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Projecting: Multiple presentations in one class period

March 2, 2010 by Chad Shorter

If multiple students will give presentations on the same day, there are a couple of options, each with its own advantages and disadvantages, for techincal set up.

Option 1 -- One computer + many thumb drives

Students put their presentations (and media files) on thumb drives.  The instructor reserves an AV Pool laptop and projector (if there isn't one permanentely in the room).


  • Students must make sure that all media used in the PowerPoint is actually included in the presentation file instead of just linked to in the presentation file.  (Most frequently this issue appears when using media with large file sizes -- e.g. video clips.)
  • To help avoid compatibility issues students should save their PowerPoint presentations in the 2004-2007 compatibility mode (an option for file type when using "Save As"), then the presentation is more likely to appear the same on an LSS laptop running either as a PC or a MAC.
  • If the presentations are made only of still images (no other media, transitions, or moving parts), the students can save their Powerpoint as a PDF file.  PDF freezes the images as they appear and can be opened in other programs than Powerpoint.  All computers have the software to read it.

(Our dual boot laptops run PowerPoint 2008 for MAC on the MAC side, and PowerPoint 2007 on the PC side.)

Benefits of this option:

  • Less likely to have projection issues.
  • Potentially save time by not switching between computers.

Potential pitfalls:

  • Students save presentations in incompatible formats.  
  • Students link to media on their laptop, rather than include it in the presentation file.

Option 2 -- Many computers

Students arrange to bring their own laptops. Students without laptops borrow from each other or from a campus InfoLab.  Students switch laptops between each presentation.


  • Students with Macs must make sure they have the right video adapter. Adapters are available for student checkout from the Van Hise InfoLab. Instructors can check out adapters from the L&S AV Pool. Note that students can not check out equipment from the AV Pool!
  • Students must know how to configure and troubleshoot projection on the computer they use for their presentation. Having a plan for technical support and a copy of a projection troubleshooting guide on hand is essential.


  • Less likely to have PowerPoint compatibility issues.
  • Students are more likely to be using a computer with which they are familiar.
  • Opportunity to test the file on their own computers before the presentation.

Potential Pitfalls:

  • Students with MACs often don't have the proper adapter for video projection.  These can be purchased at the DoIT Techstore, but there are many different kinds and they can be pricey.  Some campus Infolabs have these for checkout in limited quantity.  It is useful to take your laptop with you to assure you are purchasing or borrowing the correct adapter.
  • Projection
    issues caused by switching between laptops.  Many instructors have lost class time when students do not know how to get their laptops to project.  This isn't a skill that most students use everyday.
  • We have encountered some problems with machines running Windows 7 that have not yet sufficiently updated their video drivers.  

Option 3 -- Presentations Stored Online + One Computer with Internet

Students make and/or store their presentations online, and download them to a computer the instructor provides at the beginning of class.  Instructors can reserve laptops and projectors at the AV Pool if they need them.


  • Students can save their presentations to MyWebSpace (or Dropbox or another service they're used to using) and download them to the computer at the beginning of class.
  • Presentation services like Prezi stores the presentations online, so one only needs an internet connection to access the presentation through their website.  Students will need to login to their account to access their presentation, which should only take a minute or two at the beginning of their presentation.


  • Time is saved by not switching computers between presentations
  • When using an online presentation service, the presentation will play in the browser, so software compatiblilty isn't an issue.
  • Students can't lose their presentation by losing their flash drive.

Potential Pitfalls:

  • If the internet connection isn't stable, your students may not be able to access their presentations reliably.
  • Online services typically require user accounts, and may place some of their services behind a paywall, so you may want to familiarize yourself with their free offerings before suggesting it to your students.
  • Services like Prezi have a different approach to designing a presentation from Powerpoint.  You may want to include a breif introduction to it for your students.  Inquire about campus support options for this as well.  These services provide a good opportunity to discuss communication skills in class.

As you can see, these plans do not guarantee a string of flawless presentations, but they can certainly help them go smoothly.  No matter which option you choose, it's never a bad idea to plan for cushion time between presentations.  You should consider that this process just takes a little bit of time, even for the most confident users.  If it's not something a student does everyday, then the added pressure of limited time on setup will probably contribute to agitation and a rushed presentation.

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