Creating Options for Class Presentations

By Peter A. Hessling, Ph.D., Assistant Teaching Professor, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, College of Education.

Image of Peter HesslingI teach Introduction to Qualitative Research in Education every Tuesday evening. During the last class every semester I ask my students to create posters which will represent their research projects. This had two problems after all classes went online: 1) finding a means to present a student’s work online and to synchronously critique it; and 2) finding alternatives for students who were under a great deal of stress and who were very uncomfortable with creating posters in any format, let alone online. After talking individually with students and hearing their concerns and suggestions I came up with these three options:

  • Option 1: Create a poster as outlined in the original assignment. You can do it on a PowerPoint slide and simply share it with the class on Zoom. Then you should explain it and answer questions from the class, as you would if you were standing in front of an actual poster.
  • Option 2: Create a short PowerPoint presentation (instead of one poster) that explains your research. This will also be individually shared with the whole class in the same time limit, including questions.
  • Option 3: Create an “oral poster,” which is basically an oral presentation of what would be in your poster had you made one. If you have any illustrations, images, charts (e.g. of how you collected data; your findings; whatever), you could share those via Zoom. But there is no requirement for any visual element.

For all three options, you’ll have 6-7 minutes per person to present; and 5-6 minutes for questions and comments.

You’ll be able to make oral comments synchronously on a Google doc where you can post comments/questions/suggestions for each other’s presentations. I will post the shared Google doc in the chat area for you to link to.

This revised assignment worked very well. In a short time, students were “back channeling” in the Google doc, having verbal exchanges with the presenters, and giving positive support to each other.

I think there were several reasons why this assignment was successful. First, students were able to make suggestions for the assignment changes. Student feedback from my individual conferences led to Option 2 (Power Point), for example. Second, students had time to consider the entire assignment (as well as changes to the research paper, which are not discussed in this blog). I posted the proposed changes in a Google doc and students had a week to comment. Finally, students had options, which, according to Tobin & Behling (2018), is good for universal design for learning, and actually just good teaching practice. What we did ended up representing the “plus one” (in my case, plus two) approach: “Is there just one more way that you can help keep learners on task, just one more way that you could give them information, just one more way that they could demonstrate their skills?” (Tobin & Behling, 2018, p. 134). My students employed all three options during the course of the class, which was not only good for the presenters, but it also made the class more enjoyable for everyone else as well. Grading was also simplified, because I was able to use the same rubric for all three options since students were addressing the same elements of the assignment, but just in different ways.

Although these changes were made under extreme circumstances, I think they were so effective that I am planning on permanently revising the assignment, along with other class assignments next semester.


Tobin, J. T. & Behling, K. T. (2018). Reach everyone, teach everyone: Universal design for learning higher education. West Virginia University Press.