The best way to learn something is to do it. So it makes sense that people learning how to use PowerPoint will do better at it if they’re being taught on a computer rather than being lectured to. But there are three mistakes you can make as an instructor that will seriously derail the lesson. Addressing these errors before they happen will increase the odds of a better teaching experience for you and a better learning experience for your students.
#3 Version control
One of the most important features of software training is continuity. This is easy to ensure if you’re teaching in a dedicated computer lab because everybody will be working with identical computers, peripherals and software. But if you’re doing a one-day session in the conference room you need to make sure that everyone is using the same version of the software and brings similar laptops.
Communicate the requirements for the class well ahead of time and send a reminder to students before you meet. Make sure that you’re teaching to the same version of the software that most of the students are using.
Valuable class time can be wasted if you don’t address these things beforehand. I once delivered a PowerPoint training session where only two people were using PowerPoint 2013 like I was. Nobody had brought a mouse for their laptops and it was awkward for them to work in PowerPoint with a trackpad. A few people were still working with PowerPoint 2010. And one guy was rocking a Macbook with Office 2008. Needless to say, things did not go as smoothly as I’d planned.
#2 404 error: File not Found
Always, always always send your work files ahead of time to your students. Tell them they need to load these files onto their laptops before class. Resend the files a day or two before the class with a reminder that they need to be installed on the laptops they’re bringing to class. For insurance, bring a bunch of preloaded thumb drives with the same work files to the class to hand out to people who didn’t know they were supposed to do anything ahead of time to prepare (You know there will be at least one.). Getting up and running with your first file should take, at most, one minute.
#1 Surprise! It’s a work session!
Last month I attended what I thought was a lecture on how to use Excel charts in PowerPoint. It turned out that it was a work session! Not everybody had a laptop with them, so they were completely left out. Those who’d brought laptops, about 20 people, had to either navigate to a website to download the work files or take turns copying them from one of two thumb drives the instructor had brought.
I had an iPad with me and had just subscribed to Office 365 that morning, so I thought I’d be all set. But downloading and opening the work files wasn’t as simple as I thought it would be. It took me 30 minutes to activate Excel on my iPad and to figure out how to transfer the work files from the website to Dropbox to OneDrive so I could open them. All the while, I was trying to pay attention to the instructor. After I finally managed to get the work file to open on the tablet, I discovered that Excel for the iPad has drastically limited functionality so I couldn’t even follow along with the instructor. What a colossal, frustrating waste of time that was.
To recap, not telling people that you’re conducting a work session wastes time, excludes people who don’t happen to have a laptop with them, and frustrates people who are using different versions of the software. Not the best experience for you or for your class!
These are the three biggest mistakes I’ve either made or seen other people make when teaching people how to use PowerPoint in a classroom setting. But I’m sure these aren’t the only goofs that have happened. Please respond in the comments section with your PowerPoint teaching/learning horror stories!