This week in my Technology Tools to Support Learning course, we are discussing an overview of elearning.  These novice instructional designers are on their way to producing some self-paced instruction with Powerpoint and converting it to Flash for ease of deployment.  So, I thought it would be really beneficial for them to see/read the landscape of elearning and Powerpoint.

The Landscape

Certainly, Powerpoint has a stigma attached to it.  Books like Beyond Bullet Points by Cliff Atkinson have tried to move us away from the mental model that templates and bullet points have forced us into.  Similarly, Edward Tufte’s treatise on “The Cognitive Style of Powerpoint” has emphasized the dilution of facts and thought brought about by using the hierarchy of bullet points. Wired magazine even picked up his point back in 2003.

Most recently, a slew of mainstream motivational speakers, techies, consultants, and corporate pundits have brought evangelized a number of methods to improve lecture-type and keynote presentations.  We’ve got the following:

  • Godin – the power of images and big images
  • Takahashi – big text only
  • Lessig – each key word or phrase is isolated to a single slide
  • Kawasaki – 10/20/30 with 10 slides only, 20 minutes max, and 30 point font
  • Ignite – 20 slides, 15 seconds per slide

But has much changed?  We see these pockets of innovation, but the mainstream is still bound to bullet points and poor clip art.

Elearning

Does all of these ideas apply to elearning?  For elearning, the uses of Powerpoint fall into two main categories: development and delivery.

Development

For the development of elearning, Powerpoint has a number of uses.  First, numerous instructional designers and developers have told me that they use Powerpoint for storyboarding.  Powerpoint is simple enough that subject matter experts can even input the information (note that’s information not instruction).  The process of moving from design to development quickly through storyboarding offers a lot of promise for quickly presenting a visual product.

I’ve also heard of folks using Powerpoint as a wireframing tool.  This is where they mock up a user interface quickly to test the interactions and the navigation prior to building a prototype system.  By using the hyperlinking and even Action Buttons/Settings, you can quickly put together a system that responds to clicks to use as a model for a more sophisticated prototype inside Flash, Director, or even a web site.

More recently, Powerpoint has come on strong as a rapid development tool.  This is at the crux of Tom Kuhlmann’s blog. With hyperlinking, advanced graphics features, and templating, Powerpoint offers a lot of advantages to developing a unit as opposed to to building from scratch in Flash.  In addition, there are a number of tools, like Articulate (Tom’s company), that offer conversion of Powerpoint files to Flash for distribution, as well as adding in branching and assessments.

Delivery

The other way for using Powerpoint with elearning is to use it as a delivery vehicle for the instruction.  The most obvious method is for a trainer or instructor to present with a Powerpoint presentation.  This is certainly where all of the ideas above about improving presentations would most easily fit. (And yes, I get that this is technically not elearning.)  Powerpoint can also be used as a stand-alone self-paced instructional unit.  By saving as a Powerpoint show file, kiosk mode, and hyperlinking, the learner can control the presentation.  This is pretty common in K-12 schools.  Finally, I’ve been told by a number of instructional designers that they often produce Powerpoint presentations with text heavy slides for distribution.  They said this works well for their salesforce, who are on the go, and they don’t require an Internet connection, so the salesperson can look at it at any time.

You tell me.

Are there other ways Powerpoint is being used with elearning?  Are you and your organization doing other things with Powerpoint for elearning?  Did I miss something altogether?

Do you have examples to share of just how it is getting used?  Are you using it by itself or with another tools, like Articulate or Impactica?  Let me and my students know.  Put your ideas and comments below.

About Michael M Grant

Dr. Michael M. Grant is a passionate professor, researcher, and consultant. He works with faculty members, schools and universities, and districts to integrate technology meaningfully and improve teaching and learning. When 140 characters just won't work, then he blogs here at Viral-Notebook.com. He has a beautiful wife and three equally beautiful daughters, who will change the world.

17 Thoughts on “The landscape of Powerpoint for elearning

  1. As a third grade teacher, I do not use PowerPoint with elearning. (My definition of elearning is either asynchronous or synchronous instruction that is delivered over a network). I personally use PowerPoint for delivery of instruction. We use Jeopardy-like review games, interactive slides to sort words, present information, etc. (My delivery, by my definition, would not be considered elearning, since it is F2F). However, I searched the internet and found a website (http://projects.coe.uga.edu/lrieber/wwild/search/PPT-search-results.asp) of review games, which if it was delivered a certain way, it could be considered e-learning. However, the content of the PowerPoint games is not new material, so, therefore, it may only be considered e-review! In addition, one school system in New Jersey is advocating the benefits of e-learning in elementary school. They are making the case that if the skill is available on line, parents and students could access them as needed. Again, I think it would be supplement to the classroom. (http://www.trenton.k12.nj.us/columbus/library/E-Learning.htm)
    I believe elearning has a way to go in elementary school. However, in my experience, I do believe PowerPoints are being utilized for delivery of instruction.

  2. Overall, there seems to be a common theme when it comes to using Powerpoint;
    KISS (Keep it Simple…) Thinking back to all of the meetings, workshops, presentations, etc. I have been to in which Powerpoint was used to deliver the information I now know why I was bored to tears. It was all in the presentation (mostly). Perhaps, when people first started using PPT they were overwhelmed with all the options for sound, images, backgrounds, text, transitions, etc. etc. I think we felt compelled to use them because they were there. It was a new toy and we had to try everything. After reading the articles and viewing the slide presentations in this blog I now understand how the presentation/design can affect the learning outcome. I think the best example was the Ignite slide show on buying a car. There was hardly any info on the slides, but each one delivered a powerful message. I found myself listening to the speaker, I wasn’t reading text. Even though he talked rather fast I remembered his main points. I was not overloaded with bullet points and text. I like the idea of big images, they make a stronger impact.
    I don’t know of any teachers in my K-5 school that use PPT to teach lessons. However, I can see where this could be a very useful tool. In any given class a teacher will have students with several different learning styles. A well designed PPT could enhance a lesson and the teacher could reach students on different levels. For example; in teaching the water cycle, a few slides with minimal text and big images could be beneficial to visual learners while not being distracting to a student with ADHD/ADD.
    The Six Recommended Tips provide an excellent framework for designing lessons and presentations in PPT. The big message here is simplicity. I think we have created a generation of distracted kids, providing them with too much information in a distracting manner. The PPT gurus, in my opinion have merged some old school methods with current technology.

  3. Michael Dowdy on October 16, 2009 at 1:39 pm said:

    PowerPoint has been a common tool in workforce learning for years with internal presentations being PPT as well … the transition was natural. Learning and Development professionals has concentrated more on the surrounding learning environment over the past few years via better web 2.0 technologies and the understanding that blended learning approaches are delivering better results. So, the actual online content is only one small part of a larger learning ecosystem. Therefore, speed of development is a primary concern with more FTE % being focused on the overall support of the blended experience (coaching, mentoring, online facilitation, etc). Corporate revenue and strategic directions of today’s training departments require dev groups to show more impact higher up the value stream … therefore development becomes expensive and a necessary reduction. Tools like articulate enable faster development of bandwidth light content with quick and adequate instruction that fits into these larger learning experiences. Old ASTD time estimates are out the window with flash-based content now within reach at a sub-80 hours of dev time …. that is good.

  4. Michael Dowdy on October 16, 2009 at 1:41 pm said:

    I typed the last comment on my mobile … I apologize for the choppiness.

  5. Susan’s KISS response reminded me of a blog Dr. Martindale had this summer. It included a slideshare about PPT http://www.slideshare.net/RowanManahan/presenting-with-visuals. Though PPT, the author demonstrated common mistakes made. Last year, I developed PPT for my undergraduate courses. They were chapter summaries and discussion guides during the class. The discussion led to activities. However, agreeing with Susan, at times, they could have easily been too overwhelming for students. On the other side, when doing a training, this type of instruction can quickly become boring if too long. Unless, as Michael explains, it occurs entirely in the 2.0 realm.

  6. I am the Technology Coach for a K-12 school system in rural Northwest Tennessee. Within the county, we have 9 schools that cover 603 square miles. Within all of that area, there are 9 schools that are located at each corner of the county and several located in-between. Why am I passing on all of this pointless information? It is a direct reflection of the challenges we face with professional development for our teachers. Since we are rural and stretched so far apart, it is an ever increasing challenge to create opportunities for training and instructional support. In an attempt to continue professional development without compromising classroom instruction time during the day, the technology staff (me) created a web based ‘bank’ of instructional units using PowerPoint. Why PowerPoint? Its already purchased for district use and our teachers know it well. With the upgrade to 2007, PowerPoints are able to include all sorts of multimedia such as: video, audio, photos, hyperlinks, etc. I am able to create a tutorial on a topic such as, checking your email using Outlook, and utilize screen shots, audio and even a video or free screen recording tool (Web 2.0 freebie) and compose an instructional unit that my teachers are able to watch and learn on their time from any location without a learning curve for the unit delivery method. This has been a very successful venture for us and as open source continues to grow, PPT presentations will continue to develop and integrate ‘oodles’ of instructional multimedia authoring tools.

  7. I enjoyed reviewing the variety of ‘techniques’ (Godin, Kawasaki, Lessig, Takahashi, etc.) but initially made the mistake of seeing those as methods for live presentations, since they relied on slides that had creative ways of limiting the text/information on each slide and imposed on the presenter to fill in the story that goes with each slide. However, given the technology available for creating audio, I can imagine that even a tutorial could replicate the energizing brevity of these techniques while using synchronized audio to supply the story.

    I think PowerPoint is getting a bad rap, and I don’t think Microsoft was wrong to put in the templates. The ease of using the built-in presentation templates can put you miles into developing a presentation or instructional piece; we just have to remember that it is not necessarily a requirement to stick to the bullets. PowerPoint offers a blank slate for graphic and message design–what we do with that is up to us. The suggestions posited in this Landscape dialogue surely show us some alternatives.

  8. Chia ming Cheng on October 19, 2009 at 5:15 am said:

    Read other people comments. It seems ELearning with PowerPoint is a trend in the USA, but it isn’t in Taiwan. So, when I worked in Taiwan, I do not have any chance to use PowerPoint. I got many ideas from these comments and evoke more interesting.
    I learned Godin, Kawasaki, Lessig, and Takahashi lecture-type when I studied master degree, but the professor did not tell us who designed these lecture-types.
    As I know, PowerPoint is not just a presentations tool. I had one special experience; I saw one my classmate designed PowerPoint and exhibited his project to us. He used PowerPoint to design an animation video. So from the example, we can know do not put anything in a frame. You can create more than you think.

  9. One of the professors I worked under had a rule to create PowerPoint slides which she termed the “1-2-3-4-5 presentation rule”! According to this rule, the transition effect from one slide to another had to be the same(choose ONE animation style and stick with it); use just TWO colors (one for the text and one for the background) and keep it consistent throughout the presentation; a presentation needs to have THREE sections-title, details and summary; the FOUR C’s needed to be in place – clear, consistent,clutter-free and contrast; finally, no-slide should have more than FIVE pieces of information (with up to 5 words to describe each). Based on the grades, it seemed to work well for the course she taught (undergraduate biochemistry). The basic rules for any presentation can remain the 1-2-3-4-5 rule but more finesse needs to be added for purposes of e-learning.PowerPoint is ubiquitous and its ease-of-use makes it so popular for e-learning content development and delivery tool. The tips recommended in the readings clearly state what works and what doesn’t while using PowerPoint. It is safe to say that using PowerPoint effectively for e-learning requires “mash-ups” with other tools(For eg., PPT->Flash; PPT->LMS etc) that have been especially designed for e-learning purposes.

  10. Rachel on October 21, 2009 at 1:54 pm said:

    I agree with Michael Dowdy’s comments entirely and am seeing the same sorts of requirements in the workforce that he mentioned. I work with global compliance training, so even removing the need for translation; it is either very expensive or very inconvenient to offer a live training that a global audience can attend. I am seeing a lot of SMEs creating a PowerPoint presentation to deliver to a live audience as usual, but adding the step of recording the audio as they deliver it. My team can then take the PowerPoint and the audio, sync it up using Articulate and publish it to our LMS. Now the whole world has access to the “live” presentation within 24 hours and anyone can revisit it any time. Until business stops using PowerPoint as the main stand-and-deliver communication tool it will be a critical part of rapid creation e-learning.

  11. DePaula on October 21, 2009 at 4:21 pm said:

    As a current trainer/instructional designer, I use powerpoint as the foundation for creating online modules, presentations, etc. When I use PowerPoint in the workplace, there are specific guidelines that we must follow, such as font style and size, background, bullets, transitions, etc. I do think that when you are in an environment where you will product multiple presentations or modules for users that there must be some type of consistency.

    The company that I presently work for use powerpoint to publish with Articulate and Captivate. Using PowerPoint in design makes it easy for others to view the files electronically prior to creating modules using other software. Mostly everyone has Microsoft Powerpoint, which makes it easy for getting approvals from clients.

  12. Danielle (UU) on November 5, 2009 at 9:52 am said:

    In my Education 250 class, we have learned to intergrate slides to create a game in Powerpoint. I found this very clever in the fact that it would work as an excellent review game for students. I was able to create a type of Jeoprody game that was fun and interesting for the third grade level. My endorsement is physical education, therefore I took physical activity and made it fun and interesting. Turning exercise into a game makes it a lot more fun for students. ‘
    I find this would be very efficient and I am sure I will use it in the future with my own classroom.

  13. Hope (UU) on November 5, 2009 at 11:19 am said:

    I am a Union University pre-service student. I do agree that “e-learning” can be a great way to integrate technology in the classroom. There are several different ways that you can use PowerPoint as a learning tool in the classroom. You can make your presentations fun and interactive to keep focus during the slides. In my EDU-250 class, here at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, we have made PowerPoint presentations in the form of games, using the action buttons. I learned a new tool that I could use to make PowerPoint presentations more fun for students. I created a “Geopardy” game using my Geometry Standards. I also felt that this new way of using PowerPoint presentations would be beneficial on days where I was absent as a teacher. This would be an easy assignment for a substitute teacher to use and it would not be a wasted day of learning. I find that in teaching math, it is most successful with the more practice and homework the students do in class and on while they are away from school. By creating my own website that is available to my students to use, it gives me a portal to “sneak” in fun ways to do homework. By creating interactive games, you can disguise just doing homework problems out of the book or from the teacher off of the board during class. This interactive tool is the best way to get through to this generation of technology users.

  14. Ashlin on November 6, 2009 at 6:31 am said:

    I am a student at Union University and currently enrolled in a class titled: “technology in the classroom.” We have used several different aspects of powerpoint thus far. One of my favorite assignments using PP was creating a jeopardy-type game used for students to review a certain concept, or subject area. As a future teacher, I desire to be the best teacher I am able to be. Which includes pushing and stretching myself to use my resources, such as PP, to help my students in any way possible. Students often get tired of sitting, doing worksheets all day long. An interacitve PP game is a great way to break up the sometimes dull ordinary school work. PP has so many different features and options, it is our job to explore and make the most of them! What a great opportunity!!

  15. Hope UU on November 8, 2009 at 5:01 pm said:

    I am a Union University pre-service student. I do agree that “e-learning” can be a great way to integrate technology in the classroom. There are several different ways that you can use PowerPoint as a learning tool in the classroom. You can make your presentations fun and interactive to keep focus during the slides. In my EDU-250 class, here at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, we have made PowerPoint presentations in the form of games, using the action buttons. I learned a new tool that I could use to make PowerPoint presentations more fun for students. I created a “Geopardy” game using my Geometry Standards. I also felt that this new way of using PowerPoint presentations would be beneficial on days where I was absent as a teacher. This would be an easy assignment for a substitute teacher to use and it would not be a wasted day of learning. I find that in teaching math, it is most successful with the more practice and homework the students do in class and on while they are away from school. By creating my own website that is available to my students to use, it gives me a portal to “sneak” in fun ways to do homework. By creating interactive games, you can disguise just doing homework problems out of the book or from the teacher off of the board during class. This interactive tool is the best way to get through to this generation of technology users.

  16. Melanie on November 9, 2009 at 11:20 pm said:

    I am a student at Union University and am currently in Dr. Clifford’s education class, technology in the classroom. We have completed a few task on powerpoint this semester. I learned a lot about powerpoint through one of our task where we had to create an interactive powerpoint game. I learned about action buttons and how to connect my powerpoint slides together. I also learned the importance of creativity and how each slide needs to draw the students attention to it. I think that powerpoints are great for teachers to be familiar with because changes things within a classroom up and most all students will look and listen to something visual that is fun and eye-catching. Do you thing that development or delivery powerpoints work better within a classroom and why?

  17. As a student in Dr. Clifford’s EDU250 class, I have recently been instructed on methods of using powerpoint in the classroom. My powerpoint project was developing a “Jeopardy!” game, of sorts. Using action buttons, links, and tables, I was able to create a game board that would link to the different questions. I remember playing this in High School and it being a great learning tool. I think powerpoint really is a great resource for teachers (as long as they can get away from the boring bullet point notes we have all seen hundreds of times).

    We look forward to having you in our class!

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