7 Tips for Creating Awesome E-Learning Courses with PowerPoint

Do you wish you could teach your employees more easily, more frequently and from the comfort of their desks or homes? Are you intimidated by the idea of hiring an informational designer or finding a crack team of e-learning pros? Do you like to do things on your own, but are not sure how to kick off your own corporate learning program?

Deep breaths. Believe it or not, most companies have an excellent tool for e-learning course creation on their desktops right now. It’s called PowerPoint.

What? you’re thinking. But isn’t that just for presentations and stuff? Can I really teach with it? Traditionally, the use of PowerPoint has been limited to long, stodgy presentations awash in bullet points and terrible stock vectors. But you can break the mold, making awesome e-learning and even mobile learning presentations with nothing more than this Microsoft staple. Here are seven tips for rocking the process.

1. Learn to Use PowerPoint Yourself

This may seem obvious, but until you understand the program inside and out, you will not be able to create effectively or take full advantage of its features. Before you launch into creating e-learning courses, take time to fully explore PowerPoint. Perhaps you need to take a class or get a tutorial, or you may just wish to develop a few short courses for your own use before delving into the real content. Ensure some expertise before adding the additional pressures of great pedagogy and stunning design.

2. Abandon the "Presentation Mindset"

If there is one facet of PowerPoint that makes it a poor choice for e-Learning, it’s the fact that this program has so long been used to bore the pants off of everyone within a 100-foot radius. Lose the notion that you are lecturing, and instead focus on offering opportunities for exploration. Use dry text sparingly (warning: this will be your go-to, so beware) and instead incorporate storylines, jokes and word problems, and allow employees to make decisions about their learning, such as what they will explore next.

3. Enough of the ClipArt, Already

You know that weird angular ClipArt guy in a business suit that appears in, like, every PowerPoint presentation ever? He has a neon-colored background and sometimes has punctuation marks over his head? An exclamation point, perhaps? Maybe a question mark if he is confused. Yeah, him. Do not use him.

If you want your employees to use your e-course to learn, you should not signal to them that they can skim, and that is exactly what horrible ClipArt does: It triggers a yawn. Instead, use meaningful, beautiful images that add to your course. Try some of these ClipArt alternatives, and do not forget to add in graphics that convey information, such as graphs or charts.

4. Use Links Like a Boss

Links are crucial to giving the learner a sense of exploration. Many people don’t know this about PowerPoint, but it can function much like a webpage, linking to other pages within the presentation or to outside resources. Use this to your advantage to create an environment for learning, offering both outside resources and linking internally. Send learners to other pages of the PowerPoint presentation to allow them to explore, and link to files for download. You can use a branching scenario in your course to be more effective.

5. Say Goodbye to Bullet Points

What do you associate bullet points with? College lectures, business meetings, stuff you don’t want to learn but have to anyway because somebody said so? If you are like most of us, one or all of these is true. Bullet points rarely present information in the most engaging format, and are likely to be scanned. Instead, try another format for sharing quick facts. A short video would work, as would a chart or table that conveys the same thing.

6. Incorporate Other Programs

A good e-Learning course takes various learning styles into account, which means it uses lots of different approaches to the material. Video, audio, text and interactive content all have their place, but some are harder to create in PowerPoint than others. Do not be afraid to play around with other program, like Photoshop, Illustrator, or Lightroom.

7. Use Nonlinear Navigation

Offer your employees lots of user control when engaging with your content. Not only does this give them a sense of agency, it may suit their learning styles better when they have unfettered access to the material. Employ a few main slides, and then allow the learner to choose where to go next. When they are done, they can transition back to the main page.

Once you’ve created your content, it’s time to edit, test and make sure it’s in the right format for employee use. If you need to, you can use a PowerPoint converter to format your files (we happen to know of a great one if you need suggestions! *wink wink* After that, run several iterations of your new course (asking employees to complete the whole thing, then give feedback) so you can tweak it accordingly.

And remember: It might be a cliché, but getting started is the hardest part. Keep that in mind as you design your courses, and before you know it, you will have mad e-Learning course creation skills that you can call upon whenever you need to.

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Posted in e-Learning