Applying rapid design to classroom PowerPoints

The day-to-day reality for those of us working in internal training departments is that we’re often tasked with the daunting job of quickly turning classroom training into online experiences.   You know that if you had the time or the budget you could do something really amazing that would change behaviour and give the learners something to talk about.

But for this project, time, budget, and/or other constraints dictate that all you can do is take the classroom trainer’s existing PowerPoint deck and publish it online.

We totally feel your pain. Here are three simple tips you can apply those PowerPoints in order to get something up that’s good enough and on time.

1. Make it chunky

We’ve seen it many times: classroom trainers put all their content in their decks and apply the structure as they go along.  This may work in a classroom setting –then again, it may just make for a messy classroom experience—but it certainly doesn’t hold together in an online experience.

As you look through the deck—and this may require a short conversation with the trainer—ask yourself how you can add structure and break the content into unique sections.  These can be main menu topics that give the learner some organising principles to hold onto as they go through the content.

We particularly like creating a menu based on questions – this lets the learner see at a glance what they’ll get out of a specific topic.

For more on menus, check out Tip 37: Menus that make sense.

2. Signpost it

    If you’ve applied some structure, the least you can do is tell the learner where they are in their journey through that structure.  At the beginning of a section, put up a sign that says 'This is where we are now.'  It doesn��t literally have to be a sign, but the idea is to help the learner understand where in the experience they are. And while you’re at it, tell them what they’re going to get out of that section. You don’t have to do it in a learner-objective kind of way;  we prefer a more human approach that explains to the learner in their own language what the section covers and why it matters.

    For more on alternatives to learning objectives, be sure to check out Tip 26: Our objection to learning objectives.

    3. Cut the text!

      Man oh man, but some people can cram a lot of text onto a PowerPoint slide.  Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should!  If there really is that much to read, a better approach might be to send them a PDF or Word document. A common rule is no more than six bullets, and no more than six words per bullet. But even that’s a lot.

      Or see how you can carve it up into smaller bits.  You could separate one dense trainer slide into five individual e-learning slides. Try to give the learner one idea or concept per slide, don’t cram in too much or you risk a learner glazing over with boredom and falling into the keyboard.  And no one wants that on their conscience!

      Yet another radical idea – ask yourself if all that content is even really necessary! If you keep your focus throughout the program on what you want the learner to be able to DO at the end of it, you may just find out that a complete history of widgets and the ACME Corporation is not only useless, but distracting.

      So, you got that?  Chunk. Signpost. Cut. Three simple but powerful ideas that can go a long way towards making that PowerPoint more coherent, more directed, and more effective as a self-paced online training experience. Yes, there’s a lot to be gained by going just a little further and looking at how tools like Articulate can help enhance your message – but for those of you who can’t  go that far every time – this will hopefully help a little.