Skip to: Navigation | Content | Sidebar | Footer

Power Up Your Online Presentations

We've all experienced long presentations with too many slides and too many bullet points. PowerPoint is ubiquitous (and one of my favorite tools) but there is no denying the challenges it presents. Doing it well takes skill and practice, and there are some really bad examples out there. 

Online delivery adds some complexity to the situation. We worry about students being bored, and a lack of engagement and interaction. Static presentations, like those generally produced in PowerPoint and similar programs, often leave us wanting a little more.

What is the purpose of your presentation – to inform, to spark discussion, to conduct a demonstration? Interesting, understandable, and engaging delivery can help you reach these goals. In this post you'll find information about several products that can be used to create online presentations. These tools offer new ways to interact with the content and several allow you to use your existing PowerPoint slides as a starting point.


Create online presentations using images, photos, and videos from your web collections such as Flickr and Picasa. You can also add text and music. Visit the education site for additional information about special educator accounts and ways Animoto can "enhance your digital classroom."

  • The Zoo – demonstrates some of the capabilities including transitions and music options.
  • Math-Animoto – click to view multiple math review videos individually linked to this page using another tool, Glogster.


"Add photos, music, video and audio, and share it publicly or privately in an instant." Empressr offers audio recording options that other products don't have – bypassing the need to upload files elsewhere and then link or embed.

  • iPad Inclusion – experience the animation and multimedia capabilities, and learn more about educational apps for the iPad.


Prezi allows for effects and more visual movement in your presentation (some say too much movement). Each presentation is based on one larger "canvas" instead of a set of individual slides. Zoom settings are available and you can add images, text, links, and video.


Collaboration with a "slide library" could be helpful within academic programs and departments. Adding a Twitter feed is possible with a plug-in providing a way for students to respond and add comments to the presentation.

  • Storytelling 101 – click through a minimalist approach that effectively delivers information.
  • Google Apps Integration – learn more about how this product works with Google tools. This example  also has background audio and a live Twitter feed.


This product allows you to upload slides, and other media, as well as record audio. One of the most interesting aspects of this product is the interaction. Students can add feedback to the presentation in 5 ways: by phone, computer microphone, text, audio file, and webcam. Take a look at the Digital Library of pre-recorded voicethreads organized by topic.

  • Using VoiceThread in an Online Course – Professor Russ Meade provides this example that includes several student-recorded comments.
  • VoiceThread in the Classroom – Cliff Mims shares "25 Interesting Ways (and Tips) to Use VoiceThread in the Classroom."

Features and Functions

When selecting an online presentation tool there are several factors to consider before making any decisions.

  • Costs:  These presentation tools are web-based and most offer free and paid versions. Review the pricing plans closely before committing to a contract. What are the differences between the free version and the paid version in terms of file size, number of presentations, and access to features? You may also want to check with your academic program to see if the school already has a license for the product that allows instructors to create presentations.
  • LMS Compatibility: If you plan to include your presentation within the school's Learning Management System (e.g. Blackboard, eCollege) consult with both the vendor and your tech support to clarify what you'll need to do to make the presentation work smoothly within the course site. Many of these products allow you to provide a URL to the presentation stored outside of the LMS. Others make it easy to embed presentations files. Some require use of special plug-ins.
  • Mobile Delivery: Do students need to be able to view your presentation on mobile devices as well as on their computers? Check product websites for more information about how each works for mobile delivery.
  • Testing and Practice: Allow yourself some time to work with a new presentation product before adding it to your course. You may even want to conduct a pilot of some kind before converting all of your presentations to a new format. Consider creating a brief orientation or welcome presentation and asking students for feedback.

Once you begin exploring the options you'll see that there are a lot of products to choose from, each with its own set of pros and cons. I have briefly reviewed five options here, but encourage you to expand your search and look for instructor reviews as well. A few features to keep in mind as you investigate the possibilities:

  • Audio Narration: The ability to upload or record audio to a presentation can add a lot of impact and help you to communicate the information you are trying to present. What features are available and how difficult are they to use?
  • Comments and Interaction: These functions are rapidly evolving, allowing students to attach their questions, comments, and reflections to the presentation itself. How do you want students to interact with your presentation content? Embedding Twitter feeds and polling tools, like Poll Everywhere can also enhance interaction.
  • Synchronous and Asynchronous: How will the presentation be viewed? You may need to make a few modifications for it to be effectively viewed in both synchronous, live virtual classrooms and asynchronous environments, such as class discussions and with a lecture format.
  • File Formats: What type of file does the presentation tool create? Can you export your final presentation and use it elsewhere or do you have to link to it? There may be restrictions, so have an understanding of what kind of files you want to upload and download, and what will work with the tool, before getting started.
  • File Size and Storage: Adding audio, video, images, and text can result in a very large file – one that is too large to email or store in the product's system. Check the tools you are considering for information about limits on file size and storage.
  • Ease of Use: If a product is difficult to use, you aren't likely to maximize its features and may not be motivated to come back and make edits and revisions. Find something that works well for you.

As you review your class presentations consider how they might be revised with a web-based tool. You may also be interested in applying these tools and techniques to other presentations where you utilize slides to communicate, such as faculty meetings and conference sessions.

In addition to your use of these online presentation tools, think about how your students might explore the tools for use in course assignments and class presentations. How could they use these tools to demonstrate digital and visual literacies

Challenge yourself to pick one new tool and try it out in your next term! If you have a favorite, please let us know more about it, and I'll add it to the list.

June 24th, 2011 written by Staff Writers

Bookmark the permalink.