An interactive online approach to small-group student presentations and discussions

Document Type


Publication Title

Advances in Physiology Education









First Page


Last Page


Publication Date



Student presentations had been widely implemented across content areas, including health sciences education. However, due to various limitations, small-group student presentations in the classroom may not reach their full potential for student learning. To address challenges with presentations in the classroom, we redesigned the assignment by having students present and discuss online using VoiceThread, a cloud-based presentation and discussion tool. First-year students pursuing a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree were assigned into small groups to present physiology content and to discuss that content online. This assignment was similar to traditional student classroom presentations, with the exception that the entire assignment was conducted online. The primary purpose of this exploratory study was to investigate the impact of the online format on the discussion quality. Another purpose of the study was to examine students’ perceptions of using VoiceThread for presenting and learning, as well as the online interactions between the presenter and audience. Students posted a higher number of questions and comments than required by the assignment. The questions from students were also higher level questions, and the answers to these questions were more thorough compared with what we had previously observed in classroom presentations. The survey results showed that students preferred using VoiceThread for presenting, learning from other presentations, and discussing presentation content over performing this process in the classroom. Preliminary findings suggested that having dental students make presentations and hold discussions online might help address the challenges of student presentations in the classroom.