Ankur Shah
Technical Manager – Faculty of Business and Law (BAL), UoP

Tech vs Powerpoint

Over the years within Higher Education we have seen many applications and tools introduced that have had an impact on how students engage in a seminar or a lecture session. For academics every year this is a new challenge, not only to keep the content of teaching fresh, but also to try to make it interactive in way that will engage more students.

Now, any academic could argue that the best way to deliver a session is just to have a set of Powerpoint slides projected in the lecture or seminar room, where the students would also have a copy of the same in the form of printed material to make any necessary notes. We could argue that in the 21st century and in an age where digital learning is a key to gauge a student’s understanding on the topic taught, it has kind of become necessary to make presentations more interactive using a range of tools to make that change easy for academics.

How can an academic go about this?

There are many tools that can enable an academic to make their presentations more interactive with minimal effort To list a few:

  1. Prezi – this allows you to add motion, zoom and also gives an option to spatial relationships, for this you have to design a presentation within this tool
  2. NearPod – this allows you to add quizzes, flashcards, videos, polls etc to your existing Powerpoint slides – the University has a license for this tool
  3. Studio 360 within the Articulate suite – this is a tool that allows a user to design interactive presentations in a way where students cannot proceed to the next section without meeting the requirements set and also gives the user an option to c import into Moodle

With the changing technology, the above tools are not set in stone, but are what I would recommend to start with when using these advanced tools. But for this blog I will be looking at Nearpod, as that is something I worked on with an academic to get their presentation slides more interactive.

Why Nearpod?

I recently had an academic wanting to ‘up’ the way in which he delivers his presentations so that his students are more engaged in the session – as sometimes delivering a session on rather dry topics can be a bit boring, but just adding an interactive element can liven things up.

So, as the academic wanted to use a tool as simple as possible and in a short space of time, I suggested using Nearpod.The good part of Nearpod is you don’t have to work on multiple presentations, instead you can just upload  your Powerpoint slides to Nearpod and then within an app or web version you can add different elements to your slides.

The other good part of Nearpod is that the instructor will have full control over their slides and students can only begin the session if they are given the access code. This also allows the instructor to add if needed, polls or quizzes in-between the sessions to test how students are engaging with it.

Nearpod also gives the option to instructors for making their Powerpoint presentations available with the interactivity with the student-paced option. With this option instructors can just give the code to the students for their slides and then students can go through these according to their requirements and also use it for revision purposes.

The session was conducted with around 160 students in a lecture theatre where there were no problems – all the students logged-in fine and also the session had more engagement compared to the previous week. Some students even asked to have more sessions like this as it was helping them understand the concept or topic very well.

Other options that Nearpod offers are:

  1. Virtual Reality – you can have an image and the students can interact with the image in a Virtual mode, within the app
  2. Simulation activity
  3. Drawing questions – this allows students to draw using the tools available in Nearpod
  4. Open Ended questions
  5. Polls and many more

Finally, to wrap this post I am not suggesting that Nearpod is the only tool that can help with student engagement or make your slides interactive, but it is a tool which is easy to use compared to others already available in the University, and is certainly the one which works on all smart devices. Along with that it also offers various different things you can add to your existing Powerpoint slides and also it allows you to track your student progress. I would like to say anyone who is interested in knowing more about this tool, or any other tool, to please email and we will be happy to help you with your request.

Image credits: Photo by Lilly Rum on Unsplash