Ever since it was first released in 2015, I have found myself using Microsoft Office Sway for many projects in college- at least once every semester. It's more impressive than a standard PowerPoint and it's easier to read than an infographic, especially for people with print disabilities. Here are some of the reasons I love working with Sway so much.
What is Sway?
Released in late 2015 as a part of Microsoft Office, Sway is a web and mobile application that allows users to create their own simple webpages. While a Microsoft account is required, the service is free to use and supported on most popular platforms. It can be accessed on the web here, the App Store here, and Windows 10 here.
The app design is very similar to the rest of the Microsoft Office products from 2013 onward, though it incorporates a drag-and-drop interface. If I had to choose an app it resembles the most, it would be PowerPoint. The webpages themselves are like a very long infographic, or as one of my friends described it, "a vertical PowerPoint."
Since it is a web and mobile application separate from the rest of the Office products, the accessibility settings are not synchronized across all of the applications. However, the web app can easily be magnified using the browser and magnifier tools, with no compromise in clarity. The mobile app uses dynamic text, for the most part (there are still some sections with small font), and magnification is easy to use. VoiceOver worked well on the iPad too.
So many different content types can be added to a Sway. Some examples include files of all types from other Microsoft applications, YouTube videos, maps, OneDrive files, audio recordings, embedded widgets, and so much more. Almost any widget a student could need or want is available.
Easy to access
Each Sway presentation is assigned its own unique link that can be pulled up by anyone with a web browser. No need to worry if other software is installed on the device. Another bonus is that the websites are automatically compatible with accessibility software such as screen readers- accessibility mode can be enabled by clicking the three dots in the corner and selecting "accessibility mode"
There are so many different options when it comes to designing Sway pages. Users can choose their own theme, color scheme, and typography- or have the software randomly generate a theme for them. Users can do as much or as little as they would like.
There are different text layouts available, with multiple column layouts available- though I prefer the simple one column layout as I find it easier to read. There are also options to organize media into comparisons, stacks, slideshows, grids, and other options. There's also a sliding layout that resembles a PowerPoint.
What I've used it for
While I will not be publishing links to my projects, I have been able to use Sway for several different class projects in college- and all of them received As! Here are some examples of what I have created using Sway:
- A mock website on healthy eating
- A presentation on the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act
- An interactive board on Malaria
- A multimedia project on caves
- A paper on color theory
- A demonstration on web accessibility
How my professors have reacted
A lot of my professors have enjoyed seeing these unique presentations and frequently comment on how much they enjoy the layout. It's much easier to scroll through a Sway page than to click through a PowerPoint, and there's more opportunities to add unique content. I did check with my professors first to make sure it was alright to use Sway, and none of them ever said that I couldn't.
I love using Sway and will choose it over PowerPoint for more creative assignments. I especially appreciate the accessibility features and accessibility view, as this helps me tremendously as a user with low vision.
To show an example of how it looks, I turned this blog post into a Sway page! Check it out here.