Making the Most of PowerPoint

Microsoft PowerPoint, despite its competition, is still the dominant program of choice for instructors and presenters. It offers unmatched accessibility and ease of use, which unfortunately results in endless poor PowerPoint presentations that give the service a bad reputation. In the eLearning field especially, PowerPoint has become a scapegoat of sorts for courses with flawed, uninteresting layouts and style. However, despite how long it’s been around, PowerPoint still has plenty of tricks up its sleeve that you can use to make strong eLearning material. You just have to know where to look. In this post, we’ll outline some of the dos and don’ts of using PowerPoint for your eLearning courses.

Misconceptions about PowerPoint

There are a handful of rightfully harsh assumptions users tend to make about PowerPoint that can be proven false with enough effort. Here are just a few:

  • There’s no room for creativity
  • It’ll only be dull walls of text with bullet points
  • We have to look at ugly clip art and long animations/transitions
  • The presenter just reads straight off the board

Now let’s look into fixing them.

Solutions

  • Creativity

The best tip for making a unique presentation is to ditch the basic templates. Whether that means using a premium template sourced online or coming up with something on your own using the tools provided, a PowerPoint that looks different is always a good start.

If you don’t consider yourself a creative type, here is a resource for you to browse premium templates: PowerPoint Templates from GraphicRiver

If you’d rather work with the basic tools, the best advice is to explore and experiment with them as much as you can. A presentation that makes use of infographics, timelines, videos, and pleasant visuals is much better for audience engagement than one with text and empty backgrounds.

  • Text and Layout

The key word to remember with your wording in a PowerPoint is moderation. While circumstances may vary depending on the presence of a live instructor, nothing kills the momentum of a PowerPoint presentation like a stagnant wall of text. Especially when users are allowed to read ahead, then are forced to wait around while the narrator catches up. If the PowerPoint will be used in person, consider setting up the text with reveals that can be controlled by the presenter to avoid creating an off-balance pace.

Slides can come across unprofessional when they have too few or too many words forced into the space. Consider your wording and its distribution carefully, using lots of white space and other formatting elements such as bullets and sub-headings.

Vector clip art of yellow smiley. Example of art commonly used in unimpressive eLearning PowerPoints
This is the kind of clip art best left in the 1990s.
  • Visuals

We recommend avoiding the stock art resources at all costs. In most cases, the offered clip art will come across as extremely dated and unattractive. Ideally, you’ll have your own pre-existing assets to make use of. If not, you’re better off scouring the Internet for more fitting and cohesive art and images rather than resorting to pulling from the Microsoft library. Another common pitfall of PowerPoint users is springing for the most complex slide transitions that they offer. Trust us, a simple fade transition will appear much more elegant.

  • Delivery

The ideal approach for delivery can of course be completely different depending on whether a course is handled remotely or not. In any case, the same advice applies: slow narration of on-screen text is not engaging. There’s nothing wrong with presenting the information conveyed in the slides themselves, but simply copying them word-for-word without any additions or alterations is painful for the audience. As mentioned before, there will always be a problem with certain users reading ahead. In person, presenters should strive to create a conversational, attention-grabbing tone. In a digital format where the text is being narrated, users should be able to pause and/or navigate through the audio track.

PowerPoint in eLearning has certain negative connotations, but it still has legs as one of the premier tools for creating presentations. Remember that creativity is key for grabbing the audience’s attention and to not fall into the trap of overusing the basic default tools. Do this, and you’re well on your way to creating fantastic eLearning material with PowerPoint.

PS – Looking for inspiration? Check out these great examples of PowerPoints.

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