Nearpod is a service that uses audience interaction during presentations to enhance almost any form of teaching.
Before we get into why I like Nearpod, I’d like to point out that I am not employed by Nearpod, I have no affiliation with them, I just really like their product! It’s easy to talk positively about something that you actually believe has benefits.
Nearpod is fantastic at changing the focus of a presentation from a big screen at the front of a room, to that of the person presenting and, of course, the device you have in front of you. The presenter can become a part of the audience, moving around the room and engaging specific members of the audience the room, but at the same time lead and direct the session without being tied to a PC at the front of the class.
Nearpod has 4 licences that start at nothing for a Silver licence right up to a District licence for larger organisations.
Taken from nearpod.com/pricing
There is an increase in connections and file storage between each level. I think that the basic interactions on the Silver licence are great for getting information from students and making the class interactive.
The basic features that the Silver licence offers are:
- Text fill response box
- Draw tool
The Premium features that are available with the Gold licence, and above, allow for:
- Embedding video and web content
- Game interactions
- Allowing note taking on each slide for the student (School licence)
If you can’t see the Nearpod presentation below, please check for any ad or pop up blockers that may stop it displaying.
The Nearpod presentation above started life as a set of standard PowerPoint slides, which I have then added some interactivity too. In this case, the slide’s interaction adds a collection of images and then I have added a question. Adding questions throughout the presentation allows the presenter to get information about the class; this could be good to gauge how well the audience has understood the lesson so far. It also contains BBC Worldwide content that is accessible directly within Nearpod as well as the ability to embed a live webpage within the presentation and a poll to gain feedback from the audience.
The more expensive licences allow you to set ‘homework’, which provides a version of the presentation to the audience to access outside of the classroom. They can then look through it at their own pace, either before the class, so they are prepared for the lesson ahead, or afterwards. The presentation that has been embedded in this article has been done using the homework mode feature. It can be added directly within a VLE or a link given to be emailed to the student.
Nearpod also has a marketplace where you can purchase a range of presentations on a variety of topics. Whilst this is a nice addition, many of the materials are aimed at younger children and are therefore not directly appropriate for HE level education. Additionally, much of the content is provided for the North American market so you may not have a huge amount of ready-made content to choose from.
Sometimes, students get embarrassed when they don’t understand a concept or aspect of a lesson and everyone else seems to. It’s happened to me, and it’s probably happened to you. Using Nearpod for audience response could remove some of that worry. Audience responses are anonymous to all but the person presenting – the presenter can focus on improving that person’s knowledge, without bringing it up in front of the whole class.
For all the great features that Nearpod offers, there are a few negatives to the system that some of the academics have reported, for example:
- Students can feel “over Nearpoded”
- Transferring an existing PowerPoint presentation directly into Nearpod, then adding interactions, can dramatically extend the length of your teaching session
So to the first point. Some academics have said that if you turn every lecture into a Nearpod session, the students start to lose interest in the interactions. This can also be the case when too many are added to one session. The drop off of the initial engagement can be high and you lose their desire to be part of the process. A few interactions per session inside of a “normal” PowerPoint seems to be the best plan until you find what works for you and your teaching using the software. The other initial workflow might be that not every session needs to be delivered in that manner if you are finding this issue.
The second point relates to the first in as much as it’s not a good idea to take existing PowerPoint presentations, add them into Nearpod and then add further interactions. Academics that have tried this so far have run out of time to deliver the entire lecture. Interactions add time to the normal flow of the lecture and while they are useful tools, it will take a rethink of the content you are trying to deliver in each session. It is a good excuse to look at older PowerPoints and think about how they can be improved either inside or outside of Nearpod. An addition to this is that Nearpod now allows you to continue a previous session using the same code for a period of 14 days after the first presentation. This means if you are tight for time you can carry on where you left off next time around.
The system has maintained a high user base within the University. However, be aware that if the student experience is not monitored it can affect an individuals feelings towards the system and process, which may taint the continued engagement with the product.
If you are curious about Nearpod, I would suggest you sign up for an account and have a go yourself. Give the free version a try and you may even find that it alone will be enough to suit your needs. Within the University we have access to the full licence so please email firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the account.