Writing a rebuttal to Geoffrey James and his vicious hate for PowerPoint led us on a wonderful journey across different universities, businesses, and researchers. And since it was thorough work piecing together our PowerPoint love letter, we’ve decided to compile every academic resource and research paper we found that supports our stance and highlight PowerPoint’s efficacy in training and education. If you’re ever faced with a manager, colleague, client, customer, or misguided blogger that doesn’t understand the value of PowerPoint, this reading list will help you enlighten them.
Spotlight on PowerPoint as an Academic Resource
Hertz (2015) produced a 200-page research paper looking at the presentation of conference papers with PowerPoint. Unlike most of the research I looked at, which focuses primarily on students and the efficacy of certain PowerPoint features; this paper instead uses scholarly presentations in conference settings to explore everything from slide design to presenter behaviour and PowerPoint training. Here are some choice quotes from the study:
“The critical articles on PowerPoint are mainly based on personal experiences and not on research.”
“If we look at PowerPoint presentations as performances, we can see that presenters must be designers, actors and directors at the same time. It is clear that PowerPoint elicits behaviour that is not always consistent with what is considered to be good presentation form. This, however, is not the fault of the program.”
“The fact that presenters are able to make slides without any previous training can be a double-edged sword: with no training, presenters are unaware of some basic communication principles.”
“Presenters mistakenly think that they can use PowerPoint not only for the benefit of the audience, but for their own benefit as well. They think they can use the slides as speaking-notes, or that PowerPoint can replace presentation skills. Our research shows that the opposite is true. PowerPoint introduces an extra variable, in addition to audience and presenter, and the use of this variable requires additional presentation skills. Looking at PowerPoint presentations as a “performance,” it is clear that the role of the presenter is to create cohesion among speaking, pictures and text on slides.”
“We have seen that presenters do not receive sufficient training in using PowerPoint, so it is not surprising that many of them design their slides based only on common sense, which often is not in line with guidelines, and present in ways that are not always helpful for the information processing of the audience.”
“The apparent user friendliness of PowerPoint might disguise the fact that presentations with the program are in fact complex. It is not PowerPoint itself which causes some bad presentations, but the choices and behaviour of the presenters who must deal with all the new possibilities and requirements inherent in this program.”
PowerPoint’s educational / training benefits
Jordan & Papp (2014) highlighted research that demonstrates the underlying issues with teaching and processing information such as the cognitive overload, poor use of PowerPoint, and the dangerous assumption that ‘one teaching style fits all’. The study concluded, “PowerPoint has been criticized as an ineffective tool for communication and learning. However, in this paper we demonstrated that the problem is not with PowerPoint, but with our use of it. PowerPoint has the potential to enhance learning, but only if we first learn how to use it effectively.”
Uz et al. (2010) and Spernjak (2014) found that PowerPoint’s user-friendliness is more highly preferred by students and teachers compared to other teaching methods or presentation software, such as Prezi.
Levasseur & Sawyer (2006) found that information is more effectively conveyed and learned when supported with visual elements, particularly in using PowerPoint as an academic resource.
Beets & Lobingier (2001) noted that PowerPoint better facilitates learning compared to traditional lecture methods.
Can et al. (2012) found that when lecturers fail to employ interactive or student-centred strategies, the impact on learning sees no significant difference from those taught with or without PowerPoint.
Bartsch & Cobern (2003) found that students tend to learn more in courses when taught with PowerPoint as an academic resource.
Adams (2006) noted that students found PowerPoint to helpful cognitive tool and slide printouts useful for reviewing content. The study also stated, “PowerPoint has proved itself an excellent instrument of the lecture presentation, allowing teachers to gather and organize an astonishing array of digitized materials for that purpose into a single file.”
Atkins-Sayre, et al., (1998) found that the use of PowerPoint in classrooms helps students maintain interest in lectures while enhancing their understanding and retention of the material.
Çankaya & Dinç (2009) concluded that students who were lectured with PowerPoint presentations performed better academically compared to students who were lectured in more traditional fashion. They also expressed that students who were lectured with PowerPoint presentations found the course more attractive, enjoyable, and relaxing – seeing PowerPoint as beneficial. On the flipside, students lectured more traditionally found the course more monotonous, boring and tiresome. These same conclusion was reached by Szabo & Hastings (2000).
Khoo et al. (2014) noted that a vast majority of students identified the positive features PowerPoint offers presenters such as embedding multimedia (88%), using templates to structure ideas (86%), and condensing information onto slides (81%). The study concluded, “Despite an awareness of the affordances of PPT, it appears users still lack the ability to critique software or to give considered thought to how it shapes and communicates disciplinary knowledge.”
PowerPoint’s effect on memory retention
Susskind (2005) revealed that lessons delivered through PowerPoint presentations better facilitated learning, memory retention, and note taking.
Nouri & Shahid (2005) found that properly designed presentations that were prepared with well-arranged content enhance student efficiency in note taking and PowerPoint presentations have a positive effect on memory.
Gier & Kreiner (2009) demonstrated that when lecturers posed content-based questions on PowerPoint slides several times within a lesson, students score substantially higher in quizzes and exams.
James et al. (2006) expressed PowerPoint’s positive impact as an academic resource in encouraging note taking, holding students’ attention, and improving content recall in class.
MacKiewicz (2008) discovered that PowerPoint’s ‘slide sorter’ can help presenters and students storyboard and outline content to more effectively achieve their communication purposes and meet their audience’s needs.
Rosenthal et al. (2003) found students were more engaged due to the multimedia capabilities of PowerPoint.
Frey & Birnbaum (2002) discovered that a majority of students prefer PowerPoint over traditional lecture methods as slideshows hold their attention and handouts help with note taking.
PowerPoint and Positive Motivation
Susskind (2008) discovered that students a more likely to view lessons positively when delivered as PowerPoint presentations.
Apperson et al., 2008 concluded that lecturing accounting courses with multimedia presentations, like PowerPoint, enhances students’ interest in and motivation for the course.
Craig & Amernic (2006) reported that students enjoy learning with PowerPoint as an academic resource, finding PowerPoint presentations improve clarity, reinforce subject matter, and are more amusing.
PowerPoint as an Academic Resource Geography
Savoy et al. (2009) determined that for courses containing complex graphs, animations, and figures – such as geography – lecturing with a PowerPoint presentation would provides advantages, while students prefer traditional methods for courses containing numerical information.
Şengün & Turan, (2004) found that using PowerPoint as an academic resource helps make the relationships among concepts more comprehensible and is thus better suited to the field of physical geography within geographical subjects.
Duman & Atar (2004) expressed that PowerPoint presentations enhanced the academic achievement of students and motivation with respect to the teaching of abstract subjects like climatology in the course of geography.
PowerPoint in other specialty-education fields
Eredemir (2011) found that students who whose lectures were supported with PowerPoint presentations [PPP] scored higher grades than those taught with more traditional presentation. The research also stated that, “The present study supports the premise that the ‘intelligent use’ of PPPs in physics instruction is capable of increasing the students’ success.”
Zou et al. (2010) concluded that Socratic teaching combined with gentle questioning by instructors through the use of PowerPoint is the preferred method of learning amongst medical students.
O’Dwyer (2008) suggested that engineering students were more interested and felt better supported in their learning during PowerPoint-based lectures.
Selimoglu et. al, (2009) found accounting students with a preference for PowerPoint presentations as an academic resource and ready access to slides also see a positive impact on their examination scores.
If you enjoyed this piece, please download it as an e-book for future reference and feel free to get in touch regarding any potential research collaborations. We’re always eager to explore PowerPoint’s value further. We at Synapsis Creative are frankly tired of the misconceptions surrounding PowerPoint and are part of a growing community of designers who truly understand its versatility as a software and its power as a communicator.