Teaching online with PowerPoint

There are two main issues to deal with when creating PowerPoint presentations for use on the web: creating a PowerPoint that is appropriate for web delivery and making it easily viewable on the web. Below are guidelines for both.

Creating PowerPoints for Web Delivery

Watching a PowerPoint presentation in a live class, where an instructor is actually the main focus of attention, and watching one on a computer monitor, where the presentation is the whole show, are two different experiences; and therefore, the presentations need to be built somewhat differently. In a classroom, the presentation is built to supplement your lecture. On the web, the PowerPoint is the entire presentation. Such presentations, therefore, should be built with this “viewability” in mind. What exactly does this mean you should do? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Limit the length of presentations to no more than 10 minutes (break longer presentations into shorter segments). Doing this makes them easier to view in one sitting—and less daunting for the student—and the smaller file sizes make them faster to download especially for students using dial-up Internet connections.
  2. Think of the online presentations more as television or video rather than the way we typically think of them. In your course, they are not supplementing anything. Instead, they are the entirety of the message while a student is watching. So to be most effective, they should have some sort of visual appeal—graphics, a little animation, be easily readable. It may also include audio such as your voice narrating the presentation (see below).
  3. Finally, let’s go back to the beginning. Is this information appropriately communicated in a PowerPoint? Perhaps you and the student would be better off just making the information available in text form instead of a presentation. Create a presentation when you believe your voice, along with graphics and text, will help students understand some concepts better, or when you want to make an alternative way of learning material available to students.
Research on the use of PowerPoint yields these “worst habits” in creating PowerPoints:

  • too many or too few words per slide
  • backgrounds that are inappropriate and distract from the content
  • too much animation, sound effects, or video
  • too many slides for presentation length
  • overcomplicated graphics or charts
  • lack of presentation structure and content relationships.
    [Source: Cooper, E. (2009). Overloading on Slides: Cognitive Load Theory and Microsoft’s Slide Program PowerPoint. AACE Journal. 17 (2), pp. 127-135. Chesapeake, VA: AACE.]

PowerPoints for printing

Another consideration is preparing your PowerPoints for students to print out. For many instructors, this is the whole point of putting the PowerPoint on the web in the first place. It is highly recommended that you convert your PowerPoint to a PDF file. This will enable students to view the slides inside GeorgiaVIEW without having to open PowerPoint (which again, students may not have a copy of). PDF files are also smaller and take less time to download. Furthermore, there are a number of editing features in PowerPoint to help you in creating the PDF as a handout.

One important consideration in preparing a PowerPoint as a handout is to consider colors; especially the background. What may look great on a screen, could take a lot of ink toner to print out. Rich or dark-colored backgrounds, for instance, take a lot of ink to print and may even be hard to read once printed out. White or very light backgrounds are preferred when creating a handout. The easiest way to avoid this problem is to change your print options to grayscale. This drops all the color and prints in only black and white.

To save your PowerPoint as as handout in the PDF format,

  1. Click File and then Save As, and then click PDF.
  2. In the Save as type list, click PDF Document.
  3. In the Publish as PDF dialog box, click Options. Under Publish options Select Handouts and choose these other options:
    • Slides per page   Select how many slides you want to be printed on each page. Six usually is the most you can get on an 8 X 11 page without losing too much detail. When you choose three per page, PPT automatically creates lines beside each slide for note-taking.
    • Frame slides   Select this check box if you want each published slide to be bordered by a frame.
    • Include hidden slides   Select this check box if you want hidden slides to be published.
    • Include comments and ink markup   Check this check box to publish the document with comments and ink markup visible.
    • Order  When slides are published as handouts, click Horizontal or Vertical to determine the order in which slides appear on a page.
  4. Click OK
  5. Click Publish and your PPT is saved as a PDF.

Narrating your presentation

Narrating your presentation can add a lot of personality and depth to the presentation. Below is a video explaining how to create narrations.

Be sure to test your microphone and do a test recording to make sure it sounds as you desire. Making a script beforehand is also a recommended practice.

Publishing your presentation for the web

Once your presentation is fully created, then you need to publish it in a form that makes it viewable and small enough for easy viewing on the web. There are a number of ways to do this, but remember that you need to be sure your presentation is accessible. To ensure accessibility, the presentation must be closed-captioned and a transcript of the audio provided.

You can do this yourself by exporting your PowerPoint as a wmv movie file and then uploading it to YouTube. In YouTube there is a captioning option. It will automatically close-caption your presentation. Unfortunately, it is far from full-proof and will necessitate that you edit the captioning.

Another alternative is to send your narrated PowerPoint to the CTE and let us convert it for you and also provide the captioning. Contact the CTE for more information about this.

Instead of converting to video, there are a number of conversion programs available including two good free programs that are pretty easy to use: AuthorPoint Lite and iSpring Free. These two programs put a tab in PowerPoint that lets you convert your presentation into Flash. You can then put the presentation in your GeorgiaVIEW course. Unfortunately, these Flash presentations are not accessible if audio narration is included.


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