Student Presentations in Remote Learning Environments

Classroom presentations are a quintessential way for students to demonstrate mastery of a topic. Short and casual presentations can be sprinkled in to a syllabus as small assignments, or more robust presentations can serve as a midterm or final. Remote teaching introduces new logistics to consider but also brings opportunities to explore different formats. 
When giving presentations in a remote learning environment, students can either do a live presentation in front of the class on Zoom (synchronous) or pre-record their presentation for instructors and peers to view later (asynchronous). Both options require some pre-planning—here’s what you need to know.

Synchronous (Live)

In a time when students are less connected to campus, the opportunity to give a presentation in a live, synchronous class session can make students feel a bit more at home. You will need to budget classroom time for this and make sure that your students have the technical information they need to successfully deliver their presentations.

Technical Details

There are just a few technical things to line up for live presentations. Students who are presenting will need to share their screen to show their slides or other content. By default, Zoom allows all participants in a meeting to share their screen, so you don’t need to set up anything here—just make sure they know how to share. Best practice is for students to open their presentation file, select “share screen,” and then go into presentation mode (for PowerPoint or Google Slides) or full-screen mode (for .pdf files.)
For optimal viewing, anyone watching a presentation can “pin” the presenter’s screen so that only that screen shows in the main Zoom window. To do this, hover your mouse over the student’s gallery window, click on the three dots, and select “Pin Video.” If you are recording the session, this setting will then only record the pinned video. Note that this only affects your own Zoom session and students will have to do this individually.
Online presentations are somewhat different in nature, so scoring things like eye contact and engagement through body language can be more challenging. It may be easier to focus on aspects like voice level and inflection, delivery, content, and organization. Be sure to include any graded elements like this on a rubric. You can add rubrics directly into Canvas to use with Speedgrader.

General Zoom Live Presentation Tips

  • Keep student presentations short, about 10 minutes each, plus a few minutes for questions. This allows for setup time and questions and helps keep the attention of students watching (attention spans for remote meetings are typically lower than in-person).
  • To make up for shorter presentation times, you can add a complimentary activity to the assignment, such as a reflection essay or annotated bibliography, if desired.
  • Try to replicate a live in-person class as much as possible. Have all students with webcam access turn on their cameras to help them stay accountable for being present. Have anyone not presenting mute their mic.
  • Set up a practice session using Zoom breakout rooms. For example, split a class of 30 students into 5 breakout groups of four students each. Students can refine their work and give feedback on the others’ presentations.
  • Students can also set up their own Zoom room to practice—make sure they know they have access to do so.
  • Create a rubric so that students know what is expected. With online classes, it’s especially important to have clear communication about grading, and rubrics can help clear up any ambiguity. There are several examples like this one that can be found online.
  • Be willing to host a Q&A session about the assignment for any further questions (this can reduce the number of last-minute questions).
  • Share the Emory-themed Zoom backgrounds with students to use during their presentation, or encourage them to find a background image that suits their presentation. See this page for how to set Zoom backgrounds.

Asynchronous (Recorded)

Allowing students to submit a recorded version of their presentation can be a convenient and time-saving alternative to doing a live one. It reserves classroom meeting time if you want to budget that time for other things (or forgo having additional Zoom calls). Below are some tools for recording and viewing asynchronous presentations and instructions for how to implement them.

Canvas Studio

Studio, the built-in webcam and screen recorder in Canvas, is a go-to choice for student videos. They can record their video using any recorder they like, including their phone, tablet, or laptop. Then, they can upload their recording to Canvas Studio, and submit it as an assignment. Students can also record directly in Studio and use its limited editing capabilities. If they want to edit extensively, they might prefer to use a different tool for recording and editing, then upload.
There are two formats for Studio assignments: file upload and text entry. For guidelines on how to create a Studio-based assignment in either format, follow the instructions here. Canvas Studio assignment submissions can be graded using Speedgrader in Canvas.
Canvas Studio Instructions for Students:


Flipgrid is a standalone web platform for creating shared videos that offers free educator accounts. It doesn’t integrate with Canvas, but it has some advantages. It’s straightforward and simple, and you can view all submissions on the same page. This makes it easy to access all videos at once, and for students to peer review each others’ work if you want to include that activity. While grading won’t be in Speedgrader, you can use a rubric and input grades manually into the Canvas Gradebook.
Within a class Flipgrid for each assignment, you can create separate topics and break students up into groups for discussion/reflection/peer review. Flipgrid allows you to set the maximum length of the videos for specific topics (from 60-second quick takes to 10-minute presentations.) Students can respond to each others’ posts with a video reply.
The screenshare feature in Flipgrid allows students to present their slides or other content. They can also add a slide as a “custom sticker” if they are only using one slide.

Setting Up a Flipgrid:

  • Follow the steps on Flipgrid’s Getting Started page for educators.
  • Create a Flipgrid for each individual class that would normally meet in the same place (per FERPA regulations). Within the Flipgrid, you can add multiple discussion topics/assignments.
  • Add co-instructors and TAs as “CoPilots” so they can help facilitate the grid.
  • When creating your Flipgrid, choose the “Student Email” type. This will only allow access using their email address and prevent users outside Emory from accessing it.
  • Turn on Video Moderation in the Topic settings to prevent students from seeing each others’ videos until you have reviewed them.
  • Each grid has a unique link or code you can use to share the grid in Canvas or email.
  • Students can also access the grid on their mobile devices via the free Flipgrid apps for iOS and Android.

General Recorded Presentation Tips

  • Conduct a graded peer review round for students to practice their presentation and reply to each others’ videos with feedback.
  • Create an ungraded or graded activity that allows students to practice using Studio or Flipgrid before starting the main assignment.
  • Set a presentation time limit of 10 minutes. If you want to add more to the assignment, include a complimentary activity such as peer review, a reflection essay, or an annotated bibliography related to the presentation.
  • As with live presentations, create a rubric for the assignment and host a Q&A session to clear up any ambiguity.

Photo by Matthias Wagner on Unsplash