PowerPoint for Courseware Development

Despite the many naysayers, PowerPoint is a fine place to start with eLearning development – whether the ultimate goal is to just convert those presentations to actual courseware or to use the deck as an initial storyboard for further development with more substantial tools like Storyline or Captivate (or any of the other plethora of eLearning tools).

PowerPoint has a place in eLearning development. I’ve worked with hundreds of PPT files over the years, from standard presentations to pre-production storyboards to ILT conversion. Here are some ideas how to fit PowerPoint in to your eLearning production process.

  • Instructional Design: PPT can be a great storyboarding tool, helping develop the presentation and overall flow from one concept or process to the next. Establish base knowledge early in the piece; for example, offer a mnemonic for helping remember what acronyms they stand for.
  • Graphic Design: just as detailed a consideration needs to be made for the overall UI, the content, and related media assets. Elements like callout boxes may vary in size and position but the overall style must be consistent, and keep image styles similar (i.e. avoid mixing clip art and phto-quality images). Establish a Style Guide!
  • Styles: PPT offers many ‘styles’ for text content or you can create custom styles; either way, apply them consistently. Do your bullet points end with periods? Always? (check your Style Guide).
  • Slide Master: understand and use it to help establish consistent screen styles and Notes formatting preferences (i.e. narration scripts or author notes?)
  • Templates(?):Start with a ‘blank slate’ to organize your ideas clearly, avoid getting trapped into the standard PPT templates. Proper use of Slide Masters and some basic design skills, a custom UI design can really help your courseware stand out from all the template-based stuff.
  • Media: Use multimedia and ‘SmartArt’ to grab the learner’s attention. Multimedia not only helps with the overall creativity factor of your development and can really help with engagement and retention. Whether it’s a simple animation created in PPT or video, well-designed media can really help drive home your objectives. BUT use it wisely (blinking text is still a bad idea).
  • Audio: You can also record audio directly in PowerPoint. I prefer to use professional narrators for most courses, doing your own ‘scratch track’ directly in the PPT deck is a fine idea. Once you have the slides built, write out a script (you’re watching Accessibility requirements, right?) and record your scratch track for timing and previews.

Many tools can then take your PowerPoint and do a straight ‘conversion’ to a SCORM (or xAPI) compliant course for LMS delivery. Articulate Presenter Suite and Storyline both do a decent job of this. Captivate, on the other hand…don’t do the conversion; save yourself trouble and just rebuild in Captivate natively.

Regardless of the tool, it’s not just about presenting the information – learners retain more through engagement, interactivity, relevancy, and practice. Regardless of the actual development tool you choose, using PowerPoint to help prep for interactive courseware has several benefits.