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Yes, We Teach Presentations Online and It Works: Methods for Teaching Technical Presentations to Practicing Engineers in an Online Environment

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Continuing Professional Development Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Continuing Professional Development

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1780.1 - 26.1780.11



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Paper Authors


Christine G. Nicometo University of Wisconsin, Madison

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Christine Nicometo is the Program Director for Professional Literacies Courses in the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Department of Engineering Professional Development. She has taught technical communication online for over a decade as a faculty member in the following online programs: Master of Engineering Management; Master of Engineering in Engine Systems; Master of Engineering in Sustainable Systems. Her co-authored book on technical presentations, (SlideRules: Design, Build, and Archive Technical Presentations in the Engineering and Technical Fields), was published in 2014 by IEEE-Wiley.

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Traci M Nathans-Kelly U of Wisconsin-Madison; Cornell University

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Traci Nathans-Kelly, PhD, teaches engineering and technical communication at Cornell University and also at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in their respective Colleges of Engineering. Her work allows her to inform the practices of engineers at all levels—from practicing engineers on the job in almost every sector of engineering work to undergraduates readying themselves for job demands. Sponsored by the IEEE Professional Communication Society, she is the series editor of the Wiley-IEEE Press line titled “Engineering Professional Communication,” where she helps engineers and communicators alike bring their ideas to wider audiences, both academic and professional. She gives workshops on various engineering communication topics to audiences in the professional and academic realms alike. Nathans-Kelly was recently part of a National Science Foundation grant studying the alignment of engineering education with practice.

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    Yes, We Teach Presentations Online and It Works: Methods for Teaching Technical Presentations to Practicing Engineers in an Online Environment    We have been teaching technical and engineering communication in a graduate-level online course for over eight years. As part of that work, we advise thestudents (all are practicing engineers) about writing and presenting. In fact, thepresentations element of the course is unilaterally the most lauded element of thatcourse. However, again and again, instructors interested in teaching presentationsonline ask us, “How can you do that? How can presentations be taught online?”Our answer is both a complicated and simple one: you must have the right setup,the right infrastructure, and a thorough understanding of the students’ context andmotivation.Lacking the benefit of being able to constantly model presentation techniques in aface-to-face arena for our students, we engage them through a variety of otherpedagogical methods and teaching strategies. In addition, because we areconstrained by our lack of physical modeling (outside of video, which also has itslimits), we have essentially flipped the presentation classroom to have thestudents do the “real” work of their presentations in their actual engineeringworkplaces. From small practice bits (elevator talks) to long on-site and high-stakes presentations, participants develop deep understandings of audience, level,targets, goals, and topic control. There are many moving parts to consider for suchwork on our part, such as platforms, issues concerning proprietary information,face time, and feedback mechanisms; these we will share and discuss in our paperto help readers consider their own opportunities and limitations with a model suchas ours.There is ample evidence of the success of our model from both student self-reports as well as employer evaluations and feedback. Furthermore, this model isscalable to other graduate technical and professional communication courses. Ourpaper will elaborate on the techniques we have deployed to achieve success inteaching behind a screen and share best practices for others who use presentationsas a means of fostering and evaluating student learning via distributed learningplatforms.

Nicometo, C. G., & Nathans-Kelly, T. M. (2015, June), Yes, We Teach Presentations Online and It Works: Methods for Teaching Technical Presentations to Practicing Engineers in an Online Environment Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.25116

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