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Sharing and Presenting Work in Remote Classrooms

As educational institutions across the world shift classes online in response to the coronavirus pandemic, large-scale video chats are fast becoming the new “normal.” Massive numbers of teachers are turning to platforms like Zoom, Google Meet, and Webex to meet with their students and deliver instruction. However, despite many teachers' heroic efforts to keep their classes as similar to the "pre-distancing" status quo as possible, some classroom activities just aren't the same at a distance.

Never, perhaps, is this more obvious than durring activities that require students to share work with each other. Luckily, there are multiple effective strategies for presenting work both asynchronously and synchronously. You can find these different ways to share and present in remote classrooms below, along with general tips on how to look and sound your best during online presentations.

Synchronous Presentations

Synchronous presentations occur when the presenter and audience interact in real-time. In a synchronous presentation, students, teachers, and presenters can talk and see each other. This approach a beneficial method because it offers students the opportunity to ask questions and receive an immediate response. Thus, it is as close to an in-person presentation as possible. 

  • Screen sharing using Zoom, Webex, or Google Meet: These platforms offer real-time video meetings for 2-100 people. Most importantly, each platform offers an option to screen share. Screen sharing is a function that allows the presenter to display what is on their computer screen with those in the meeting. For example, if the presenter needs to share a PowerPoint presentation, they can share their screen so that the audience can also see the PowerPoint.
    • The precise process to set up screen sharing with each of these platforms is slightly different. For brevity's sake, instructions for sharing screens in Zoom calls are provided below under “Sharing your Screen.”
    • For more information on Zoom, consult Zoom's official video tutorial series.
  • Sharing a PDF using Zoom, Webex, or Google Meet: If screen sharing is not an option, another strategy is to share your content synchronously through email. This option works best if the project being shared is a flyer, a handout, or another visual easily converted into a PDF form. After the document is converted to a PDF, the presenter only has to email the PDF to the audience prior to the meeting and instruct everyone to open and follow along as they give their presentation. This way, everyone can see the content being discussed, and they can follow along as the presenter talks in real time. 

Asynchronous Presentations

During asynchronous presentations, a presentation file is completed/recorded and viewed later by the audience. The advantage of asynchronous presentations is that they allow everyone to access the presentation without a time constraint. A side benefit is that, because presenters may attempt a recording as many times as they want, students with a fear of speaking in public may find this presentation style easier. However, one key disadvantage is that questions regarding the presentation cannot be discussed during the presentation itself and must instead be addressed by email, discussion forum posts, and so on.

  • Posting a YouTube video: If meeting “in-person” via a video chat is not an option, you might instead try sharing a video of your presentation. In order to do so, you may download a screen recording application onto your device, or use a common application with this functionality built in, like Quicktime or PowerPoint. Record your screen while giving your presentation.
    • Most screen recording applications offer the ability to record a voiceover by simply speaking during the recording. This is how you present the information you typically would during an in-person presentation.
    • After recording the video, create a YouTube account, upload the video, and share the link to your audience. Note, however, that YouTube may restrict the length of video uploads, which may require you to break longer lessons into parts.
    • Note also that YouTube allows you to restrict who is able to view your video. Videos marked as "unlisted" will not appear in search results, while videos marked as "Private" will require a link to view at all.
    • For more information, click this link to visit the Google tech support page that discusses how to upload videos to YouTube.
  • Sharing a screen recording video via email: In order to avoid the extra step of posting on YouTube, another option is to simply email a screen recording video to the audience. This limits who can see the video, obviously, so it is a good option when you'd like to keep a tight control over your audience.
    • Note, however, that many email services place restrictions on the size of files that may be attached to emails. If your file is too big to send via email, you may need to upload it to a cloud file storage platform like Google Drive first, then use the email to forward the link to your students.

Tips and Tricks for Presenting Online

  • Sharing your screen: As mentioned above, the screen sharing function of many video chat apps is a great way to share a project during a meeting. Below, you can find the steps to share your screen using Zoom. However, most platforms follow a very similar process:
    • Before opening your Zoom meeting call, open your presentation or project and find the content you would like to start with.
    • Next, begin the Zoom call. Once it has begun, click the green “Share Screen” button located at the bottom of the call window.
    • This will open a new window with different options for sharing your screen. Select your project (it will look like a miniature version of the one on your own computer). Then, click “Share.”
    • This will start sharing your screen, and you will be able to see your project in the call window. However, you cannot control the project from Zoom, so you will have to switch slides/pages outside of the Zoom app during the presentation. 
    • When you are finished presenting, click the red “Stop Share” button at the top of the call window, and you will return to normal video chat. 
  • Navigating sound: What good is an online presentation if your audience cannot hear what you are presenting? Communicating over technology can be difficult. Here are the best ways to make sure you are providing the best audio on your end.
    • Check your internet connection. Slow bandwidth can make your words sound choppy or cut out completely on the other end. If possible, sit near your router for the best connection.
    • Find a quiet place with minimal background noise. If possible, find a room where there are no other people, as conversations in the background can get picked up and cause a distraction.
    • Use headphones with a microphone rather than your computer’s built-in microphone. Headphone microphones are designed for phone calls and only picking up the sound in close range. Computer microphones still work, but tend to sound a little more muffled or fuzzy. 
      • Additionally, wearing headphones presents your microphone from picking up other callers' speech, which can create an unpleasant echo effect.
    • If all else fails, call into the meeting using your phone. Minutes will apply, but you will at least come through with the audio quality of a typical phone call.
  • Looking your best: When presenting, it's important keep your audience engaged and attentive. Bad visual quality makes this much harder. Here are a few ways to combat poor lighting, camera quality, and being stuck at home.
    • Check your image before going live. Most video chat platforms, including Zoom, allow you to turn on your computer's camera before joining a call. It only takes a moment to check your preview footage to ensure you look presentable.
      • You may also want to look at the area behind you to ensure there's nothing inappropriate in the frame that might be professionally embarassing.
    • Find a well-lit area to present. Areas with natural light are best of all, but any spot that does not cast harsh shadows across your face or shroud you in darkness will work.
      • Remember also that your computer screen is a source of light. Rooms without other light sources, this can give you a pale, sickly glow. Thus, it's often best to turn on your light while presenting even if your eyes have adjusted to the dark.
    • Place the camera at face level and about a foot away. This will give the clearest and most professional image.
      • In the event that your computer's camera is not at the top center of its monitor, you may need to angle your screen in such a way that your head is centered in the frame and you're looking straight ahead while presenting. Experiment to see which angle makes you look best.
    • Consider using a “Virtual Background” options. If you're comfortable having a little fun during video presentations (and your institution's culture allows this), you might explore options for projecting a virtual background behind yourself. This can be used to display vital information or inject a little levity into the proceedings depending on the image you choose for your backdrop.
      • In Zoom calls, this can be accessed via the small arrow next to “Stop Video.” If you have a green screen, this works best. You can also have Zoom automatically place the background behind you, though this does not always work well on lower-performance computers.