Web 2.0 Digital Tools Selection: Online Presentation Tools

by William Guth

In Part 1 of this series, Web 2.0 Digital Tools Selection Criteria, I shared a method for evaluating digital learning tools that may find their way into our online courses. In this continuation entry, I will demonstrate the method in action by discussing tools which I evaluated as part of my course work for Introduction to Online Presentation Tools.

If you missed the last entry and want a quick catch up, the premise of the Web 2.0 Digital Tools Selection Criteria is to quickly evaluate proposed learning tools by measuring their user-friendliness against a thorough checklist which tests for: Accessibility, Usability, Privacy & Intellectual Property protection, Workload & Time Management, and Fun Factor.

Course Objective

The main objective of the course was to explore and evaluate promising alternatives to PowerPoint for presenting information online. In order to familiarize ourselves with the selection criteria the course presented us with a variety of popular technologies to test and select for our evaluations. Click to view the full list of tools and have fun exploring.

Each participant was tasked with selecting two to three from the list to evaluate against the selection criteria checklist, explain how they might use it in their own online course, and whether not we would recommend it to others.

At the time of my participation I was developing an asynchronous Integrated Marketing Communications course with a final presentation component, and a need to present large swaths of numerical data visually; so I chose Google Slides, VoiceThread, and Infogr.am.

The course learning objectives these tools to would need to support were:

  • To effectively communicate financial consequences of businesses in the areas of strategic intent, profitability, capital returns and shareholder value as it evolves in a digital age; meaning, can you prove that your retail business is Amazon proof.
  • use ratios to analyze and explain a firm’s liquidity and activity,
  • use ratios to analyze and explain a firm’s profitability and its market value, and
  • explain the interactions of the financial statements through financial ratios.

Google Slides

At first glance, Google Slides probably seems like low-hanging fruit. It’s basically a stripped down version of Microsoft Power Point available free online and supported by Google). For our working professional students that makes it easy to learn (Usability). University enrolled students have single-sign-on access to Google Apps through @u.northwestern.edu (Access/Privacy). Work can be shared internally among students/faculty for collaboration and review, or embedded in the Canvas (Privacy/Workload & Time Management). And the software can be used to include multimedia (Fun Factor) Google Slides easily ticked all the boxes on the checklist.


I felt compelled to try VoiceThread in that it had been recommended by many colleagues before as an alternative discussion tool that could infuse greater social interaction. And as I would come to learn it has easy to use features for incorporating media from a variety of sources allowing participants to layer comments and other media. This type presentation and discussion can not only ramp up asynchronous social interaction, but can introduce active learning opportunities to instructional materials and discussion which take on a life of their own. (Fun Factor, Usability). Designed for education, the web based platform platform operates on most browsers and is accommodates the needs of differently-abled learners such as dyslexic or ADHD, hearing impaired and beyond (Access).

Additionally, I felt obligated to test the tool as despite our best efforts many faculty insist on recording voice over PowerPoint. While VoiceThread is not V.O.P.P. you can utilizes many aspects of the V.O.P.P. approach that faculty are familiar with when it comes to teaching them about the platform and its robust features (Usability). Testing the software helped me discover what to listen for in order to confidently recommend it as an alternative when faced with the prospect of V.O.P.P.

My experience with VoiceThread was much like interactive and rich media production of all kinds. Scripting and pre-production proved to be essential tools for success, a basic knowledge of your computer’s recording tools are required, and it can serve as more than an alternative tool for discussions. The tool can be integrated with LMS systems (e.g. Canvas) and set-up for single sign-on much the way we access BlueJeans (Workload & Time Management, Privacy 7 Intellectual Property)

Check out this example that I created.

(Note: The first slide has no interaction, simply click next slide arrow in the lower right to continue.)


I was drawn to Infogr.am as I have always sought easy to use software and platforms for generating info graphics. These are eye catching graphics for statistics and viral messaging that have taken hold in public and social media. And although Infogr.am is was not designed for the social media purpose, it is a web based platform designed to visualize data and present it in an interactive way (Usability/Fun Factor). Several platforms have this as a feature in some form or another and have a built in utility for importing or linking data for your chart, however, Infogr.am is dedicated solely to data representation and interactivity. This is both its strength and its weakness.

If you’re looking to represent your data visually, Infogr.am has templates and themes as far as the eye can see for charts, graphs, maps and infographics (or reports,) and can accept data in several formats including .csv upload, and .json feed, or update dynamically from Google Sheets.

Each type of graphic is interactive in that you can click, toggle, and hover to display different aspects of the data so there is great potential for students to interact with data and learn from these interactions.

Unfortunately, the platform does not play well with LMS systems where content creators have  no control over javascript or CSS which limits the app’s responsiveness ability. In Canvas users can embed their work as an iFrame as you would a YouTube video, but viewing the content on anything smaller than a laptop would be difficult. Infogr.am does have access to video tutorials and How-To instructions, but for uninitiated number cruncher the platform is not all that easy to learn without some frustration.

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