This is not going to be a PowerPoint is Evil rant. Heck, some people have even won Academy Awards and Nobel Prizes with their PowerPoint presentations, so there is no denying that, when used correctly, can be a powerful tool to convey meaning to a live audience.
But that is it’s place – in front of a live audience. PowerPoint is a presentation tool and was never intended to be a web friendly format. So you should avoid putting your PowerPoint presentations online and here is why.
It doesn’t work
There are 3 technical reasons why you don’t want to put your PowerPoint files on the web.
- The files are big, especially if you use lots of animations and fancy transitions.
- They require students to have PowerPoint or the PowerPoint viewer installed on their computer.
- Depending on the browser, how it is configured and the security settings, PowerPoint files can cause strange and unexpected behaviours. One user may have that PowerPoint file open in their browser, another may be prompted to download the file while a third may get a security warning that a potentially malicious file is about to be opened.
These are barriers for students and should be reason enough to shy away from putting your PowerPoint presentations online.
What do these slides mean?
For me, however, the overriding reason to avoid putting your PowerPoint presentation online is that your students are missing a fundamental piece to help them truly understand the content- you.
In order to be a useful methods of delivering information, PowerPoint requires someone at the helm to guide the viewer and fill in the space between the bullet points. Without you, PowerPoint slides are just disjointed bullet points of facts and images with no context as to what those facts and images really mean. You provide the context that is critical to understanding. Take you out of the picture and the presentation is useless.
The design problem
You approach different mediums in different ways. Decisions on how you craft your message needs to factor in the medium you use to deliver that message.
Designing for presenting is completely different than designing for the web, just like designing for print is different than designing for video. In order to effectively communicate meaning, you need to structure your content in a way that correctly uses the medium you are designing for. Each medium requires different strategies to be used effectively.
The first solution is the one that takes the most effort, but has the biggest payoff in terms of making sure your content is both understood and technically accessible. Recreate the content in your PowerPoint presentations in a web friendly format. Rewrite your bullet points in HTML, convert your images to jpeg or gif, and build some web friendly pages of content. It fixes all the problems mentioned above. You can do this in Powerpoint by saving your presentation as a web page.
I am not a big fan of this method for a couple of reasons. For one, it is still content that has been designed for Powerpoint and brings with it all the constraints and none of the benefits of that format. The second is the geeky reason – the code is poor and it tends to create whacks of files and folders that all need to be uploaded for the pages to work correctly. For more tech savvy faculty, this may not be a problem. But if you are the type of faculty who can’t find or organize files and folders on your computer, this may be a challenge. It’s better to use other HTML editing tools (like the built in editor and content manager in Desire2Learn) to do this.
If you absolutely must post PowerPoint presentations on the web, at least do your students a favour and don’t force them to download large files or the PowerPoint viewer. Chances are they already have a PDF reader installed on their computer, so convert your PowerPoint to PDF and post that instead. PDF is a much more web friendly format than PowerPoint.
An option that is becoming more popular is using a web service and posting your PowerPoint online. A service like Slideshare works like YouTube for PowerPoint. You can create an account and upload your presentation. The presentation is converted to the (close to) ubiquitous Flash format which you can then embed in a web page, blog post or D2L course content page. No downloads for students.
There are also online presentation tools, like Preezo, SlideRocket and Google Presentations that you can either use as a starting point for creating web friendly presentations, or will convert your existing PowerPoint presentations to something you can easily embed into your course. While not as feature rich as PowerPoint (and who really uses all those features anyway?), these are still powerful tools for creating web friendly presentation that won’t make your students curse you as they wait for your 100 meg PowerPoint file to download.