The eLearning industry loves to hate powerpoint. However the hate has mostly passed, and isn't as bad today as it used to be. We've all come to grips with the fact that bad design isn't the tool's fault. We've all endured plenty of poorly designed powerpoint presentations. But I'm sure you've all experienced at least one presentation that was so engaging you didn't even realize you were watching powerpoint slides. These presentation specialists have taken the art of presenting to a completely different level. And there is no better master than the creator of presentationzen.com, Garr Reynolds. Nancy Duarte is another favorite of mine.
To move your presentations beyond the classroom and into eLearning you'll find that powerpoint is still an adequate authoring tool. Many companies create eLearning plugins, templates, and add-ins that support the creation of eLearning. So before you consider the expense of separate authoring tool, here are a few reasons why using powerpoint is a viable development option.
Easy to Use
If you've been living under a rock and never used a Microsoft application in your life then there might be a steep learning curve. Otherwise it's really quite simple to learn the basics. Devote a few solid hours to some online tutorials and you'll be ready to use the powerpoint's powerful features.
File formats have always been problematic to some degree. But over the years certain formats have become almost universally accepted. The powerpoint extension .ppt is one of those widely accepted formats. If you're new to eLearning development you'll find that some elearning authoring tools are simply powerpoint plugins. After creating your content using the additional features you can then export your course as a SCORM file compatible with learning management systems. The .ppt format has become so ubiquitous that it's hard to believe that a system might exist that doesn't support powerpoint files.
Everyone Knows How to Use It
My 3 kids are now teenagers and they've all created several powerpoint presentations as part of school projects. It's become a standard in the classroom as well as the boardroom. Powerpoint can be used in many team environments because everyone knows how to use it. Files can be shared and edited collaboratively as well making it a good tool for development. And since it's so widely used your almost guaranteed that reviewers will also have no trouble navigating the slides during the review process.
When creating eLearning it's important to sketch the flow of your content in a storyboard format. Powerpoint is a great tool for starting that process of organizing your thoughts visually. Many eLearning developers even use powerpoint as their final production tool. So, it saves a lot of time to storyboard within the same tool. Check out Kevin Thorn's Nuggethead Studioz for some excellent tips on storyboarding and other design topics.
Nancy Duarte wrote about how she uses powerpoint for writing in an HBR.org article. Using slides like notecards makes powerpoint's slide sorter view a powerful organizer for structuring your content. You can use images, or text on each slide, and then take advantage of the notes feature for writing or explaining the content more extensively.
Did you know you can export your presentation as a video? The audio capabilities are not extensive but they are easy to use. You can create animations with text and shapes that can tell a story in a very compelling way. If you ever find yourself needing to produce a video don't immediately jump into iMovie or Moviemaker. Open up powerpoint and sketch out your ideas using slides as keyframes. Even if you end up needing a more powerful tool for your final edit, the powerpoint version will be very useful during the review process.