Presentation Classes on Zoom
Pak Man Au is a Canadian who has been teaching English for the past seven years. He is currently based in Japan as an Assistant Professor at a Japanese national university. His primary interests (in no particular order) are teaching intercultural awareness, business English, young learners, and geography. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about many changes to our society and the concept of a “new normal” has been established. In particular, the educational sector has experienced a significant paradigm shift since the pandemic reared its ugly head back in early 2020. Pre-pandemic, classes were held at schools around the world where both teachers and students alike were able to communicate and observe each other without the hindrance of masks and social distancing. However, the pandemic has changed this for many educational institutions around the world be it primary, secondary, or tertiary institutions. For certain classes, presentations are a major theme and this was radically changed with the pandemic. With in-class presentations, body language and voice volume were easily observed and heard, respectively. Conversely, with many institutions adopting online lessons, other methods have to be learnt from a growing multitude of instructors and teachers globally. This article will discuss methods to enhance presentations done over Zoom.
Zoom is one of the most popular tools in use today for online synchronous learning. With “300 million daily meeting participants and 3.5 trillion annual meeting minutes, Zoom has become a video conferencing giant in a little over 18 months” (Kent, 2021). Global educators have become accustomed to using this tool to deliver their lessons, whether by lectures or more interactively. As face-to-face (F2F) instruction has become limited, or even suspended, in certain locales, online synchronous learning has become ever more important.
Amongst the plethora of online applications one might encounter, Zoom’s popularity can be attributed to its “simplicity” (Kent, 2021). Sending meeting invitations and joining meetings can be done in a matter of seconds. Currently, many universities around the world are relying on Zoom for their online classes. Though Zoom can be a great substitute for F2F, depending on the type of classes taught, it can never equal F2F. This is especially true for presentation classes.
Doing Presentations on Zoom
Presentations done in traditional classroom settings provide the opportunity for students to observe their teachers and classmates and provide instantaneous feedback. There are also the potential for fewer distractions, such as Internet or technical issues related to the technology being used for online learning. Though this is clearly the preferred way to do presentations, current circumstances call for flexibility in educational approaches.
While doing a presentation online might at first seem similar to F2F, that is, you are speaking to an audience whether in person or over a monitor, there are differences that need to be taken into account to make the process smoother. For one thing, educators cannot easily observe if students are paying attention to the speaker, particularly in larger classes where the screen needs to be shifted to see all students. Similarly, as alluded to earlier, body language and visual cues online can be more difficult to detect, since these “cues also aid student communication and comprehension” (Kohnke, Moorhouse, 2020). In addition, teachers and students can typically see only each other‘s faces and the images that they see are often blurry or lack focus (Gordon, 2020). Though these reasons are challenging in their own right, presentation skills can be taught online with modifications. For one thing, in a Zoom environment, the audience is more attuned to the presenter’s voice and body language rather than the faces of the other students. Instead of standing in a F2F presentation, body language and gestures can be adopted while the presenter is seated. This is not only useful for presentations, but any other meetings students might have over Zoom or other videoconferencing tools.
During the author’s university presentation classes, half of the semester was switched to Zoom due to the pandemic. Although the core skills and two practice presentations had already been conducted F2F, the rest of the semester was taught online for this particular course. It was a big learning curve for the students as well, suddenly having to learn presentations skills and present online.
Unknown to many students who were unacquainted with the new technology, the author used Zoom’s features to the benefit of the students. “Breakout Rooms” were used to allow students to practice their presentations either in pairs or small groups and the “Whiteboard” was used to illustrate certain examples on the course material, just like during a F2F lesson. In addition, several students decided to use Zoom’s “Share Screen” function to mimic what they would have done had they used PowerPoint during a F2F presentation instead. The audience could follow along in real-time while the students described their diagrams, illustrations, etc.
Furthermore, during the Question and Answer (Q&A) portion of the presentations, some students acknowledged that the “Chat” function was useful when another student could not hear nor understand what was asked. This would not be as convenient as in a regular F2F presentation Q&A session.
Doing presentations online may not be ideal for the educational community at large, but with the current situation complicating matters, there are times when we have to adapt to our challenging circumstances. Zoom offers several features which can make presentation classes both educational and enjoyable at the same time. The online skills students learn can be parlayed back to real life F2F classes once the pandemic subsides. The author also notes that some quieter students felt more comfortable doing presentations online and came out of their shell, so to speak. Whether or not these societal changes are permanent or not, the skills learned by using Zoom for online presentations can help students acclimatize to the technology in their future careers.
Gordon, M. (2020). Synchronous Teaching and Learning: On-Ground versus Zoom. International Journal of Education and Human Developments, vol. 6, no. 3; 11-19
Kent, Dominic . The History Of Eric Yuan’s Zoom. Mio Dispatch, 2021, https://dispatch.m.io/eric-yuan-zoom/
Kohnke, L., and Moorhouse B.L. (2020). Facilitating Synchronous Online Language Learning through Zoom. RELC Journal. 1-6. DOI: 10.1177/0033688220937235
Please check the Pilgrims f2f courses at Pilgrims website.
Please check the Pilgrims online courses at Pilgrims website.
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