Week 19 In Review

I like sharing some personal stuff about my week in the reviews. Normally, I do it at the end of the post. But this week’s overriding memory is a personal one. My 8 year old son, after living with an egg allergy for his entire life, was given the green light to eat eggs by our allergist after a successful oral challenge.

The immense impact of this on our family is difficult to fully explain as we have lived with dietary limitations for his entire life. For the first 3 years, his total avoidance allergy list was all nuts, eggs, soy, dairy and wheat. Slowly, over the years this list has been reduced to where it is now just nuts and dairy. This development means a pretty massive change for our family, and will likely go down as our families biggest collective memory of 2015.

Onto work stuff.

I was invited by Colin Madland at TRU-OL to participate in their annual Open Learning faculty development workshop. TRU is a fantastic supporter of the open textbook project, and open education in general. I presented on the open textbook project with a few people at TRU who are involved in the project, Rajiv Jhangiani (who gave one of the clearest explanations on the basics of cricket that I have ever heard using a set of flight beer glasses), John Belshaw (who authored the new Canadian History textbook in our collection), and TRU librarian Brenda Smith (who has been involved with the BC-OER librarians group). I also facilitated a couple of f2f workshops on finding and using OER. Slides from my plenary presentation, my workshop, and the workshop outline.

While at TRU, I also met with Irwin DeVries and the instructional design team at TRU-OL on how they can use open textbooks in their course development and redesign courses around open textbooks. I also met with Val Peachy, who is the Director for Program Delivery at TRU-OL. Also met with another open textbook adapting author at TRU Bill Little (Intro to Sociology) to do a bit of a f2f Pressbooks overview with him. Spent some time with Nancy White &, of course, hung out with Brian. Also good to see Grant Potter and Jason Toal.

OpenEd 2015 proposal reviews. Coordinated an external review panel of BC post-sec folks to evaluate OpenEd 2015 proposals. We had a quick turnaround time as proposal acceptances are going out this week. Thank you to the group of you who helped with the proposal evaluations. There are just shy of 150 proposals for OpenEd this fall – a phenomenal response.

Other OpenEd 2015 work: put together outline of possible roles for BC (and especially Vancouver based( higher ed folks as I continue to work towards getting a local organizing committee together for the event.

Spent a day working on both an open textbook sustainability plan, and an open textbook tactical plan for the next year. This summer we will be wrapping up the creation phase and will have met the official goals of the project (textbooks that align with the top 40 academic subject areas in BC and 20 textbooks for skills and trades training) and now need to start looking towards what is next for the project. These 2 documents are my big rock projects right now.

Attended a webinar from John Hilton III about efficacy of open textbooks. Prompted a blog post from me.

We’re working on a self-serve stand alone instance of Pressbooks for BC faculty. The idea behind this instance is that faculty (or anyone with a BC post-sec institutional account) can sign up for their own Pressbooks site and use it to create a textbook. These books won’t be added to the curated collection at open.bccampus.ca, but will be connected with the larger collection in the sense that faculty who sign up for an account can create a copy of any book in our collection and use that as a starting point for their own textbook. This is a way to support faculty who have the technical skills and knowledge of open licensing a venue to D.I.Y. an open textbook. I’ve got the keys from Brad this week and have been playing with it in preparation for a limited summer launch.

Working with Lumen and University of Minnesota on textbook conversion program. We are trying to coordinate our efforts on converting existing open textbooks in the commons into our common Pressbooks platform. First step was a list of what we are all working on in terms of conversion projects and we got that done last week. Next step – how to best share these resources so we don’t duplicate efforts.

Ministry meeting to give them an update on our activities.

Registered for ETUG at SFU in June.

The OT Summit is just a few weeks away. Registration closes May 25.

Was involved in a few emails with folks around rebooting Creative Commons Canada.

We added a number of books to the collection last week as the 20 skills and trades training books continue to roll off the shelves. Notably Introduction to Tourism and Hospitality in BC, and an ABE English textbook and accompanying reader.

One more personal note. Celebrated not only Mothers Day this weekend, but 12 wonderful years of being married to my wife, Dana.

Image credit: Happy Face by abhijith CC-BY-NC-SA


Why you shouldn't post your PowerPoint slides online (and the alternatives available)

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.