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How to Use PowerPoint Triggers Effectively in Your E-Courses

3 minutes

If you are using PowerPoint to craft an e-Learning course, you should be using triggers throughout your entire presentation. The trigger is a powerful tool for creating a functional, interactive e-course.

Although most people who already know how to use PowerPoint triggers associate them with animation effects, triggers can be used to many different ends. Learning to employ them effectively will help you create an engaging e-course that draws learners in on any platform – desktop, laptop, tablet, or mobile – and increases the chances that they will retain that information over the long haul.

Below we will discuss what exactly a PowerPoint trigger is, how to use one, and the different ways in which it might be useful in your e-Learning presentations.

What Is a PowerPoint Trigger?

Essentially, a PowerPoint trigger is just an instruction within the presentation that says “If this, then that.” So when a user clicks on a certain area of the slide or object, the presentation knows to respond in any of a number of different ways, depending on how you have set the behavior of that trigger. Perhaps it starts an animation, or reveals something that was previously hidden. Bottom line: when it is clicked, something happens.

How Do You Use One?

Triggers can be used in many different ways, including quizzing learners, revealing the answers to multiple choice questions, giving them autonomy regarding the order in which they learn material, and more. Because a trigger does not, well, trigger behavior within the slide until it is clicked, it allows the user to control the learning process.

Note at this point that triggers are not the same as hyperlinks. PowerPoint hyperlinks, which can either link out of the presentation or to another slide within it, are another very powerful tool, but are not the same as triggers. The main difference is that triggers act only within the slide, so they don’t make a good option for navigation.

Below we will offer several specific ideas for how to use triggers in your PowerPoint presentation.

  1. Reveal an Answer

    One of the simplest ways to use PowerPoint triggers is with multiple choice questions. Set up a slide with a question and, say, four different answers. Ideally, the learner clicks the right answer, and this triggers a popup explaining why it is the right answer. If they should happen to click the wrong answer, the popup will inform them that they got the answer wrong (kindly, of course), and then explain why. In this way, getting an answer wrong can be even more educational than getting one right, because the learner gets to engage with the material even more.

  2. Test a Learner

    This is a variation of the above idea, in which you ask a question and simply place an object or phrase below that the learner can click on when they want the answer revealed. This is a great way to help learners test themselves on information they’ve already learned, but is also a useful way of helping them engage with the material before they learn it, if you choose to do so. You can also adapt this to make flashcards: place the word or concept at the top of the screen, then an object the learner can click below to reveal the definition.

  3. Offer Autonomy

    Just as with traditional learning, e-Learning must respect the various ways in which people learn to be most effective. Some people like a very linear approach to material; some prefer to click around or go where their interest takes them. You can cater to these differences within a slide by hiding all material at the beginning and just using headings to indicate what material is where. When the learner clicks on certain headings, relevant material pops up. This allows them to learn in the order they choose, which can help with knowledge retention.


Triggers, like hyperlinks, have many uses in e-Learning courses. Use them to their full effect and you will help learners retain information and gain a richer understanding of the material than they otherwise would.

Have any creative ideas on how to use triggers in e-Learning courses? Share them in the comments below!

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