,” “Duration,” and “Timezone” prompts, and skip right to the checkbox for “Recurring meeting.” They should turn that on.
  4. In the “Recurrence” dropdown menu, they should select “No Fixed Time,” which will cause all of the date and time information to disappear—that’s good, and means they have succeeded in creating a link that they can re-use again and again.
  5. Skipping further down the page, they can ignore many of the other options, but they should make sure that “Video” is set to “on” for the host, and that “Audio” is set to “Both.” (These are probably their default options.)
  6. Finally, make sure that they check the last checkbox, “Record the meeting automatically,” and choose “In the cloud."
  7. After making their selections, they should click “Save.”
  8. Now, whenever they visit the “My meetings” page within harvard.zoom.us, they’ll see “My personal recording studio” at the top of the list and can use it to record themselves for any reason, including your presentation.
  9. While recording, they can speak to the camera, share a slideshow or other media while they talk, etc. Whenever they are sharing something on your screen, the resulting recording will capture what they are sharing fullscreen and overlay the student as a talking head in a small window in the upper righthand corner. Encourage your students to try a quick dry run and then watch the video (see the next step, below) to think through how they want to use (or not use) slides/images/sound in your presentation.
  10. Whenever they make a recording, the resulting video will automatically appear in their account within a few minutes to an hour after they finish, and they’ll be able to access it by clicking on “Recordings” in the left-side menu in harvard.zoom.us. They can watch it there to make sure they are happy with it; if not, they just need to go back into their “studio” again and re-record. They can delete recordings they don’t want to use (or just leave them there—there’s no penalty to having lots of recordings in an account). (They can also change the beginning and ending time of their presentations using the editing tool in Zoom, though we would recommend that instructors not overemphasize these kinds of polishing touches in assessing the clarity/sophistication/creativity/etc. of the presentation itself.)
  11. When it comes time for them to share their videos, they will be able to do so through a secure link. More on that next.

2. How to share a presentation with teaching staff

You and your teaching staff will need to let your students know how you would like to receive access to their recorded presentation—whether by email, uploading to Canvas, etc. Your students will be able to share their presentations through any of those methods by sharing a secure link. Students can retrieve that link by:

  1. Navigating to the “Recordings” page in the left side menu of harvard.zoom.us, and identifying the video they’d like to share with you.
  2. To the right of the video, they’ll see a “Share” button. They should click that.
  3. In the dialog box that pops up, students will need to make sure to turn on “Share this recording” and select “Only authenticated users can view.” They should leave the other options turned off.
  4. Students should look for the link for their recording toward the bottom of the gray box. Once they find it, they should highlight it with their mouse, and copy it.
  5. They can share that link by pasting it into an email, Canvas, etc.—however you’ve asked to receive it. That’s it!

3. How to share a presentation with peers / generate asynchronous discussion

As the instructor, you can choose to give students individual feedback on the recordings they share with you. But you can also choose to share them with your class and to create opportunities for peer feedback by using the same link through which students shared their videos with you. You might, for example, create a Canvas discussion forum for each student presenter, paste the link for the respective student’s video in the prompt (which will lead Canvas to embed the video right in the page), and encourage their classmates to watch their presentation and leave feedback or questions in the discussion forum.

Narrated Slide Decks

Best for:

  • Projects where students were already asked to create slide decks.
  • Presentations where the slide deck matters more than seeing the student talk about the slide deck (this format can be helpful for students who have had difficult participating synchronously and/or using their camera).

It is relatively easy for students to record over a PowerPoint presentation. They can insert an audio file on each page by selecting the “Insert” tab and then the “Audio” icon. Students can also create narrated presentations that include slide transitions. Microsoft offers useful advice on how to record a presentation with slide transitions and narration. (N.B. Students could use Google Slides, but they would have to pre-record the audio, which they could do using their phone or Quicktime if they have a Mac.)

If your students are creating a presentation with transitions, here are some tips for recording:

  • If you use the escape (ESC) key when recording, it will stop your slide show rather than pause the recording.
    • To pause recording, use the option from the menu bar
  • To record narration on your last slide, you need to advance to the black screen that tells you the slide show has ended before ending the recording
  • PowerPoint will not record while slides are transitioning so it can be helpful to build in a pause before transitioning to the next slide
  • If you have transitions between the slides, you may need to change them so they do not truncate your audio recording

You can use similar strategies to those described in the section on pre-recording presentations in Zoom to share the recordings and create discussion.

Academic Technology for the FAS / HUIT

Your starting place for learning about and accessing many of the technological tools you may need, such as Zoom, Canvas, and related plug-ins.

The Vice Provost for Advances in Learning (VPAL)

VPAL convenes university-wide conversations about teaching and pedagogical research, particularly in the online space.

The Office of Undergraduate Education (OUE)

OUE oversees, and stewards resources devoted to, the undergraduate curriculum at Harvard College..

The Division of Continuing Education (DCE)

DCE offers a mix of in-person, hybrid, and online courses, and their staff are experienced in thinking about multiple ways to achieve your goals through different mediums.

SEAS and the Division of Science

Advice on teaching in the sciences.

The Harvard Libraries

Request help modifying/troubleshooting your research-based assignments.

The Chronicle of Higher Education

Schedule a consultation with the Bok Center's Senior Staff. (Please note that consultations are available only for Faculty and Teaching Fellows in the FAS.)

Faculty can visit our office hours, every Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday 10:30–11:30 AM; or request a class observation.

Daily Office Hours  |  Class observation

Teaching Fellows can explore the asynchronous Canvas resources from the Fall Teaching Conference; or attend our biweekly TF resource hours.

Fall Teaching Conference  |  TF Resource Hours

The media production staff of the Bok Center's Learning Lab can provide consultations for faculty teaching Harvard College courses using Zoom and other modes of media capture. We can provide suggestions for setting up remote video capture environments in your home or office, and on ways to integrate media into your courses.  Please contact us if you would like to discuss your needs with our staff.

Email the Learning Lab  |  Request a Media Tutorial

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