We’ve all heard the expressions “Death by PowerPoint” and “PowerPoint-induced coma.” I think we’d all agree that most of PowerPoints stink. Yet after sitting through presentation after presentation that bore us to tears, we turn around and subject our students and colleagues to the same torture that we find so excruciating. Why?
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using powerpoint for class lectures
While other forms of visual presentations have cropped up—such as Prezi and Empressr—PowerPoint remains the presentation software of choice. Yet many folks develop PowerPoint presentations without fully understanding all components of the software and/or presenter tricks that could make for much more effective PowerPoint presentations.
If you use PowerPoint lectures in your face-to-face classes, you can use those same lectures as jumping-off points for creating narrated animations for your online students to watch. That’s the good news.
However, chances are you’ll need to make extensive changes—both to your existing PowerPoint slides, and to how you deliver them. Typically, this means scripting the lecture before narrating and recording it so that all information presented online is:
Slides, even with text and graphics on them, aren’t particularly as good as instructional content because someone needs to explain what’s on each slide. You are still the presenter and you should explain, right? (Right.)
Giving your students PowerPoint slides with only text or graphics is a problem because slides, even with text and graphics on them, really do not stand alone. It’s hard to add enough context without adding tons of text to explain what’s on the slide. And, well, PowerPoint isn’t really the right media for tons of text. If you want students to do a lot of reading, you really should provide students with printed or downloadable print materials.
College course work is meant to be challenging. The content and the vocabulary used are often unfamiliar to many students. For at-risk learners, the challenges are even greater. In some cases, these students have physical or learning disabilities that create accessibility issues, other times the challenges may be the result of the fact that they’re an international student, have anxiety issues, or a strong learning style preference that runs counter to the instructor’s style.
PowerPoint is versatile in allowing us to add multimedia (graphics, sound, audio, video, text, animation, etc.) to our presentations for keeping online students’ rapt attention. But how much multimedia should you add? In answering this question, I find that taking into consideration students’ learning styles and cultural/international backgrounds can help to lessen the risk of using too much or too little multimedia in your online PPTs.
Most people assume that any presentation must be accompanied by a PowerPoint. Many conferences even tell presenters that they must submit their PowerPoint slides before the show–assuming that presenters will use PowerPoint just as they assume that presenters will be wearing shoes. Yet we’ve all seen terrible PowerPoints that detract from the presentation, so much so that we’ve coined the term “PowerPoint induced sleep.”