When to make PowerPoint slides available to students?

medical education

Normally I am used to put the slides of my lectures online on BlackBoard before the actual lecture. In this way the hand outs can be used to understand the material better, at least that is what I hope for. Others never give their slides to students because they’re afraid the students will not attend the lectures when in possession of the slides. Still others put them online just after the lecture. Now which is best?

Providing the slides before the lecture has advantages according to recent published research:

  • Most students reported using the slides as a guide for note-taking while students to which the slides were only available after the lecture used them instead of their notes or as a double check on their notes made during the lecture.
  • On average, students in the classes where slides were posted before lecture reviewed notes after lecture more often, than did students in classes where slides were posted after the lecture.
  • Significant main effects showed that classes in which slides were posted before lecture had greater satisfaction with the timing of slide availability, greater satisfaction with the amount of material on the slides, and greater overall satisfaction with the slides than classes in which slides were posted after lecture.
  • The students in the before-lecture class had a significantly higher mean proportion of participation than did participators in the after-lecture class. The class that had access to lecture slides before lecture had a greater average participation rate per person than did the class that could only access the slides after class. This finding is consistent with the idea that having lecture slides for note-taking during class frees up students’ attention for other classroom activities.
  • Also class attendance was found to be considerably higher in the class that had slides available before lecture than in the class that could only access lecture slides after class. Posting the slides before class has a forewarning function, they may alert students to material with which they expect to have difficulty and thus encourage them to attend lecture.
  • Students prefer having lecture slides to use as a note-taking guide because it helps direct their attention to key information in the lecture, and because they can add their own ideas to these critical points as the lecture progresses

The groups didn’t differ in the number of downloads. The slides available before lecture were downloaded as much as those available after the lecture and also the timing of slide availability did not significantly affect students’ exam scores in either of these two types of courses. This last outcome was surprising, especially because students reported that they felt their studying and exam performance was better when they had the slides before lecture. Exam performance is more likely to be determined by several different factors working in combination such as individual learning styles and studying practices also contribute to how well students perform on exams.

How was this study done?

In this study, students in an introductory Research Methods course and a fourth-year Cognitive Development course, both taught in the Fall and Winter semesters, were provided with PowerPoint lecture slides either before lecture or after lecture. Course material was held constant within each type of class. We collected outcome measures of attendance, class participation, and exam performance. At the end of the semester, students completed surveys containing questions about how they used the slides and their perceptions about the slides. We also obtained information
about students’ attendance in other classes during the semester. We then examined whether providing lecture slides online before class or after class contributed to differences in the outcome measures, as well as contributing to how students used and perceived the lecture slides.

When do you make your slides available? Since before or after lecture availability doesn’t influence exam performance why bother?

slides are simply another tool that must be incorporated into effective study strategies.

Kimberley A. Babb, Craig Ross (2009). The timing of online lecture slide availability and its effect on attendance, participation, and exam performance Computers & Education, 52 (4), 868-881 DOI: 10.1016/j.compedu.2008.12.009