Straight PowerPoint Conversion?

The promise of PowerPoint conversion tools is that you can take existing content and turn it into e-learning in just a few clicks. This can make it faster than ever to create good e-learning…or it can make it faster than ever to create BAD e-learning. Here are three reasons why a straight conversion of existing PowerPoint slides might be a bad idea—and what you can do about it.

1. The slides may contain only part of the content.
If the slides were developed for a live presentation, they may contain only 30-50% of the content, with the rest being conveyed by the presenter. Without that presenter, you lose much of your material, especially the stories, examples, and interactions that help that information come alive.

2. The bar for slide quality is higher in e-learning.
Just like most people consider themselves to be better-than-average drivers, I think a lot of people over-estimate their PowerPoint skills, which are more critical in an e-learning course. In a classroom or meeting, a good presenter can carry less-than-average slides. In e-learning, all you have is the slides, so they had better be good.

3. The slides may have been developed for another purpose.
PowerPoint is used for all sorts of things: visual aids to support presenters, handouts, reports, speaker’s notes, etc. None of these are the same as e-learning. Assuming your slides can fill multiple purposes is like assuming your car can double as a boat or a helicopter. Unless you are Bruce Wayne, they probably can’t.

The answer to all three issues is the same: don’t skip the instructional design process. Start by asking these simple questions:

  • How might the e-learning audience be different than the audience the slides were originally created for?
  • How might the goal/purpose be different?
  • Do these slides say everything they need to say? Can they truly stand alone?
  • Is there information that doesn’t belong?
  • Do the slides “tell” instead of teach?
  • Does the visual design enhance the learning process?
  • Would YOU want to sit through those slides after a long day of work?

It is certainly possible to create great e-learning based on PowerPoint slides, but it takes more than a click of a button. And if you are tempted to reach for that button and just do a straight conversion, let me leave you with my favorite design mantra: “Just because you CAN doesn’t mean you SHOULD.”

Diane Elkins
Diane Elkins is the co-owner of E-Learning Uncovered, as well as Artisan E-Learning, a custom eLearning development company specializing in the use of Storyline, Captivate, and Lectora. Diane has been in the eLearning industry since 2001, speaks regularly at national conferences about eLearning, and is co-author of the popular E-Learning Uncovered book series.

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