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