Abigail Harding, Drs Jennifer Duthie & Joy Perkins, Centre for Academic Development
Abigail Harding and Drs Jennifer Duthie & Joy Perkins, Centre for Academic Development share their experiences of using Blackboard Ultra tools to develop students’ presentation and communication skills.
This case study describes the use of assessed video presentations in the course, Principles of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (PLTHE), which pivoted online during the COVID-19 pandemic. Previously, this course was delivered by traditional, classroom face-to-face delivery, in which the course provided an opportunity to develop participants’ presentation skills in a formative, in-class assessment. Given the COVID-19 situation, the teaching team needed to consider alternative, digital assessment approaches, so we adapted the traditional class presentation for the online environment, using the tools available within MyAberdeen. Peer feedback also featured in our adjusted assessment approach.
To adapt the assessed presentations for an online setting, there were two options available. The first was to implement synchronous, real-time presentations using Blackboard Collaborate. The second involved using Panopto lecture recording software, pre-recording presentations and uploading them to the course MyAberdeen discussion board. Due to some concerns around the first option, related to timing for course participants in different time zones, the second option was implemented. Participants were divided into small groups, assigned a tutor and given guidance regarding the assessment criteria and how to utilise the technology to record a 5-minute video presentation. Each group was given its own, private area in the relevant weekly discussion forum to upload their recordings and feedback to one another. Participants were provided with a proforma to provide balanced, constructive feedback. Completed feedback sheets were uploaded by tutors and course participants to the MyAberdeen discussion board, helping individuals to learn from each other.
Given the well-established pedagogical value of in-class presentations, it appears from this initial pilot that online video presentations are useful to support participant learning. Importantly, this option provided course participants with the opportunity to enhance their presentation and communication skills, give one another feedback and to familiarise themselves with Panopto technology and the intricacies of the MyAberdeen discussion board; all valuable skills in the current climate.
It is important to note, however, that the live question and answer session at the end of a traditional in-class presentation does not feature in our asynchronous online presentation version. In addition, the opportunity for the presenter and the audience to discuss aspects of the presentation in more depth is also absent. That said, positive aspects of using this approach include the creation of a comfortable environment for less confident students to give feedback to peers and the inclusive nature of providing asynchronous engagement opportunities for course participants.
At the end of the assessment, participants completed four short survey questions, namely:
1. What did you like about the PLTHE video presentation assessment?
2. What did you dislike about the PLTHE video presentation assessment?
3. Do you feel the online presentation is an authentic alternative assessment compared to the traditional classroom presentation experience? Briefly explain your response.
4. How did you find using the technology to prepare your presentation?
Feedback was generally mixed; some participants were challenged by trying new technology. Other participants commented that the assessment encouraged them to consider alternative ways to convey the subject material. Feedback indicates that participants benefited from learning from one another and that they will apply that learning to their teaching practice in the future. Overall, it appears from participants’ comments that the online presentation assessments can provide a positive learning experience in a blended learning context.
Oral presentations commonly feature in academic course assessments, as they enable Aberdeen Graduate Attribute development such as communication, teamwork/independent work, organisational skills and help to build presenter confidence. This assessment approach will be shared with the Course Co-ordinators of work-based project courses, including Engineering Work Experience ED251A and Working Together: Employability for Arts & Social Sciences ED3536. Sharing practice will enable group presentations in courses to continue during the University’s transition to a more blended learning context. The global workplace requires graduates to have strong digital literacies, often requiring individuals to work remotely, so incorporating a digital media assessment is helpful to develop a breadth of communication modes and to also support employability beyond the University.