3 Ways to Go Beyond PowerPoint in Online Courses!

It’s not surprising that “New to Online” faculty sometimes defer to presentation tools like PowerPoint when developing online course materials. Since it’s a commonly used tool in teaching face to face, logically it is often used to create lessons for online courses. However, just like teaching face to face is much more than just looking at slides of content, online teaching can be more effective when lesson content is presented in interactive ways that go beyond merely having the students click through slides.

Going Way Beyond PowerPoint
Engaging Alternatives to Presentation Slides for Online Learning Content

 Here are 3 ways you can get out of the habit of merely uploading powerpoint slides and dramatically increase the look, feel, engagement, and most important effectiveness of your online or blended courses.

1) Alternative Tools For Enhancing Your Course:

HTML ToolsSoftchalk and Dreamweaver are web development tools which allow you to create visually appealing & webfriendly pages that can look much better than options available with just basic LMS tools. The pages may contain videos, audio clips, documents, and text all nicely designed with a chosen look and feel. Here are just a few tips for basic web design.

Surveys – Tools like Polldaddy.com or surveymonkey.com allow instructors to create basic surveys and embed them in WebCampus. You can ask students particular poll questions related to the content in an effort to increase the relevance of what you are teaching.

Educational Apps – Mobile devices afford many new options for learning content. Educational apps can be an exciting way for students to learn by leveraging features that may only be available on mobile devices. For more information on Mobile Learning, check out my previous post called 8 Ways to Jumpstart Mobile Learning in Your Online or Blended Courses.

Podcasts – Content for the lesson should be accessible in a variety of formats: readable written text, audio podcast, and a video vodcast of the lesson.  One statistical analysis reported that students believed podcasts to be more effective than their own notes to help them learn. I use Audacity for most of my recordings. Its free and fairly simple to use.

Avatars – Graphic automated avatars can be used to present concepts and information in an engaging way. Voki.com allows instructors to create an avatar that represents the instructor and short videos can be made and posted using the announcement tool or as an introduction to a particular module. Xtranormal.com allows you to develop whole cartoon videos that also can be quite engaging.

Videos & Learning Object Repositories – There are a variety of video options for increasing the quality of programs in a course. Of course there is youtube but check with your institution to see if there are any site licenses with access to videos such as FilmsOnDemand, Learn360, DiscoveryStreaming. Large repositories of learning videos can be an exciting way to add visual appeal. Also check out learning object repositories to see if there might be a learning object you can use.

2) Make the content interactive! Here is how:

 Increasing the amount of interactivity wth the content in your courses can significantly enhance students learning. Here is a previous post on 6 Ways interactivity can increase learning. You can also learn more about the following types of interactions by checking out my post on Maximizing Learning With Interactivity in Courses.

  •  Presentation Interactions – Student interact with the content of the lesson, not just read 
  • Video Interactions – Instead of just watching a video, questions or surveys popup to allow students to interact and respond as they watch. This allows the instructor to emphasize key points of interest throughout the video. 
  • Practice interactions – Autograded self practices allow students to attempt and learn from their mistakes in ways that can build encouragement and self confidence.  
  • Misc interactions – There are interactive charts, diagrams, flash cards, etc which may be used to make the module more engaging.

3) If you must use PowerPoint, Consider Converting them to .PDF
or Better Yet Use Articulate!

Even with the variety of options and tools available for online content, there may be times when you need to have PowerPoint presentations in your course. If so you may want to save a .PDF version (instead of the .ppt or .pptx version) of the presentation. This can make the file much smaller for downloading andalso makes it so students don’t need Powerpoint in order to view the file. Often browsers allow .PDF files to open within the LMS browser window. If you do convert your Powerpoint to .PDF any animations or embedded video/audio clips will NOT be accessible in the .pdf format but URLs and links to websites should work just fine.

An even better option, which can quickly help you to throw your PowerPoint slides into the 21st Century is to use Articulate Presenter, Quizzmaker, or Engage.  These tools can be used in conjunction with PowerPoint and can make the course significantly more interactive and engaging.

There are many more ways to go beyond just uploading powerpoint slides. What other tools or strategies have you found successsful? Please leave your comments below.

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