Can Powerpoint presentations translate into online content?

Online delivery brings a whole new meaning to the development of content. Subject experts know their stuff. They can prepare mega Powerpoint presentations, often using as many different animations and transistions as they can and including a vast range of coloured fonts and styles (hey, if you’ve got it, why not use it), but does this actually add impact?  How many slides are just too text heavy and how many are just ‘fillers’ – providing information that is not absolutely necessary. Are they missing the point? You only have to look at the bored expressions on the majority of the faces in the audience to know this approach is not engaging or effective. This type of content will definitely not cut the mustard if it’s transferred, as is, into an online learning environment.

What does a time-poor teacher do when they are told they must have an online course up and running in an unrealistically short time, but are given no time to prepare appropriate content? It’s very tempting for them to take their existing presentations, load them into the learning management system, add some supporting links to YouTube videos and external websites, and hey presto, content (hence course), is online.

Some professional guidance in an instructional and graphical design context can bring a whole new dimension and engagement to this same content. Here are 3 things you can do to get started:

  1. Define the main message and explain to yourself why it’s so important for students to know this piece of information or skill in a real life situation. If you have several ‘main messages’ existing within one presentation, identify and separate them into separate presentations.
  2. Identify and organise supporting information based on your rationale of it’s importance to the main message – eliminate any ‘information dump’ and instead pose tasks for students to undertake so they discover this related information through their own research. They can report their findings back in discussion forums (interactivity).
  3. Limit your presentation to 10 – 12 slides. This is going to be your hardest challenge. Oh, and don’t try to cram these with lots of text, colours and fonts – keep them simple, factual and snappy. You can eliminate a certain amount of words by incorporating images, but these need to be carefully selected to enhance your message. I’ll talk about this in my next blog.
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