Skip to Main content

Absorb Instructional Activities - Presentations

Description: The learner watches or listens to a slide show, demonstration, or podcast. Presentations convey information, demonstrate procedures, and model human behavior. Presentations provide key information or salient points (Horton, p. 49). Presentations include instructor lectures, simulations, charts, and graphs. They can be uploaded to and delivered through Blackboard using presentation tools such as PowerPoint and Panopto. Guest lecturers and subject matter experts can also be invited to participate through presentations (Ko and Rosson, 2004, p. 48).

Types of Presentations:

Slide Shows/Multimedia Presentations. An effective slide show uses just enough text and graphics to convey the main points. Slide shows work well for conceptual learning activities such as ideas, theories, principles of information systems, bodies of knowledge. Using a recorded voice narrative allows the instructor to convey more information and reach students who are visually impaired. A narrated slide show such as a PowerPoint presentation is appropriate for taking students through a series of steps (Horton, p. 50).

Best Practices

  1. Improve learning by using relevant visuals to illustrate content. Design relevant visuals based on their functional properties rather than on their surface features (Reiser et al., p. 315). The graphics should carry the load and convey the point when possible. Replace wordy bullet lists with illustrations or diagrams.
  2. Narrate clearly. Make a transcript available for students to later review and for hearing impaired students.
  3. Animate graphics. Show how concepts move and evolve.
  4. Avoid clutter. Do not overload the learner. Add each item at the time when it is discussed (Horton, p. 52).
  5. Consider the “Multimedia Principle.” Students learn better from words and pictures than from words alone (Mayer as cited by Reiser et al., p. 315).
  6. Minimize irrelevant audio. Moreno and Mayer (as cited by Reiser et al.) found learning was better from lessons that omitted music and environmental sounds. Three sources of sounds – narration, environmental sounds and music – overload the limited capacity of working memory (p. 318).

Resources for Online Presentation Development

Instructor Presentations: Lectures in Text Format. Text in the form of web pages is the best choice for converting lecture materials when other forms of presentations or closed captioning are not available. Text on a web page has the advantage that students can copy the materials and make their own notes having more time to reflect on what the instructor has said (Ko et al., p. 49).

Best Practices

  1. Do not create documents that are tediously formal or appear as overly long blocks of text.
  2. Strive for a style between casual speech and formal writing.
  3. Use headings, italics, colors, and other indicators to allow the eye to quickly take in the general idea of the presentation.
  4. Intersperse relevant graphics or present them via links (p. 49).
  5. Link to related resources and other Web sites.

Physical Demonstrations. Physical demonstrations show a person performing a physical task such as how to properly clean a wound. This type of demonstration can be live or recorded as video (Horton, p. 53).

Best Practices

  1. Preview the action. Be sure to state the purpose of the demonstration.
  2. Use close-ups to draw the learner’s attention to individual actions.
  3. Move smoothly and slowly.
  4. Keep the demonstration short. Show a single action or phase of a task. Divide complex tasks into its component actions.
  5. Let learners control the demonstration. For recorded demonstrations, give learners control buttons to replay, stop, pause, etc. the demonstration (p. 53).

Suggestions: Create physical demonstrations using Panopto software and upload to Blackboard. (Refer to Section Three: Online Learning Tools/Panopto for instructions on how to download and video presentations with Panopto).

Software Demonstrations. Software demonstrations show an expert performing a complex procedure with a computer program or software (Horton, p. 54).

Best Practices

  1. Introduce the demonstration. Provide a preview of what the student will learn and what the demonstration will cover.
  2. Keep demonstrations simple and to the point. Do not give the learner too many alternatives to perform a task. This will cause confusion.
  3. Make it clear to your students this is a demonstration, not a simulation. Learners just watch during a demonstration.
  4. Follow the demonstration with simulation, a “do-type” of activity, allowing students to practice.
  5. Provide a low-bandwidth alternative with still pictures and a transcript of the narration (Horton, pp. 55-56).

Suggestion: Software demonstrations can easily be captured on the screen using Panopto software and uploaded to Blackboard. (Refer to Section Three: Online Learning Tools/Panopto for instructions on how to download and create video presentations with Panopto).

Informational Films. Informational films can include documentary films, now digitalized video.

Best Practices

  1. Borrow it if you can. If possible, re-use an existing documentary film.
  2. Get permission.
  3. Reduce download times by designing for a small video window.
  4. Be aware of bandwidth requirements. For students with a low bandwidth, provide a sequence of still pictures accompanied by the text of the narration or dialog (Horton, p. 57).


Dramas. Dramas depict people in a fictional scene. Dramas can be used to illustrate an interview or reveal team dynamics.

Best Practices

  1. Write credible dialog. Read your dialog aloud before recording or performing and revise, revise, revise until it sounds right.
  2. Recruit players who can put emotion into their voices and who body language and gestures reinforce what they are saying.
  3. Don’t forget the drama. If the sequence is predictable, there is no drama. Keep the learner wondering how things will work out.
  4. Tell a story. We expect a story with an introduction of characters, a crisis, and a resolution for good or bad (pp. 58-59).

Podcasts/Audio Presentations. Learners can download and play audio presentations on their computers or IPods. Podcasts are often lectures explaining a subject directly.

Best Practices

  1. Keep everything simple. Do not require learners to write anything down. Keep segments to ten minutes.
  2. Make what you say memorable. Repeat. Give mnemonics. Emphasize key points. Post URL’s, names, and other details to Blackboard.
  3. Keep the introduction and closing comments short.
  4. Do not mimic radio. Entertainment podcasts are radio.
  5. Downplay the music.
  6. Keep information current. Publish a reusable, timeless version that does not contain information that is likely to go out of date.
  7. Invest in a good microphone. Speak in an upbeat, emotional voice.
  8. Smooth the flow. Edit out mistakes and long pauses (Horton, 62).

Suggestion: Audio podcasts can easily be created and uploaded to Blackboard. (Refer to Section Three: Online Learning Tools/Podcasts (Audacity) for resources on how to create audio files).
A final note on accommodating the learner’s characteristics or learning style with rich media. The single most important factor in learning is the learner’s level of prior knowledge. Mayer (as cited by Reiser et al.) found multimedia presentations which used text, images, and illustrations effectively were helpful to low-knowledge learners and improved learning. High-knowledge learners were found to “learn well under all conditions and able to compensate for poor presentation methods whereas low-knowledge learners are not” (p. 320).