Recently, I took on an e-learning design project that had me wanting to refresh my perspective. For this particular project, I did not want to fall into the trap of producing the same old style of e-learning with which I am comfortable. I wanted to enter this project with some fresh ideas. We all get comfortable with what we do and how we do it, and those phases last far too long. For me, the best way to break the spell, is to read a new book, or even an old book as if I were reading it for the first time.
I pulled out Better Then Bullet Points: Creating Engaging e-Learning with PowerPoint by Jane Bozarth. It has been two or three years since I have read this book, but I since I knew I would be designing this particular e-learning project with PowerPoint, I figure this would be a good book to read again.
It's About Design, Not Software
In particular, I was reminded that "it's about design, not software." The book reminded me that before I even begin to think about developing content in PowerPoint, I needed to first think about designing the course. In chapter 2, you are reminded to start by defining your learners, clearly stating the course objectives, considering cognitive load, and storyboarding your course. Furthermore, you are encouraged to do all of these things before you even open up PowerPoint. So don't think this book is just about how to use PowerPoint features to create engaging and cool, "Wow-I-Didn't-Know-It-Could-Do-That" e-learning courses.
In Chapter 2, you will find very little mention of using PowerPoint at all. In fact, I believe the best part of the book is the table on page 26 called "Matching Outcomes to Strategies" which has nothing specifically to do with using PowerPoint.
However, the book is about creating engaging e-learning with PowerPoint, and there is plenty of that in the book.
Developing the Content
On the first page of the book we are reminded that, "most users employ just a fraction of PowerPoint's capabilities" and that "with PowerPoint, some imagination, and some patience, you can create interesting, engaging online courses with meaningful interactivity." I needed these reminders. And throughout the next seven chapters, Jane Bozarth explains and shows examples of interactive activities like matching exercises, game-show-type games, word search puzzles, mazes, case studies, simulations with branching decision making, to name a few.
I found it extremely valuable to see the many "before and after" examples of poorly designed and well designed slides because the more you read the book, the more it becomes clear what good PowerPoint is and what it is not.
Even if you have exceptional PowerPoint skills, you will find this book valuable. If nothing else, you will get great ideas for how to create learning activities that engage learners and that are aligned with the outcomes expected of the class. If you don't think activities like these can engage your learners and improve what they learn and how much of what they learned sticks, then by all means, continue with your long bullet lists.
Distributing Your Course
The book prioritizing things correctly by starting with designing your e-learning course before you even get into PowerPoint, and then spends most of the time showing you how to create engaging, interactive e-learning using PowerPoint. The book ends by discussing issues of distributing your course once it is completed. If you are a Mindflash customer, you have this part covered. You already know that Mindflash makes it easy to take the e-learning course that you developed using PowerPoint, and distribute it to anyone, including to the people in your organization or to your customers. That is what is so great about Mindflash. So do not forget to think about how you will distribute your e-learning course to make it as easy as possible for your learners.
Oh yeah...and one more thing.
Don't Forget the CD
Finally, Better Than Bullet Points comes with a CD of resources, which makes this book more than just a book. You will actually use this book and the resources in it. So, if you spend your days designing e-learning in PowerPoint or you want to get started, you should buy this book. It will help you improve your LX designs and your PowerPoint skills. It will certainly make your e-learning courses better, and your learners (and management) will appreciate that.