PowerPoint Presentations found to be boring. What a surprise!

by Oliver Adria on 14/04/2010

bored_people_250One of my fellow presentation bloggers Ellen Finkelstein recently found an article from the Guardian on why students are so bored in their lectures. Quite an interesting article, but to no surprise one of the common problems found:

One of the main contributors to student boredom is the use of PowerPoint. PowerPoint slides are a powerful aid to today’s lecturer, who can use it to easily prepare dozens of slides to accompany a lecture. And that is the problem – lecturers tend to prepare too many slides, pack them with too much information, and whizz through them in a manner that obliges students to spend most of the session attempting to copy copious amounts of text from the screen, while bypassing active processing of the material.

And as the article points out correctly, it’s not PowerPoint which is the problem, but HOW PowerPoint is being used. And what’s even worse, students get used to these sort of presentations and carry on the legacy into the business world!

I just recently graduated from university and so still know quite distinctly how it is being taught. And I do have some professors who mean really well – instead of doing boring lectures they also add some interactivity, but the lecture part is really, really dull. They have slides full of text, sometimes 5-6 bullet points with full sentences and also sub-bullet points. And they teach the students that “no more than 7 lines per slide and no more than 7 words per slide” or something of that sort. But that means, there’s up to 49 words on one page!

I understand in a university setting it might be difficult not to use facts and bullet points to explain something. But there’s a big difference between using 1-2 bullet points+images on a slide and using 30 slides full of text in a lecture.

The author of the article also offers some suggestions

So, what can an academic do to ensure the most engaging teaching possible? First, we should look carefully at our use of PowerPoint presentations and limit the number of slides and the quantity of information on them. Colour, animation and sound should be utilised to vary the pace – and an accompanying handout should always be provided.

I highly agree regarding the amount of information which should be on the slide. I think color, animation and sound should be use sparingly and only when appropriate, while I again highly agree regarding the accompanying handout, as I have written in many posts on handouts.

I know that there are some good presenter professors out there (even professors that don’t use PowerPoint at all). Hopefully many other professors will follow their example.

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