Creating an Effective PowerPoint

Creating an Effective PowerPoint

The following video highlights key considerations for the use of PowerPoint presentations in the classroom and the impact on student learning:


The PowerPoint presentation originated as a valuable tool in the business world in the mid-1990s and its application soon spread to education. In a business setting, the goal of the PowerPoint presentation is typically to present information in a professional, yet entertaining, way. In an educational setting, however, the goal is to teach and provide knowledge. The PowerPoint presentation should serve as an aid in the classroom that enhances education by presenting information in a clear, concise and logical format. Because the goal of the PowerPoint is different in education, there are special considerations that should be taken into account when creating a PowerPoint for classroom use. Following are some the best practices that should be followed by educators when creating a PowerPoint:

  • Less is better. Keep this in mind throughout all aspects of creating a PowerPoint for classroom use. Many bells and whistles are available when creating a PowerPoint. However, just because they exist, does not mean they should be used. Overwhelmingly, the research shows that students are easily distracted by flashing and flying lines of texts, bright colors and unnecessary sound. None of these extras will improve student learning.
  • Use a consistent and simple slide format. Use a design template to ensure that all slides are consistent in terms of font, color, theme, background, and style. Changes in the basic slide design within the same presentation are distracting. 
  • Make sure the font is easy to read and consistent throughout. The San Serif font, with a minimum size of 30 points, is a common recommendation for PowerPoint presentations.
  • It is acceptable to emphasize keywords through the use of bold face, italicized or underlined words.
  • Minimize text. It is recommended that each slide contain between 3-7 bullet points with 3-7 words per point. Do not use complete sentences. If the slide contains too much text, students will spend time reading and not listening. Instructors may also be tempted to simply read the PowerPoint slide, greatly reducing the effectiveness of the presentation. The PowerPoint is meant to be a guide, with the instructor filling in the majority of the content and the details.
  • Disclose one bullet point at a time to keep students focused.
  • Use consistent slide transition. Flashy transitions do not add educational value and again, can be distracting.
  • Images, tables, graphs, charts, and videos can be used and are effective when they are relevant to the topic and presented in a simple format. Keep text to a minimum or use no text on these slides. The instructor should provide the information and the explanation and the image should only serve as a visual aid to reinforce the concept.
  • Students benefit from receiving an outline of the notes in advance. Skeleton outlines that leave out key information to be filled in during class are the most effective.

Following these best practices will ensure that instructors are using PowerPoint in an appropriate manner in the classroom in such a way that visual and auditory learning is maximized.

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Resource Links

Sites to See:  PowerPoint Presentations - Explore the dozen Web sites below filled with free templates, tutorials, downloads, and tips for making effective PowerPoint presentations.

 PowerPoint Tips & Tricks - The links on this website will offer instructions and how-to information to use when creating your PowerPoints.

Unleashing the Power of PowerPoint - Tips for effectively using PowerPoint in the classroom.

YouTube:  How to Narrate a PowerPoint Presentation - Narrated PowerPoints can be especially useful in online classrooms.  View this YouTube video for instructions on how to add narration to your PowerPoint.

Suggested Readings:  Emperical Research for PowerPoint Design - The journal articles linked in this Web site provide data and insight regarding the effectiveness of PowerPoints in the classroom and the impact on student learning and outcomes.

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