Review of: Students can give psychology away: Oral presentations on YouTube

Emmerton, A.J. & Malouff, J.M. (2013). Students can give psychology away: Oral presentations on YouTube. Psychology Learning & Teaching 13(1), 38-42. doi: 10.2304/plat.2014.13.1.38

Class presentations are a part of almost every psychology course offered in universities today. These assignments offer many benefits to students, such as helping them think critically about course subject matter, allowing students to get experience giving presentations to their peers, and increasing students confidence in their own knowledge and public-speaking skills. Following this train of thought, a pair of professors at the University of New England in Australia decided to continue with the widely-used assignment of a class presentation, but decided to make the audience much more broad. They assigned their students to post videos to YouTube rather than having students present solely to the other students in the class. This was a very beneficial way to allow students to be able to prepare and deliver presentations, even if they were not in close proximity of the University (which 79% of students actually were not in this specific case).

The professors reported little to no technical error from their students in uploading the videos to YouTube. While this unconventional method of class presentations clearly presents unique challenges as compared with the orthodox way of doing things, it also has distinct advantages. The main advantage of this, as mentioned earlier, is that it allows students who are participating in online courses and may live far from campus to still prepare and deliver a presentation and thus reap the benefits of the assignment. According to questionnaires students filled out along with their presentation submissions, 77% of students felt the assignment was beneficial to improving their public speaking skills, 69% felt it helped them improve their public speaking confidence, and 81% felt that the assignment helped them improve their knowledge of the topic covered in the presentation. Additionally, these presentations could easily benefit the general public as well, allowing the general public access to the lecture material (which in this case was “Behavior Modification”).

While the authors assert that future psychology courses could also benefit from employing this strategy, it could depend on the group of students and the specific teaching situation. In my personal opinion, a YouTube video would not help me nearly as much as an actual speaking presentation would. A YouTube video can be erased and re-recorded any number of times until the author is satisfied with the content. In actual presentations, one is obviously not afforded this luxury, as he/she gets one opportunity to present the material and that is it. Orthodox presentations are in this way a good preparation for life after college, where research presentations as well as other work presentations are an almost eventual guarantee. This is the main problem I see with delivering presentations in this way.

That being said, there are definitely benefits to allowing students to present in this manner, the main ones having been mentioned by the authors in their article. YouTube presentations allow students a practical alternative when they are not able to physically be present in the classroom. Additionally, the YouTube videos become available to the public and are thus accessible for public benefit. And finally, these presentations may indeed help students with their presentation skills, but perhaps not nearly as much as an orthodox in-class presentation would.

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