Posting slides online

I recently started a discussion on the PIDP 3240 forum about posting slides online. I post my lecture slides on Moodle the week before – sometimes a slightly condensed version if I’m doing multiple-slides-animations, and always with my quiz slides deleted – but otherwise complete. I post them as a PDF so that the file will be smaller and accessible from most devices.

I haven’t had any student complaints about having my slides online, and I would say that about 80% of my students come to class with either a printout or an electronic version of the slides. I use a pre-reading quiz at the beginning of each class to encourage students to read the textbook (ideally) or at least look at the slides before they come to class.

Some of my colleagues are against the posting of slides online. The types of comments I’ve heard (with my responses in italics):

  • “if students don’t have to take notes in class, they’re not actively learning” – but is copying off of your slides really “active learning”? Some colleagues post just an outline of their slides, with some words omitted so that they’re fill-in-the-blank style instead of having all the words, but I prefer to give students all the information. I’m not sure which approach is actually best here.
  • “if you post everything online, where’s the incentive for students to come to class?” – ouch! I like to think my explanations and examples (and answers to students’ questions) illuminate the subject matter beyond what I have on my slides… Also, our department has required attendance (students get dropped from the course if they miss 3 days in a row without telling us what’s up) so technically this isn’t an issue for me. I also really like that my students learn not to ask “Did I miss anything?” when they do miss a class, because my answer is ALWAYS, “Yes – go look on Moodle.”
  • “if students are following along on their phones/iPads they’re not paying attention to what you’re saying anyhow” – some students use their devices to take notes right on the slides, which is a great and paperless way to take notes… on the other hand some students seem to just flip through the slides along with me and I’m not totally sure what the point of that is!
  • “it’s too much work to post everything online” – it does force me to have my lectures organized a little earlier than if I didn’t post them in advance, but either way I’d still have to put my lectures together. Converting the files to PDF and posting to Moodle only takes me an extra few minutes. 

One additional concern I have is that having all the slides posted lets me go through the material a little too quickly. I have to watch myself on this because sometimes I get excited and just start speed-talking… what can I say, I really love biology and sometimes I just get too into it! I’ve subbed for an instructor who doesn’t post slides online, and I found the pace really, really slow as I had to wait a long time for students to copy down every word from the slides before moving on. I couldn’t really fill that time with additional examples or stories that I would normally get to use in my own class, either, because students were focused on writing and not listening. So I think on the balance, I’m happier posting slides.

Here’s an article from Psychology Today that discusses the subject and suggests an alternative – using a notes Wiki: To Post or Not To Post – although the author has a teaching assistant (sigh) to develop the Wiki. Oh to have a teaching assistant!


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