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PowerPoint animations for online and classroom learning
by Seth Eisenberg

"Students in classes using the animated PowerPoint presentations demonstrated significantly higher levels of understanding, integration and retention of key concepts and skills."

When using PowerPoint both in traditional classroom settings and online, the effective use of animations is critically important to students' knowledge and skill retention.

PAIRS ("Practical Application of Intimate Relationship Skills") classes have been taught worldwide for nearly 30 years, long before the advent of personal computers, the Internet, and the broad array of educational software that has become ubiquitous in both traditional Western classroom and online learning.

Over the past decade, our educational model rapidly evolved from blackboards and chalk to markers, flipcharts and whiteboards, to projectors and PowerPoint presentations that have become increasingly detailed. Projection and PowerPoint technology has been invaluable in assuring consistent standards of excellence in curriculum delivery and quality control for classes taught in many languages and settings by facilitators from diverse backgrounds, educational levels, and professions who are trained primarily through intensive four-day seminars.

Recent experience delivering relationship skills training to special needs populations, including (1) veterans suffering from traumatic brain injury, post traumatic stress disorder, and a range of other visible and invisible wounds, (2) classes in English to non-native speakers, (3) work with low-literacy audiences, and (4) workshops to highly distressed couples offered the opportunity to reevaluate our use of PowerPoint - specifically to extensively integrate animations -- to convey key curriculum concepts.

Our revision of the PowerPoint presentations principally involved creating new slide designs to have content appear sentence by sentence or paragraph by paragraph to assure a concept was thoroughly explained by the instructor before additional information appeared on the slide and also dividing graphic images into multiple sections that unfolded through the lecture rather than appearing at once.

Observations of multiple classes in which these revised, extensively animated PowerPoint presentations were utilized indicated significantly higher level of participant knowledge and skill retention at the end curriculum delivery.

Beyond the technical work needed to integrate animations into the PowerPoint presentations - some of which include hundreds of slides -- and train instructors on the effective use of animations, the impact included the need to scale back the quantity of content included in each curriculum segment.

The outcome, however, demonstrated that the effort and resources required were well worthwhile, both in traditional classroom and online environments, as students in classes using the animated PowerPoint presentations demonstrated significantly higher levels of understanding, integration and retention of key concepts and skills.

The author is Executive Director of the non-profit PAIRS Foundation and a leading national trainer of relationship skills educators.

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