e-Learning is NOT PowerPoint

In an article by Thomas R. McDaniel and Kathryn N. McDaniel the authors convey the possible downfalls of PowerPoint use in pedagogical pursuits. They enumerate five criticisms:

1) It’s Inflexible
2) It’s Risky
3) It’s a Crutch
4) It’s Boring
5) It’s Style without Substance

In my opinion (as it relates to training), PowerPoint has distorted the potential learning values of e-Learning. It has turned off millions of individuals who would otherwise be motivated by the e-Learning medium.


Too few, charged with making training initiative decisions for their organization, have any real understanding of the learning process. They concentrate on the technology capabilities of digital media. And, then, they lump everything together and decide that “if it plays, it works.”

How foolish! Information conveyance has both a purpose and means for achieving results. So do training and education! And guess what? Their purposes and means are vastly different.

Information is there for the taking. Either you choose to acquire it — or, you don’t. On the other hand, effective training for skills acquisition relies on such factors as stimulation, simulation and self-interest. We acquire short-term knowledge because it’s there. Yet, we retain little of a PowerPoint outline days after it has been presented.

But, e-Learning (in its intended sense) links us to the content being presented. It has relevance to our own lives and to the skills we want to acquire. It speaks to us in our own learning culture (and, today, that culture is TV and Game-based). It comes to us in short chunks in order to allow us to ponder, chew and swallow discreet objectives. It presents us with simulations, so that we can try it out with our own hands. In short, it lives and it breathes in a world that touches us directly.

Conversely, PowerPoint is cold, sterile and passive. We, mistakenly, believe that just because we can network a PowerPoint presentation or a written procedure, we’re doing something important. And, in a way, we are.

We’re putting our audience to sleep. We’re bombarding them with words they’ll never remember and concept presentations that are foreign to their own lives.

The uninformed, who pass off PowerPoint presentations as e-Learning, are betraying the ambitions and dreams of those trainees they are tasked to serve.

PowerPoint presentations are contrary to the goals of Instructional Design while, at the same time, ignoring the learning culture of today’s students and trainees (learning that is grounded in full-motion video and optional word-for-word audio).

E-Learning should enhance learning and retention by empowering its students and trainees. It should open their eyes to possibility; it should increase their capabilities; and it should free them to make better choices. PowerPoint presentations won’t do any of those things.

More on Tuesday – – –

— Bill Walton, Founder
ITC Learning

www.itclearning.com/blog/ (Tuesdays & Thursdays)
e-Mail: bwalton@itclearning.com