Designing E-Learning: It Is Much More Than a PowerPoint Presentation

E-Learning is now more than an emerging trend, it is the preferred way of learning for industries worldwide. Forward looking organizations are serious about training and L&D managers keep looking into the needs of the learners to create learner-centric e-learning solutions. To keep up with the increasing need, they also often employ e-learning services from external resources to cater to the ever changing and dynamic learner needs.

To make e-learning truly effective, it needs to be developed keeping the nature of technology-aided delivery in mind. So designing an e-learning course should not follow the same strategies as designing a PowerPoint Presentation. If the same strategies are followed to create custom e-learning, the result is bland and uninteresting. Furthermore, it fails the first and foremost objective of training – it fails to engage the learner and as a result fails to perform his or her job within expected standards. The solution is to treat e-learning development separately and create strategies that align to the strengths of self-paced learning.

In the absence of an instructor, custom e-learning courses cannot just have one word ‘pointers’ with no explanations. Even if there are space constraints, e-learning designers have to make sure that each point is well explained to aid novice learners. An impactful way of doing this is to utilize audio to describe concepts in detail without taking up too much screen space. While the visual impact of the screen remains intact with minimalistic text, audio provides suitable descriptors to help learners understand better.

To further aid the individual needs of the learners, the option of turning off the audio can be provided for expert learner who do not need explanations of the introductory concepts. To provide learner re-enforcements and a chance to revise the topics taught through the e-course, the audio script can also be provided as a downloadable resource. The learners can later refer to it to re-enforce learning as per their needs.

Images are a powerful way of communication in an e-course. But here too, keep in mind that only appropriate images should be utilized and enough space should be provided in each screen to create visual ‘relief’.

Diagrams and Tables are also useful in reducing the text in an e-course – and can be liberally added to e-learning just like a PowerPoint presentation. But the difference is that diagrams and tables have to suitably labeled or explained to create the intended impact on the learner. Complicated diagrams or detailed graphs can share a lot of information. But this information can also confuse or startle the learners – especially if they are new to the subject.

In addition, detailed documents can be provided along with all e-courses that can be used as a job-aid as well as easy reference from time to time. This provides the learners the opportunity to study the subject in detail – as per their own need and pace.

E-courses should also be accompanied by a detailed ‘Help’ file -that aids the learner go through the course without any hitch. At any point if they are stuck or want to take a detour in the course, the help document should give them the required information then and there. Many learners are not accustomed to the technology-aided platform and e-learning developers should keep that in mind and create provisions for them.
E-Learning is an impactful way of delivering training in the corporate sector. But it is impactful only when its strengths as well as weaknesses are suitably studied and understood. Treat e-learning like it is and reap its many benefits.

Perfect your Presentations with Mind Mapping

It is a far too common procedure for lecturers to prepare presentations with a few pages of notes made up of linear sentences. They stand up behind the podium and start to read, expecting their diligent audience to take ‘proper notes’. They drone on monotonously at a pace enabling their audience to copy their words. Drooping shoulders and heavy heads become more and more visible. Is this method actually doing any good? No, Words alone are worthless in helping in understanding and remembering. Not only are they boring but they do not represent the brains naturally fluid nature. Presentations need to impart information in a form that is easily digested by the brain. The most effective presentation will include key words, images, colours, visual rhythms, connections and associations. These are main aspects in triggering imagination, a key process in learning. But how do you achieve these in a presentation?

Mind Maps are perfect for structuring and organising:

It is important that you Mind Map the basic facts of your presentation before you even begin to concentrate on the subject matter. Mind Maps are perfect for structuring and organising current ideas and plans in a memorable way for presenting to others. Firstly, you need to know who your audience is and what they stand to benefit from your presentation. Your Mind Map may include branches such as ‘case studies’, ‘analysis’, ‘inspiration’, ‘understanding’ etc. with the aid of this mind map you will be able to turn the key words and ideas into a coherent order ensuring that you use hard data to back up any views or ideas that you may use in the presentation. Ensure your central image incorporates the subject while the branches must represent the subjects for discussion. By using a Mind Map, you will find your role in a wider context will be clearer, and will find it easier to stick to your subject as your thoughts will be less likely to wander off on a tangent.

Be Bold – use images and colours:

In your presentation you should use images, colours, symbols etc this is one of the most effective ways of getting your point across. The visual stimuli will make the presentation more dynamic and interesting. A long list of boring information can be transformed into colourful, memorable, highly organized diagrams that reflect your brains natural way of thinking and encourage synergetic thinking. Therefore in your Mind Map include a branch of thoughts and ideas to make you presentation more fun, interactive and memorable for your audience.

Practice makes perfect:

It is important that one of the branches on your Mind Map should focus on the practice you feel is necessary to ensure that you do not over run your allocated time. You may also use the Mind Map to allocate how much time you would like to spend on each topic.

How can computer software help you?:

Thanks to computers, presentations have become even easier with the aid of state of the art Visuals. With Mind Mapping software available such as Tony Buzan’s iMindMap, computerised Mind Maps can be transferred to Power Point. Do not fall into the trap of believing that using Power Point means simply making a linear list of sentences and phrases, this will fail to keep your audience interested and able to learn. Interaction with your audience is another key aspect to a successful presentation. This can be achieved by building up the mind map as you share your information with your audience and asking them to contribute any ideas or thoughts to the Map. Alternatively, encourage your participants to take notes in the form of their own individual Mind Maps on your presentation. This will require the audience to think for themselves and encourage active participation; consequently the audience are more likely to get the most out of your presentation. Mind Maps allow participants to break the linear tradition of note-taking and helps them to make appropriate associations and absorb more information effectively.

You should now be ready to start planning a great presentation, so good luck.

Essentials of Oral Presentations

Many speakers, even mature, well-educated people come on to the dais but fail to make an interesting presentation of their ideas on the given topic. Such poor speakers bore the audience so much that the audience yawns and struggles to stay awake. Quite sadly in some presentations the audience cannot recall at the end of a lecture what they have learned though the speaker has delivered copious amounts of information and given its analysis. Usually the purpose of a presentation is either to inform or convince or entertain, but an unskilled, ill-informed speaker can achieve none of these. An analysis of the factors responsible for the failure of a presentation of a hypothetical speaker is made in the following paragraphs. It is needless to say that the rectification of those factors leads to success.

Assertion of the speaker’s authority and a proper body language: Some speakers don’t give the impression that they are the right people to talk on the given topic, either by their nervous behavior or their failure to inform the audience of their credentials on the topic. Quite strangely, some speakers all through their talk either rivet their attention on a single listener or don’t look at the audience at all, giving their full attention to the notes they have brought. Some stare absently at the objects or look around the room for no reason or play nervously with objects like pen or note book which not only annoys the audience but elicits their distrust also.

Voice Modulation: Another important reason for the failure of a speech is a voice which is terribly monotonous, lacking in the modulations and reflects neither the feelings attached to each piece of information nor the inferences made from such information. (Fast 108) Such presentations make it difficult for the audience to understand; similarly in some presentations, the voice of the speaker and his point are mutually contradictory. A clear, modulating voice is a tool to make meaning clearer, but an improper use of it leads to confusion and irritation. (Jehan 105)

Introduction to the given topic: The audience has to be walked into a context. Listeners who have taken the pains to come to a venue are definitely interested in a speech. But the first and foremost factor defining the success of a lecture is the way the topic is introduced: its importance has to be explained, its relevance to the life or career of each member of the audience has to be properly connected, and the basic concepts related to the topic have to be explained. Many speakers are not aware of this essential requirement of a lecture and hence focus more on the quantity of information – a lot of statistics, numerous references and scores of examples- while failing to lay a foundation for the audience to understand those reams of information.

Fewer Perspectives rather than many: Many speakers deliver their speech with a false notion that many perspectives and many ideas make it a success. But the listeners can neither remember nor refer to all the contents of speech some time later like one does with the written material; meaning of a speech has to made on the spot; they can not postpone it just because there is a lot of information; A speech where its meaning is postponed is definitely the one whose purpose is ruined. The hallmark of a good speech is that the audience understands it on the spot as they listen. For this to happen, the entire speech no matter how big it is should center on very few principal ideas-three or four. Too many ideas leave the audience wondering where they are being led.

Preparation: A speaker who is comfortable in his presentation and having adequate control over what he is going to talk about can deliver his message effectively. That he is comfortable in his job is reflected in his voice, which is well-modulated and exactly tuned to the level of the audience – neither loud nor low-and in an appropriate facial expression. A ‘comfortable’ speaker makes the audience comfortable. A ‘comfortable’ audience receives the message correctly and nothing can stop them from rating the lecture highly. A comfortable audience of the lecture forgets all of their other concerns and is lost in the lecture only. At the end, it carries home a pleasant experience as well as an insightful learning. But the key to such a level of success is preparation. A presentation can be successful only as much as its preparation is. During preparation, a speaker chooses everything that he has to deliver: information, experiences, stories, examples, visual aids, order of points, jokes, and even words too!

To sum up, many experienced, educated people are poor speakers; the success of a speech depends primarily on the preparation, introduction, voice, and body language. It is a false notion that a successful speech requires many perspectives and several ideas; three or four principal ideas are enough.

Works Cited

Fast, Julius. Body Language, New York: Pocket Books, 1970.

Jehan, Gorge W. Persuasive Speaking. Surrey,U.K: Elliot Right Way Books Limited, 1972.