Jan 12, 2010

Posted in Education, Teaching

To post, or not to post? Should Professors Upload Powerpoint Slides Before Class? The comments stream in.

After I posted this poll about whether professors should post powerpoint slides before class, I was flooded with a torrent of comments on facebook. I reproduce some of the best comments below.

  • My thoughts: The professor is the king or queen of his or her kingdom and should teach however he or she wants. This would include whether he or she wants to post slides ahead of time or ever.
  • I understand you like your approach better, esp with your special learning style. But it is not professors’ job to cater to all the learning styles of their students. It’s their job to teach in the manner they think is best (or even the manner think would make the students’ lives the hardest, which I think many professors do). If it stifles those who “learn differently” then there are ADA and Section 504 accommodations these students can apply for. :P
  • If I have my slides ready, I post them all. Otherwise, they are developed as the class goes on. For other classes, I use socratic and no slides.
  • Josh, didn’t you know that colleges and universities are businesses. Stifling learning styles is par for the course. Do you really think it takes three years to “learn” everything covered in the 90 credits or so we were required to take – even considering the socialization aspect and/or the acquiring wisdom aspect. Ah hell no. You and I could have easily read through, internalized, “learned” and tested well on everything within a year.
  • I also adopt an anti-paternalistic approach. That is why I never disable laptops or discourage surfing. Somebody has to be give a C, and if everyone is paying attention, it means I have to make the exam really tough to get a curve. My way is a Pareto optimal solution.
  • There are also a lot of students (like me) that if you post the slides online beforehand then I find no reason to go to class. Why bother going to class and listening to annoying know it all students when the points I need to know are being made in an easy to read, less painful manner? If you post then afterwards then the students have to pay attention in class and then can use the slides as a recap of the important points.
  • Josh, your poll does not give the real option I am looking for — “only if they want.” To me it is not a matter of should or should not . . . As a student, I could care less whether slides are posted. I could also care less whether the internet is banned or not. I am (was) a student with no real preferences. As a professor, however, I have specific preferences and don’t find my preferences paternalistic, but helpful to me, the teacher. I am not looking out for the students’ “best interest,” I am just trying to run the class in the way that maximizes my ability to get the information across effectively. Some professors might think it is effective to post slides/allow the internet, some professors might find it more effective to teach if they don’t post slides/ban the internet.
  • It isn’t about the professor being selfish. If the professor teaches in whichever method maximizes their effectivness in getting the information to the students, then the students are getting the best information they can and it is up to them to digest it. Even if 1/2 the class prefers posting slides beforehand, if the teacher cannot teach to their highest potential using slides then everyone is being harmed. Each person has their own learning style, but each person also has their own public speaking style (which is basically what teaching is). So if you can teach with slides then that is great for your students who learn best that way. If someone teaches best without having to refer to slides, then that is great for their students who learn best through hearing the material without slides to distract them. In the end, there is no way a professor can teach the way all the students prefer but they can teach the way that lets them present information to the best of their own ability. Basically, just because you prefer slides 1. doesn’t mean other teachers prefer to use slides and 2. doesn’t mean other students learn most effectively using slides.
  • I don’t even really use slides, except sometimes to guide discussion topics, and those wouldn’t be very effective to post. I also never said I wouldn’t post slides, or that it is not a good idea. I just don’t think there is a right or wrong answer. I think every professor has their own teaching style, and can be effective or not based on the style they develop. Not posting slides, if I have them, doesn’t mean I don’t respect my students and am not being helpful or good teacher. It just might mean I don’t find it effective. And, I think my students would find me to be very open and anti-paternalistic (in the sense that you mean). But, I have never posted slides.
  • See, generally I find that in order for PowerPoint to work at all, the slides shouldn’t contain every detail of the lecture. Otherwise, the slides just look cluttered.  So if you’re following the “just put a few key bullets” on each slide model, then I can’t imagine too many students should be deterred from entering class.
  • I think the professor’s job is to impart knowledge and help students learn. Posting the slides before class will allow some students to get more out of the lecture, therefore it is a good move. On the other hand, Josh I agree with you that it is paternalistic for a professor to say “no I won’t post the slides before class because some students might not pay as much attention.” If some students rely on the powerpoint slides rather than paying attention in class, then how would it even matter whether the slides are posted before or after the lecture?
  • Yes, I would post the slides, unless you have some particular thing you don’t want people to be able to read ahead. Let people figure out what works for them. I appreciate knowing what’s coming: I won’t ask a question that will be answered in the next 5 minutes, for example.
  • I can’t stand it when profs ban laptops. Other people’s notes are not of much use to me, and my own notes are not of much use to anyone else. I write *notes*–I don’t slavishly write down everything the prof says; what’s the point of that? If that’s really needed in a class, I think the prof should be posting written material instead of having dozens of people frantically writing down the exact same thing during class.

One of the more interesting suggestions, was to designate one student as a note taker, and essentially ban everyone else from taking notes, either on laptop or on paper.

  • I don’t like laptops, I like eye contact as much as possible, I like to connect. I love the idea of banning laptops except for one student who is designated to transcribe notes for the entire class. A different student each class could be the note transcriber and would send the notes out to the entire class after. And the rest of the students can just listen and engage in discussion without having to worry about taking information down. I like an engaging classroom style that is least stressful for the students.

My comment in response:

  • One designated note taker taking notes for everyone else. Sounds like a scene from the 20th Century Motor Company from Atlas Shrugged. The shirking costs in such an environment are quite high. In that instance, students would invariably “cheat” by taking their own notes, thereby defeating the system, and punish those students who play by the rules by not taking notes. Invariably, the students who do best will be the students who try the hardest. The students who do the worst will be the students who do the least work. The outcome will be the same.

So what’s the verdict? To post or not to

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  • expat

    Law student here. We’re required to attend class by the American Bar Association. Missing is a big deal. I would prefer the slides before, because many get distracted trying to type the slides as quickly as possible while filling in relevant discussion. If we have the slides before, we can listen to the Prof rather than play scribe, be prepared with more insightful questions, and spend valuable time learning, as opposed to the drudge work of marrying notes with slides. Twenty years ago, note taking was note taking. Now we have to split attention between absorbing slides, taking notes, while trying to engage with the lecture. Add in the day-or-five lag of Profs sending the slides. Incredibly frustrating. It creates pointless work that detracts from the content and participation.