How to Create eLearning Using PowerPoint

Online Education with PowerPointHaving a solid foundation in PowerPoint is a must when using rapid content authoring tools to create online learning. Many rapid content authoring tools are either based on or an add-on to PowerPoint (PPT), including: Adobe Captivate,  Articulate Presenter, iSpring Presenter, Articulate Presenter, Articulate Storyline, as well as Digitec’s own Direct-to-WEB. If you’re not an experienced Flash or HTML programmer or are short on resources, PowerPoint may be the only eLearning development tool you have available. Luckily, PowerPoint is more versatile than most people give it credit for. While “Death by PowerPoint,” is a popular expression in eLearning, you are not limited to click-and-read presentations. To create interactive and attractive online courses, you just need to know how to utilize the advanced capabilities available to you. Here are some Do’s and Don’ts for creating engaging eLearning courses entirely with PowerPoint:


Develop a “look” for the course. It helps to have a graphic designer on hand, but that’s not always an option. Thankfully, you can use tools within PowerPoint to create shapes, gradients, and more.  Begin by brainstorming the “look” of your course on paper. Next, sketch layout ideas and determine your color palette for the course (for tips on choosing the right color for eLearning design, check out my recent blog post). Finally, explore “Shapes” within PowerPoint; they’re the workhorse for creating your eLearning design template and backgrounds. Shapes are very malleable, allowing you to fill them with textures, change their transparency to create overlays, position them to act as menu bars, and so forth.

Consider providing navigation. By default, PowerPoint allows learners to advance whenever they click the screen. This is a tell-tale sign of a standard PowerPoint presentation. Disabling this feature gives you more options for interactivity and providing your own navigation gives you more control over what the learner has to do to advance in the course.

Set up Slide Masters. A consistent layout gives the course a professional look while making it easier for learners to follow along. Setting up Slide Masters also allows you re-use layouts without the hassle of matching up colors or text and shape positions every time you create a new slide. It’s best to set up your Slide Masters before you start developing the course.

Include interactivity. Use animations to create interactivity in PowerPoint. These could be quiz questions, clicking to enlarge an image, having new text appear on click, etc. The basic convention is to set the desired object(s) to animate in when the learner clicks something on-screen. If desired, you can trigger another on-screen element to make those same objects animate off the screen when it is clicked.


Crowd the slide. Avoiding too much on-screen text was discussed in a previous blog post, but it’s worth re-stating. If there is too much content on any screen/slide, the learner will not absorb it. They are likely to be overwhelmed or “zone out.”

Use bullet points everywhere. Bullet points are a signature feature in PowerPoint; seemingly everyone uses them, on every slide. There is definitely a time and place for them, but in most cases you don’t want an entire course to consist of nothing but bullet points. Not only does overusing bullet points scream “this was made in PowerPoint,” it makes it difficult to break away from standard practice and think creatively.

Use default Powerpoint themes. Anyone familiar with PowerPoint will recognize the standard themes the instant they see them. Don’t just change the theme colors and consider that a new look either. It’s been done.

Add transitions without a reason. In general, you don’t need to add slide transitions at all. They rarely contribute to the learning experience and they need more time and processing power than a default transition. Plus,  slide transitions tend to be distracting. Transitions can be appropriate in some situations, like using a Fade to introduce an “Imagine that” scenario. In that case, the transition is a cue that ties into the content.


Example eLearning from PowerPointReady to see a working example of how you too can create interactive eLearning using only PowerPoint? Download my sample course for the “Association of Puppies,” click the Slide Show tab, and then click From Beginning. Here you will see an example of all of the “Do’s” listed above in action!

For more tips, I recommend Jane Bozarth’s book Better Than Bullet Points: Creating Engaging e-Learning with PowerPoint.

With practice, you can create unique, interactive courses that go above and beyond baseline PowerPoint presentations. PowerPoint really can do a lot of amazing things. I never would have guessed that it can be used to make 3D objects, for example, but it can. How have you used PowerPoint as an eLearning authoring tool? I’m curious to hear about the challenges and pleasant surprises you’ve encountered.


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Getting Your Association’s Board Behind Online Learning

Gaining Association Board Approval for eLearning

For many associations and nonprofits, a new eLearning initiative requires approval from their board. Understandably, some association executives have anxiety about the type of resistance they may face when presenting online learning to their board for the first time. eLearning may not be a term your “old school”  board is even familiar with. Or perhaps your association struggles with a board that is simply averse to change and prefers to do things “like they’ve always done them.” Even in the face of possible resistance, you owe it to your members to advocate for their needs and wants, not to mention the betterment of your association or nonprofit. How you go about presenting eLearning concepts to the board is critical and can greatly affect your ability to gain approval to move forward with online member education. From my experience working in associations and nonprofits in the past, and now working for the leading eLearning services partner to associations, I have some tips for getting your board behind online learning.

Here’s how to make a successful initial presentation to your board on the benefits of adding eLearning to your current member education offerings:

Explain the advantages

Start with the purpose of offering online education rather than with the concept itself. Online learning is a solution to a problem; so spend some time analyzing your association’s challenges or the voids that eLearning can help fulfill. Some common challenges associations have include: identifying their value proposition, decline in or lack of non-dues revenue, an unengaged membership, appealing to millennials, ensuring education offerings are convenient for members, and cyclical revenue that creates a “feast or famine” budgeting crisis year-after-year. If you can present a solution to a problem, rather than just another “new idea,” your board will be more inclined to listen and see the benefit to the association. 

Make it about the members (need/want)

When introducing eLearning to the board, also be sure to emphasize the benefit to members. Share the need or want that members have expressed for more accessible education and training. Be prepared to show the board why you need to consider eLearning. Member survey data is an excellent way to demonstrate the wants and needs of your membership. If you haven’t already surveyed members at your last annual meeting or during your renewal period, gather their feedback now, before you meet with the board. Additionally, come to the meeting prepared with industry trends and statistics demonstrating the growth in online learning and the success similar associations and nonprofits have had with online offerings. Tagoras has plenty of data on association member education trends, including their State of the Sector Update.

Explain the potential

The untapped potential should be the final selling point you present. Using our proprietary eLearning ROI calculator, you can project your association’s non-dues revenue from online education and show the return on investment over time. Additionally, explain the advantages of eLearning over traditional learning and how moving into this market can not only broaden your offerings and add value to your membership, but also how it can save your organization thousands of dollars. Use case studies from similar associations who ventured into eLearning and found great success to demonstrate this potential to your board.

Hopeful these ideas get you thinking about your association’s upcoming board meeting and how you can make a successful initial pitch for online member education. My next blog post will explore this topic more in-depth for those who are currently pursuing eLearning for their association and now seek final approval from the board.

Have you recently ventured into eLearning at your association? What tips do you have for fellow association executives who need board approval to begin the exploration phase? Comment below and let me know!

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How to Compete with FREE eLearning

Everyone loves free. Free coffee, free Wi-Fi, just about anything “free” is good, right? Not necessarily. And if your association has plans to sell your next online course or webinar, you might not be too excited to hear your competitor is offering a similar product for free. How can you possibly compete with free? Who is going to pay for your education products when someone else is giving it away? More people than you might think…Competing with Free Online Learning Courses

Everyday 10,465,000 people wait in line to pay Starbucks a minimum of $3 for their famous brewed coffee. Are these people crazy!? Don’t they know they can get FREE coffee in their hotel room, at their office, or a handful of convenience stores and fast-food restaurants? Sure they do. But they don’t want just any coffee; they want premium brewed coffee, made just for them. They are also paying for the experience. So, how can you apply the same principles used at Starbucks to your association’s online learning?

Step 1. Take your customer’s order. Don’t just produce an introductory level general education course, add it to your course catalog and expect members to swarm to it. Ask them what they want. Never assume you know what types of professional development and training your members want. Survey your members to determine their needs and strategize internally to access how you can best meet those needs. Many associations make the mistake of creating “one-size fits all” education products. The problem with very general offerings is that they offer little value to your members and chances are, similar content may already exist, perhaps it’s even available for free from another association or education provider. The most valuable content consists of specialized training that takes into account the member’s professional experience, continuing education requirements and personal goals.

Step 2. Make their lives better. The most valuable education products go beyond informing the learner, they enable the learner to better perform their job or even transform the learner – helping them to advance their skill-set. Required training, such as a professional certification course or continuing education, provides members with real value, value you can and should charge for. If you do not already offer continuing education or credentialing programs at your association, research possibilities for entering into this market. If you are a trade association or professional society, determine if an industry certification already exists. If so, can your association become an accredited provider of this training? If not, there is still an opportunity to CREATE a professional certificate program. You can learn more about how the Metal Treating Institute did just that, in this recorded webinar presented by Tom Morrison, CEO at MTI and Jack McGrath, President & Creative Director at Digitec Interactive.

Step 3. Give them a premium product. When differentiating your online education products from the “bargain basics,” it’s important to offer a premium experience for your members. Well-produced content has a much higher perceived value than poorly produced products. The design and aesthetics of the course can have a major impact on the overall learning experience. Start with strong subject matter, invest in sound instructional design and opt for professional photography, graphic design, and audio narration whenever possible. When it comes to online learning, the little details bring life to your content, encourage engagement, and increase member satisfaction.

Bonus tip! While it sounds simple, take the time to ensure title and body text placement is standardized across the course. Good eLearning should have a consistent design from screen-to-screen and not vary in font type, size or placement. Create a template before you begin and apply the style to each screen for a more polished, professional looking eLearning course.

As you can see, just because your competitor is offering free eLearning, it doesn’t mean you need to lower your price to remain competitive. Instead, focus on what adds value to your offering. Whenever possible, offer specialized training that goes beyond simply informing learners and invest in a well-designed course that provides learners with real value.

Have additional tips for competing with free eLearning providers? I’d love to hear them!

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Email is Cheap, but isn’t (Always) the Answer

Email Campaign AlternativesThis is a guest blog post by Meagan Rockett. She is the Director, Client Solutions with Greenfield Services Inc. Partnering with Professional and Trade Associations, Meagan consults and develops programs to move the needle in membership marketing & engagement, event marketing & sponsorship/exhibit sales. 

When it comes to appropriate marketing strategy for your association, processes can look different from one organization to the next – although, there is a ton of overlap in the methods used.

Many associations today are relying too heavily (in my opinion) on email to save the day.  Yes, it is relatively inexpensive.  Yes, it delivers your message to hundreds, or even thousands of contacts as soon as you hit send.

I don’t know about you – but if your inbox looks like mine, there is NO possible way to read each message that comes through.  Unless it is an email from a colleague, or perhaps a group that I have a vested interest in, likely your email will end up in my trash – unread.

Marketing is no longer about simply developing and deploying a targeted message (no matter the format).  It should cross-communicate with what your other departments are up to, and they should know well in advance of the information, so that they can share it as they deem appropriate as well.

Here are 5 ways to market your organization that are outside email campaigns:

    1. Hold meet & greets:  Have a prospective member list?  Are there many in your area? Or, perhaps you are traveling somewhere on business that has a heavy presence of members and non-members?  Host an event.  During this event, bring together engaged members, and prospective members, and give them a short presentation on what your organization has to offer.  Demonstrate the quality of education by providing them with a local speaker, or perhaps asking your members to say something.  Face-to-Face is often considered a last resort, but it can go a long way.
    2. Attend other events:  Are there like-minded organizations (corporate OR nonprofit) that have a vested interest in what your organization does?  Are they having events?  Paid or free, you should be identifying them and attending as many as you can.  Leave the planning and logistics to someone else, and use that time to network and develop relationships that can turn into paid memberships for you.
    3. Launch a blog:  Your association has a lot to say.  Most people (like me) will delete many emails from their inbox, as it gets too hectic to manage.  However, if you are also publishing your opinions, research, and information online through a blog, you may gain readers and prospects that have long forgotten you.  You are providing them with the format to be able to review at their leisure, and on their time, not yours.
    4. Don’t forget social!  I have said this a lot, but just because you have created an account does not mean you are on social media.  You have to be there, and sharing, tweeting, and posting to gain followers, attract interested parties, and develop new relationships.  And, just because the channel exists doesn’t mean you should be there – do your homework, and focus your time on the networks that will provide you with the highest, most long-term ROI.
    5. Ask for referrals.  Your members and committed stakeholders already know why you are so great, and what value you bring to the table.  Ask them for referrals to other colleagues who may not be aware.  Then, pick up the phone and call them.  Build a network with the network you already have.

Have you tried any of these strategies?  What were the outcomes?  What else have you been doing to change the way you communicate with your industry?


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Association eLearning: What You Need to Know

Online Education

This month Digitec Interactive is honored to be featured as a guest author on the Event Garde blog. Association eLearning: What You Need To Know by Sarah Lugo, features practical tips and tricks for getting started with online learning and shares the secret to giving members what they want. If you haven’t already, please check out our guest blog post and share your comments. We’d love to hear your tips for getting started with association eLearning.


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Simplify Your Learning: 5 Tips for Slimming Down

At some point, we’ve all been stuck in a meeting or class that seemed to drag on forever. You don’t want anyone to have that feeling while they’re taking your eLearning. If a course or lesson lasts too long, learners are likely to stop paying attention and start wondering, “How much is left?” So, here are 5 tips for keeping your online education focused and easy to digest.

keep eLearning simple

1. Use Less On-Screen Text
A lot of eLearning crams too much text on screen. Truthfully, most learners don’t read all of it, they scan. The best way to cut down on unnecessary text is to edit it down to the bare minimum. Ask yourself: How can I say the same thing in fewer words? Using the present tense instead of the future tense is one small, but significant way, to do this. “Next, you will click the button” is less direct than “Next, you click the button. ” It may not seem like much, but if you cut out those few extra words every time, the savings really add up. Bullet points are another popular method for reducing the word count. Anytime you are presenting a list of information, consider using bullet points with the key points instead of a paragraph of text .

2. Watch Content Density More Than Screen Numbers
You can have a high screen count on quick, user-friendly training your learners will enjoy. You can also have a low screen count on a maddeningly slow paced course that bores learners to death. Content density is the determining factor. Avoid over-dense eLearning. If each screen has only a few, focused elements, like some concise text with a supporting image, learners are less likely to feel overwhelmed. On the other hand, if every screen is covered, top to bottom with text , accompanied by long narration, the eLearning won’t be easy to digest, even if there are only a few screens. Although not visible on screen, audio contributes to content density, too.

3. Include Printable Resources
If you have a lot of information that absolutely has to be included, consider creating a supplementary printable resource, like a PDF. That way your learners have the option of saving it for later reference or printing the material without having to access the course again.

4. Split Content into Several Parts, if Appropriate
A one-hour online training course is a daunting prospect. Four fifteen minute modules aren’t quite as intimidating. Depending on the subject, you may be able to chunk your course into several short modules. Or, you could use a menu or topic selection screen that will allow learners to take one section at a time within the overall course.

5. Get Another Pair of Eyes on the Content
This doesn’t trim down the content per say, but it can tell you if you need to cut back. If possible, have someone who has never seen the online course give it a test drive. They’ll likely notice little things the production team didn’t, and can give you a fresh perspective on the pacing and complexity of the content. If they think it’s too slow or confusing, there’s a good chance that your members may as well.

It’s best to design slim eLearning from the start. This will help ensure that learners check out your eLearning, rather than mentally checking out. There are ways to get it down to size before it reaches your learners. Do you have any other tips for keeping your association’s online learning from getting too overwhelming? I’d love to hear your ideas for simplifying eLearning.

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Project Management on a Shoestring Budget

eLearning Project Management Budget

So, your association has decided to create a new online course. Yay! But whether you’re teaming with an experienced eLearning provider or have decided to go it alone, this may be the first time you’ve ever served as the project manager on an eLearning project. What do you need to know in order to ensure the best possible outcome for your course, and perhaps even more importantly, which tools can help you get the job done – on time and in budget?

In our experience partnering with nonprofits and associations, one of the concerns we hear most often is about managing eLearning projects without having project management (PM) training or the budget for dedicated software like Microsoft® Project. In a recent blog post, we addressed the question of training, so in this post, we’ll talk about creative ways to manage an eLearning project effectively with just a basic set of tools.

Organization and Workflow

You already know the importance of good organization and having a well-documented, step-by-step process with systems to aid organization. Hence why associations are called organizations J. You can use something as simple as a pencil and paper, or the drawing tools in Microsoft® Word, to design a system for organizing your online learning. For instance, you can draw a simple flowchart of boxes with arrows to show the hierarchy of your folder structure for storing project files, with the project folder at the top level and folders for the various modules on subsequent levels. Depending upon the complexity of your eLearning projects, you may want to organize your project with one or more sub-levels. Sketching with pencil and paper lets you try out different organization schemes to find the one that works best for your course.

Flowcharts are also a good way to visualize the workflow process you want to follow. For example, you can sketch out a flow diagram showing each deliverable, the number of reviews allowed, which stakeholders are involved at each round, and the method of collecting feedback. A great digital flowchart tool you could use is Trello.

Spreadsheets are also a good tool for organizing and can be used in lots of ways. If you’re just starting an eLearning initiative, you may not have all that many assets to keep track of, but it won’t take long before you build a substantial library of multimedia files. A spreadsheet will help you keep track of all your assets and organize them by category, type, file name, project, key words, permissions, and so forth. If your spreadsheet tool allows for more than one worksheet in a file, you can set up a worksheet for each asset category to help you manage a larger volume of files without having to scroll through an individual worksheet. Another time-saving feature is the ability to sort the data by columns, which is extremely useful when you’re searching the library for a particular type of asset.

Here are some other ways you can use spreadsheets to help you organize:

• Track the assets used for an individual project
• Maintain a library of voice over talent
• Create a shot list for a photo or video shoot

Project Schedule

Last time, we talked about the importance of having a project schedule to guide you from one milestone to the next during the course of the project.  Here again, a spreadsheet is a good tool to use for this, or even a table created in a word processor.  Starting with the first task in the project, you simply enter each task in a row, sequentially, with the start and end dates, the person or team responsible, percentage complete, and any dependencies. You can even color code and indent the task to create a hierarchy for each milestone group and use highlighting to call attention to critical dependencies.  As tasks are completed, just check them off or note the percentage complete as you go along.  What’s important is to keep the schedule up to date and to notify team members when changes have been made that affect them.


The project budget defines the project scope and is one of the three elements that constrain an eLearning project, along with time and quality. As the eLearning project manager, you’re likely responsible for keeping close track of the budget so you can be prepared to make adjustments when needed during the project.  You may not have the funds for sophisticated accounting software, but that’s okay. Again, you can use your trusty spreadsheet to do the job. It takes a little work and some knowledge of spreadsheet functionality to get the budget set up, but once you apply the built-in formulas, they do all of the math. Then it’s just a matter of making adjustments along the way to reflect what’s happening in the project.

Pencil and paper, word processing software, and spreadsheets are just a few of the basic tools you can use to manage eLearning projects effectively on a shoestring budget. What are your “shoestring” tools and how do you use them?  Let us hear from you.


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