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Video recording class presentations

Video recording students’ presentations in the classroom can be a good instructional strategy for a number of reasons. For example, recordings can:

  • help students recognize their presentation strengths and weaknesses so they can intentionally demonstrate the former and improve the latter;
  • form part of a student’s professional portfolio; and
  • be a helpful support for the instructor when assessing the presentation after class time.

But when we talk about recording students’ class presentations, how does this actually happen?  

Professor Grant Clark recently shared his experience implementing peer assessment of oral presentations in his bioresource engineering graduate seminar. During that discussion, Grant described a video recording strategy that he has found works well in this course and doubles as a creative way of further inspiring students’ interest in particular topics in bioresource engineering:

Tools and approach 

The best way that I’ve found to record presentations in class is to use Skype for Business, software which is free for all McGill instructors, students and staff, plus a webcam. You’ll need a computer with internet access, a webcam (or a video camera), maybe a large bulldog paperclip, a USB extension cable, and a tripod.

  1. Start a meeting using Skype for Business on the presenter’s computer. “Present” (share) the desktop screen.
  2. Get a little tripod and use a giant bulldog or butterfly clip to attach your webcam to the tripod. Or, if you have a webcam that mounts on a tripod, that’s great.
  3. Set up the tripod about four meters away from the presenter and turn it on. You’ll probably need a USB extension cable to position the tripod well.
  4. In Skype for Business, when you record the meeting session, you can “Start my webcam” to get a little picture-in-picture window that shows the webcam image in the recording, so the people who are watching can see what the presenter is doing. This way, what’s happening on the desktop is recorded, so you don’t have to rely on a recording of the projector screen: Skype actually captures the image right off the computer.
  5. Record that meeting session into an .mp4 file and upload it to YouTube.
  6. That link can be posted on the class’ myCourses website, along with the video title, so the students can then watch it. The YouTube privacy settings can be managed so that only the instructor and students in the course with the direct link can access the video.

An advantage to uploading these videos to YouTube is saving time when grading. Once you upload the videos to YouTube, you can go into the YouTube settings and run the video at double speed so it only takes you two and a half minutes to watch a five minute presentation! If there’s anything you miss while you’re watching, you can slow the video down. It’s a real time saver.

A way to inspire students’ interest in the field 

Since this course includes not only 90 graduate students, but also about 45 undergraduates, we’ve been able to have these recorded presentations serve another purpose, which is to foster undergraduate students’ interest in specific topics in bioresource engineering by exposing them to a large variety of topics via these presentations. While the undergraduates don’t present, they do listen to some of the presentation topics that are of interest to them. Then, they write a short essay reflecting on and analyzing some of the topics, in which they explain how those topics might impact their future career decisions.

A question for blog readers: What ways of recording student presentations have worked well in your courses? Comment below!

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