One of the most important developments in online education is closing the gap between content and engagement by making online learning content interactive. Instead of reading an article or watching a video and then engaging with it later in discussion or an assignment, apps allow for the interaction with learning content that is so important for understanding and retention. For instance, EdPuzzle and PlayPosit allow instructors to add questions, comments, and other interactions to videos. Genially is a recent addition to this movement. It allows instructors to easily add interactions to both live presentations and asynchronous online content and is rapidly gaining converts among educators.
Genially is similar to NearPod and Pear Deck in that instructors build their content on the Genially website in a slide-based format. The main difference is in the remarkably engaging content that the system fosters by its functionality. Instructors can start with a blank slate or use any of thousands of user-created lessons as their starting point. These lessons are not the same old PowerPoints faculty have been using for years. They're attractive and have enticing animations that draw in the user. Whereas PowerPoint tends to attract ugly content—such as bullet points, clip art, and smart graphics (like those three interlocking circles into which many presenters shoehorn concepts)—Genially provides attractive choices of content for building learning activities. There is a direct link to the excellent Pixabay image repository as well as GIFs, drawings, backgrounds, and shapes that pop out at viewer. Instead of smart graphics, Genially offers Smartblocks—integrated mashups of imagery, graphics, animations, and other features that are excellent for representing data. For instance, an instructor who wants to represent progress towards a goal can use an animation that draws an arch across the screen, much like a gas gauge going up.
More importantly, Genially offers a range of interactions that instructors can embed into lessons. There is a built-in function for adding hotspots to images that open callouts with any type of content. An instructor can load an image of an artwork and use hotspots to call attention to the important elements in it, allowing students to explore the picture on their own. Instructors can add a choice board that gives students several options that take students to other content or slides or give them instructions for moving forward based on their choices. This is a great way to build simulations with branching scenarios and feedback on responses. There are also drag-and-drop activities and an option to add a whiteboard for students to draw on as a response. Take a look at this excellent tutorial from Meghan Vestal on how to create interactive lessons on Genially.
Additionally, users can choose from a variety of formats for the content other than a presentation. Instructors can create infographics, games, interactive images, videos, guides, and more. Each type of content comes with a wide range of examples to use as templates, instructors to pick their favorites and swap out the elements for their own. In particular, faculty might want to look at the Personal Branding category, which has a number of highly attractive digital CV options. Instead of the usual text document listing articles, faculty can create an interactive CV that displays categories on different pages in a variety of formats, making it much more interesting and easier to navigate than a traditional CV.
There are a number of ways instructors can use Genially; here are three. One is to accompany live presentations. Whereas instructors used to write notes on the blackboard during class, most are projecting those notes on PowerPoint slides today, which is not much of an advance. Genially allows instructors to create far more engaging visuals to accompany their face-to-face classes as well as embed interactions within those visuals. The instructor can give students a link to open the presentation on their own computers and follow along. Then the instructor goes through the presentation, pausing whenever an interaction appears so that students can work with the information they just received to reinforce their learning. Note that students can get feedback on their responses, but the system doesn’t save those responses for the instructor to view. In this way, it is not an audience response system like Kahoot! or Poll Everywhere.
Another way to use Genially is for synchronous team activities, whether face-to-face or via web conferencing. Escape rooms are becoming a popular educational tool, and Genially features a large number of escape room templates for instructors to use. Teams can go through the scenarios, branching off in different directions depending on their answers. This can be a good way to use class time in a flipped classroom or live events in an online course.
A third use is for creating asynchronous learning content for an online or hybrid class. The learning management system (LMS) still offers few ways to make content interactive. That is why systems like H5P are good for creating interactive lessons that can be loaded into an LMS. Genially allows instructors to create entire lessons in presentation format or single interactions to accompany lesson content. Teachers can download this content can as a SCORM file that can play on any LMS or as a video that runs through the various activities.
Genially’s free plan offers unlimited creations, hosting, and views as well as a large number of templates. These will be sufficient for most educators. The $5-per-month pro plan offers more templates and some additional options related to download formats and the like. This makes Genially an inexpensive but powerful addition to a teacher’s toolkit.