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The power of PowerPoint

By Danielle Fleischman

In almost every department at almost every university there is one thing in common — the use of PowerPoint presentations. 

When it comes to learning in the 21st century, the use of computer-generated slides is a no-brainer. Students prefer to have the visual aide during lectures, claiming that it helps them to maintain interest and retain material.

Unfortunately, the quality of PowerPoint presentations varies from professor to professor. This creates a sense of uncertainty for students, as they cannot rely on the same study materials when they move from one class to the other.

There is very little research on how much PowerPoint contributes to the learning process, which helps to explain why there is no standard for academics to which to adhere. But for better or worse, PowerPoint presentations are a mainstay in the classroom, and it is about time instructors use these tools correctly.

All too often, instructors get carried away with their PowerPoints and upon presentation, it seems more like an art project then a learning tool.  Research has proven that simple slides without fancy transitions and complicated backgrounds provide the best learning tools for students. What’s more, any irrelevant pictures, sounds or graphics have been found to be detrimental to the learning process.

When it comes to PowerPoint, brevity is often the name of the game. However, one study indicates that full-sentence headlines written as an assertion are more effective than a single word or phrase at the top of the page.

Another piece of research suggests that the fonts Gills Sans and Souvenir Lt are the easiest to read on a PowerPoint and in fact help with material retention.

And while there is no research available to back up this claim, I can write from my own experience that performance in a class is enhanced when professors upload their PowerPoint slides before the day’s lesson. This provides students with an outline of the lecture and allows for easier note-taking.

However, it is too often that an instructor claims that they cannot provide the PowerPoint before class. Well, as a student, I am expected to have my work done before class starts. Can the same not be asked of our professors?

Technology is dragging the institution of learning into the future whether it wants to go or not. So isn’t it about time the teachers at IU treat PowerPoint as a tool instead of a toy? I certainly think so.  


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