Do You Use PowerPoint for Instructional Design?

PowerPoint has changed

In the past, PowerPoint (one component of Microsoft’s Office product suite) has enjoyed the position of most favored tool for creating content for training delivery. It has always had its detractors, but much of the training material available today is still in or began its life in a PowerPoint presentation. Whole training products have grown up as add-ins to the PowerPoint application. But things are changing.

With the release of Office 2010, there were some significant changes in the PowerPoint product.

  • You can no longer save a slide as an HTML representation of that slide.
  • While you can create a video that contains the entire presentation, the only supported output format for this video is Windows Media Video (WMV). That is not an HTML5 friendly format.
  • You can no longer save a single slide as a video. You must save the entire presentation and break it into multiple pages with some 3rd party tool.

Given these new limitations, what are the options for creating learning content for online delivery from PowerPoint 2010?

Save Slides as HTML

I said before that PowerPoint 2010 disabled this feature. It is true that there is no longer any menu item nor toolbar button to enable this.

HTML in a BrowserHowever, the underlying code to do it still exists in the PowerPoint application. If you know how to program the “macro” feature of Office applications, you can call this code and get PowerPoint to produce the same HTML output that was available in previous versions. It is not a perfect solution for the following reasons.

  • The instructional designer needs some level of programming skill.
  • The HTML code that gets generated is not fully compatible with newer (think mobile) HTML5 browsers, meaning that it will not display correctly in all browser environments.

Deliver PowerPoint Directly

There are a few tools that enable you to upload a native PowerPoint presentation file and serve it our over the Internet.
All Your Data Are Belong To Us
These solutions depend upon server-side tools that read your PowerPoint content and convert it, on the fly, to a format compatible for web delivery. While this may suffice for a small number of training organizations, it has the following shortfalls.

  • (This is the biggest one, in my opinion.) You are locked in to PowerPoint as the only tool for creating your learning content.
  • Many tools that convert PowerPoint into a “web compatible” format do so by converting it to Flash content, which will not display in most browsers on mobile devices.

Save Each Slide as a Static Snapshot

Take a snapshotPowerPoint 2010 still supports saving a slide as a static image. You may choose to save in one of the image types (GIF, JPEG, or PNG), any one of which are easy to embed into an HTML page to be delivered over a network to a web browser. The downside to this method is that you lose any PowerPoint special effects, such a animations and certain other special presentation effects, in the static image of the slide.

Save as a Video

You can use the “Save & Send” feature to save your PowerPoint presentation as a Windows Media Video (WMV) file. The advantage here is that is makes a complete video presentation that includes all special features and effects from PowerPoint. The disadvantages are:Turn your slides into video

  • It is only able to save the video in Microsoft’s proprietary WMV format. It is most certainly not HTML5 compatible.
  • The only option is to save the entire presentation as a single video file. If you want to create a separate course page for each PowerPoint slide, you have to manually break the video up into the various pages.
  • Another HTML5 issue is the lack of a single video encoding format that works on all browsers. This means that you have to find yet another 3rd party tool to convert your video into the three formats (MP4, OGV, and WEBM) that comprise the family of encoding formats supported across the range of modern HTML5 browsers.

 What Do You Do?

Given this list of options and the significant failing of each of them, maybe the day of the dedicated online learning authoring tool has arrived. How will you create content that will show properly in the variety of browsers (IE, FireFox, Chrome, etc.) and across the growing field of hardware platforms (desktop, laptop, Android, iOS, Windows mobile, etc.)?


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