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Effects of the PowerPoint Presentation Software in College Teaching: Results and Analysis of a Quasi-Experimental Research Yousuo J. Zou, University of Guam Yukiko Inoue, University of Guam

Abstract Technology has a dramatic impact on the education process, and the PowerPoint (PP) software program is useful for teaching the text content to college students particularly. An attempt was therefore made to determine the effects of PP presentation software as an instructional strategy in a college course. The participants of this study were undergraduate students of two classes in the computer science program. Class A (experimental group) was taught with PP presentation slides and Class B (control group) without PP presentation slides by the same instructor using the same textbooks based on the same course syllabus and same learning objectives. As a result, there was no statistically significant difference in the mean scores of the midterm and final exams between two groups, but the final exam score of Class A was lower than that of Class B. The results are consistent with other studies, supporting the theorized notion that PP slides should be considered as an enhancement of the instructional process, not the determining factor for student learning. Implications of the results were discussed, focusing on lessons learned from this study. Keywords: PowerPoint presentation; educational technology; instructional technology; college teaching; quasi-experimental research; instructional tools

Introduction When computers were first used in the classroom, they were used more like "entertainment" centers rather than instructional tools; such day has gone and today computers and other sources of technology can truly enhance curriculum and instruction (Madsen, 2004). When Madsen, a music teacher, was preparing her students for their field trip to a symphony concert, she was able to go "online" and take her students to a site that showed them the diagram of the seating arrangement of the orchestra, the sounds of each instrument that they would be hearing as well as samples of the music. As Madsen's experience indicates precisely, best possible

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MICRONESIAN EDUCATOR (2006) VOL. 11 learning may not have taken place when only traditional lectures were employed in teaching and learning. Furthermore, it does appear that college students of today embrace a more holistic manner of instruction or presentation styles, for instance, by combining text, visual imagery, and multimedia text utilizing VHS/ DVD, PowerPoint (PP), and Internet presentations. The information age is indeed making new demands on the education process, requiring radical changes in what and how students learn, and many people believe that technology is an essential part of those changes in teaching and learning (Beekman, 2005). In addition to the Internet and the proliferation of accessible information, college professors, in particular, use technology to change how courses are taught and delivered (Lehr, 2005). Thus technology in the classroom promises to innovate and facilitate the learning process, and the use of technology in college courses has evolved from being an experiment into an occasional resource and currently a norm (Bruce, Dowd, Eastburn, & D'arcy, 2005). The purpose of the study reported in the present paper was therefore to determine the effects of a PP presentation as an instructional tool in a college course. Implications of the research results and analysis were discussed, focusing on the educational importance of instructional technology.

Review of the Literature If 路is true that contemporary college students have become so accustomed to technology that new means must be employed to retain their attention and interest dupng the teaching and learning activities in the class, and that professors are ever aware of tiie need for more effective instructional tools for teaching and ~ey would like to continue to search for ways to maximize the students' learning experience (Howard, Ellis, & Rasmussen, 2004). DeSouza and Fleming (2003) have reviewed the literature extensively and have pointed out: (1) many of the textbooks now come with computerized study guides, and students can benefit from using such study guides that permit them to take a variety of test questions for the material and give immediate feedback; and (2) students enrolled in an onlin~ ~lass score higher on exams than students in the standard lecture class because of the use of online mastery quizzes. Furtherm<?re, contemporary college students, who have grown up with and become accustomed to the "visual" stimulation of television, computers, and video games, do expect technology to be used effectively as part of their learning experience (Frey& Birnbaum, 2002): As a result, faculty are continuously challenged to hold the attention of these learners from the high-tech generation. Through the thoughtful use of computer presentation programs (such as Microsoft PowerPoint, Compel,

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Zou & Inoue - Effects of the Powerpoint Presentation Software Aldus Persuasion, and Gold Disk Astound) , faculty can create professionallooking presentations to enhance student learning and achieve course goals. (p. 3)

Professors use presentation slides to help students organize their notes , and to present visual images to enhance their lecture; professors also use slides as an "outline" to keep their own instructional focus, that is, by using slides as visual cues, they do not need notes to stay on track. There may be illustrations, photographs, or video clips on a CD-ROM that professors can easily incorporate into their PP program; it should be noted, however, that before using any multimedia in a presentation, the professors have to make certain that they have the copyright permission (Faculty Development Services, n. d.). Frey and Birnbaum (2002), for instance, conducted a survey on undergraduate students' perceptions on the value of PP presentations in lectures (N = 160) and found: (1) the majority of the survey respondents agreed that PP slides had a positive effect on lectures, especially in helping them to take notes and to study for exams; and (2) the respondents preferred PP lectures to traditional lectures using a blackboard or whiteboard, though they perceived professors who delivered PP as being more organized. Ahmed (1998) investigated whether there was a difference in student exam results when professors used the PP presentation in the undergraduate teacher education program (N = 143). PP slides were created for this exact set of overheads, using a colorful template added to the text to increase the visual impact. As a result, however, after two semesters later, there was very "little" difference in student performance when comparing the exam scores following traditional overheads and PP software. Bartsch and Cobern (2003) also investigated whether students learned more from PP slides than from overhead transparencies. At the end of the semester, students preferred PP to overheads yet performed worse on exams when PP included non-text items, such as pictures and sound effects. The results may suggest that PP can be beneficial, but material that is not pertinent to the text content can be harmful to students' learning. A study by Ricer, Filak, and Short (2005) was concluded to determine if differences in (1) a subjective evaluation, (2) short-term retention of material, and (3) longterm retention of material occurred with the use of "static overheads" versus "computerized, animated PP slides" for a presentation to medical students. In their study, all students rotating on a required clerkship attended a standard lecture presented by one faculty member. The content of the presentation remained the same, but the instructional media varied (overheads on even months, animated PP slides on odd months). Students completed a posttest and subjective evaluation immediately following the lecture and repeated the posttest one year later, but there were no significant differences between the two groups. Students rated both types of presentation (i.e., computerized, animated, PP slides vs . black on clear

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MICRONESIAN EDUCATOR (2006) VOL. 11 overheads) equally and displayed no differences in a short- or long-term retention of material. Bushong ( 1998) conducted a study to determine if a PP presentation was the most effective medium to explain two reference books (The Storyteller's Sourcebook and A Guide to Folktales in the England Language in this case) and to see if undergraduate students who saw PP slides received higher scores for an assignment than those who only received "oral" instructions (N = 122). Results of the study indicated a slightly higher number of PP lecture students needed individual assistance from library staff than the non-PP lecture students. The non-PP students felt the presentation was more helpful in understanding the reference books than did the PP students. In addition, the non-PP students felt the presentation was more enthusiastic and more essential to the completion of the assignment. It should be emphasized that score comparisons between these two groups did not result in statistically significant results. Generally speaking, students perceive that graphical presentations are more effective than the bulleted text; nowadays, in fact, there are software presentation products that make it easy for instructors to build animation and interactivity into their presentations-thus converting lecture outlines to PP presentations is a distinct improvement over overhead transparencies; at the same time, it should be noted that PP is not a terribly creative application of the power of multimedia and will not have a great impact on students' learning (Reinhardt, 1999). Reinhardt further describes how to prepare PP slides as follows: •

identify a handful of target lessons (elevate student expectations);

explore design strategies (look to see what others have done);

develop a prototype lesson (a response can be included if feedback is critical);

deliver presentation and get students' response; and

assess the value of the presentation and lessons students learned (comparing exams from traditional lectures and PP presentations).

As the Center for Teaching and Learning Services (2006) emphasizes, there are many reasons why PP (which allows the users to generate slides, screenshows, handouts, and speaker notes all from a single file; and PP is applicable in all disciplines) is becoming more widely used in college classrooms, even though there are both positive (it is easy to update the content of the slides, adding images, charts, motion, and sound, for example) and negative (professors often overload slides with information, forcing them to move through the material too quickly while overwhelming students with them, for example) aspects to using PP in the teaching-learning process. The Center further emphasizes that the PP software program maintains a simple yet powerful user interface that makes it easy for newcomers to setup a presentation while keeping more experienced users enthralled due to its complex repertoire of features .


Zou & Inoue - Effects of the Powerpoint Presentation Software

Methodology This PP study was conducted, during the 2005 spring semester, at the University of Guam in the Western Pacific. This University, a four-year land-grant institution of higher learning, follows the American educational structure and systems. The University had nearly 200 full-time faculty members, and about 3,000 students who come from five main ethnic categories: (1) Chamorros (native people of Guam); (2) Filipinos; (3) other Asians who originated from China, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Hong Kong, India, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Thailand; (4) state-siders (American in origin); and (5) Micronesians who originated from Micronesian islands other than Guam. Approximately 90% of the student body was Asian and Pacific islanders, and approximately 60% of the faculty body was Caucasian at the University. Participants and Data The participants of this study were undergraduate students of two classes in the computer science (CS) program. A quasi-experimental design (see Figure 1), which was utilized in the present study, "involves the use of intact classes of participants in an experiment, rather than assigning participants at random to experimental treatments" (Wiersma & Jurs, 2005, p. 130). Based on this design, Class A (N =17; 11 male, 6 female) was taught with PP presentation slides (experimental group), whereas Class B (N = 15; 12 male, 3 female) was taught without PP presentation slides (control group). Most of the study participants were Chamorros, Filipinos, and Micronesians; only one state-sider student was in each class. Group

Instruction

Midterm Exam

Instruction

Final Exam

Class A

PP Lecture (PL)

01

PP Lecture (PL)

02

Standard Lecture OassB (SL)

Standard lecture 03

(SL)

04

Figure 1. Diagram of an experimental group (PP lecture) and a control group (standard lecture) (Note: In the figure, Os indicate data collection) Both classes were taught by the same instructor, the first author of the present paper, using the same textbooks and the same course syllabus. The learning course was CS360: Introduction to Operating Systems, which was meant to equip students with basic concepts and principles of modem operating systems-such operating system structures as system calls, processes and threads, multiprocessing, multitasking, deadlocks, memory management, file management, input and output management, multimedia and multi-processor systems, operating system security, and design principles of modem operating systems. The lecture/discussion of each session of class meetings lasted one hour and twenty

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MICRONESIAN EDUCATOR (2006) VOL. 11 minutes (i.e., 90 minutes per session), twice a week, and continued for seventeen weeks during the semester. In both classes, at the beginning of the lecture in class, the instructor started with telling students what they would learn in the class session. At the end of the lecture, the instructor summarized the information, provided closure, and asked students to connect the information to themselves. The only difference was that Class B did not have opportunities to look at PP presentation slides at all but Class A did. The instructor prepared PP slides, including pictures, graphics, animations, and sounds, in addition to the bulleted text (Note: some graphics and animations were not exactly related to the text content) for Class A; 70% of the slides were from the textbook publisher and 30% were developed by the instructor.

Results In the midterm and final exams, the same essay (or short answer) questions were asked to be answered in a closed-book written format for both classes. As summarized in Table 2, in the midterm exam, the mean (M) score of the Class A was higher than that of Class B. Note that standard deviation (SD) is also indicated in Table 2. In the final exam, nevertheless , the mean (M) score of Class B was higher than that of Class A. It should be mentioned that female students tend to have higher scores than male students, probably because female students are usually not absent from class meetings, and more engage in discussion, listening attentively to the instructor and to one another.

Table 1. Midterm and final exam scores of experimental and control groups CLASS A (PL) : Experimental Group (n = 17) Midterm Final Student

CLASS B (SL): Control Group (n =15) Student Final Midterm

90 92

78

B1

A2

Male Female

60

A3

Male

67

62

A4

Female

91

89

A5

Female

94

95

A6

Male

91

72

A7

Male

74

69

B7

AS

Female

83

37

A9

Male

98

83

A1

Female

94

91

B2

Male

78

91

B3

Female

56

63

B4

Male

93

93

B5

Male

80

92

B6

Male

88

61

Male

72

77

B8

Male

54

Dropped

B9

Male

40

33

AlO

Male

68

38

BlO

Female

90

80

All

Male

80

62

Bll

Male

71

41

A12

Female

90

77

B12

Male

98

84

A13

Male

92

89

B13

Male

86

78

Al4

Male

72

48

B14

Male

91

81

A15

Male

91

56

B15

Male

62

65

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Zou & Inoue - Effects of the Powerpoint Presentation Software A16 A17

Male F~male

59 95

64 64

~3 .94 (M)

Average

67.24 (M) 16.95 (SD)

11.71 (SO)

76JJ7 (M) 17 .30 (SD)

Average

73.57 (M) 18.83 (SD)

Statistical Analysis of Instruction Styles If the two sample means are far enough apart, the t test will yield a significant difference and will permit the researcher to conclude that the two populations probably do not have the same mean statistically. An independent t test was therefore calculated comparing the mean scores of the midterm and final exams for the PP lecture (Class A) and the standard lecture (Class B) groups (see Table 2). In case of the midterm exam, no significant difference was found (t(30) = 1.369,p > .05): the mean of Class A (M = 83.94, SD = 11.71) was not significantly different from the mean of Class B (M =76.87 ,SD =17.30). By the same token, no significant difference was found (t(29) = 1.369,p > .05) in the final exam results: the mean of Class A (M 67 .24, SD = 16.95) was not significantly different from the mean of Class B (M 73.57, SD = 18.83).

= =

Table 2. Midterm and final exam scores in two instructional methods Midterm Exam M 83.94

SD 11.71

76.87

17.30

Class APL

M 67.24

SD 16.95

Class Bst

73.57

18.83

Class APL

T 1.37

Class B~, Final Exam

I

I

T -.99

p>.05 A paired samples t test for Class A was calculated to compare the mean score of the midterm exam to that of the final exam (see Table 3) and a significant decrease in the score from the midterm exam (M = 83.94) to the final exam (M = 76.87) was found (t(16) = 4.746 ,p < .05). In case of Class B, nevertheless, no significant difference in the score from the midterm exam (M = 76.87) to the final exam (M = 73 .57) was found (t(13) = 1.417 ,p > .05).

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MICRONESIAN EDUCATOR (2006) VOL. 11

Table 3. t test for midterm and final exams in two instructional methods

Class~' Class Bs1.

Midterm M 83.94 76.87

SD 11.71 17.30

Final M 67.24 73.57

SD 16.95 19.83

T 4.746* 1.417

p<.05

Discussion One explanation why there was no significant difference between two instructional styles (that is, PP lecture vs. standard lecture) may be that using PP slides the instructor can provide students with too much information that students basically cannot grasp in the limited time of each class session. In the standard lecture class, the information that the instructor can write in the whiteboard in the session of one hour and twenty minutes is limited. Furthermore, in the second half of the semester, there were more complex programming theories and algorithms that needed more thorough understanding in this course. Students in Class A, in fact, did complain that there was too much information to digest before the final exam; but students in Class B did not, mainly because the slow learning process using whiteboards allowed students to follow the lecture well and eventually get better results than Class A students did. The above results are consistent with the notion by the Center for Teaching and Learning Services (2006) that professors overload slides with information, forcing them to move through the material too quickly while overwhelming students with them. The results of the present study are also consistent with and confirm Bartsch and Cobern's (2003) study that students perform worse on exams when PP slides include non-text items (such as pictures and sound effects) that can be detract from students' learning. In standard lectures, generally speaking, instructors tend to talk more "enthusiastically" about the content than they do in PP lectures. The same situations might have happened in this study. Simon (2002) has pointed out the following three basic principles in the design of teaching when using technology: (1) attention is the scarce factor;

(2) filter information by using technology; and (3) sample knowledge instead of covering everything. These principles may also explain the result of the final exam of Class A in this study. PP presentations oftentimes do not effectively "filter" information, simply because PP slides give student too much information with too fast a speed in the limited time in the class that does not follow the law of memory. That is to

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Zou & Inoue - Effects of the Powerpoint Presentation Software say, the PP presentation software must be used carefully to achieve the optimal effectiveness of learning, following the above principles provided by Simon (2002). In addition, the ancient Chinese great educator Confucius (Shelly, Cashman, Gunter, & Gunter, 2004) once said:

If I hear, I forget;

if I see, I remember; and if I do, I understand ...

The midterm exam results in the present study can be explained with the learning theory of constructivism just as that observed by Confucius. Constructivism views that human beings are "active" learners who construct their knowledge on experience and on their efforts to give meaning to that experience (Frank, Lavy, & Elata, 2003). In computer courses particularly, doing (such as hands-on practices) is important; seeing and hearing about the complex graphics of computer software and hardware through PP slides are not enough to understand operating systems. The results of this study are therefore understandable, indeed. Another lesson learned from the present study is the importance of creating effective PP slides, primary because one of the purposes of using PP presentation slides is to get the students' attention on the subject material. In this regard , Russell and Shriner (2001) recommend the following points:

text (use a dark-colored text with a large size);

background (simple , light-colored backgrounds work best with dark text);

transitions (use a consistent transition throughout the entire lecture);

color (use color sparingly and for impact); and

multimedia (picture, move clips, audio clips can enhance PP lectures , but use only one or two multimedia clips per page).

Montecino (1999) also identifies the points for creating effective PP presentation slides, and the following details by Montecino are extremely useful for a successful presentation in the classroom. Effective PP slides: •

use design templates

standardize position, colors, and styles

include only necessary information

limit the information to essentials

content should be self-evident

use colors that contrast

be consistent with effects, transitions, and animations

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MICRONESIAN EDUCATOR (2006) VOL. 11 •

too many slides can lose the audience

Text guidelines: •

generally no more than 6 words a line

generally no more than 6 lines a slide

avoid long sentences

larger font indicates more important information

font size generally ranges from 18 to 48 point

be sure text contrasts with background

fancy fonts can be hard to read

words in all capital letters are hard to read

avoid abbreviations and acronyms

limit punctuation marks

Clip arts and graphics: •

should balance the slides

should enhance and complement the text, not overwhelm

no more than two graphics per slides

A good PP presentation can enliven a lecture by offering "imagery" to support key points or concepts, and thus having a prepared set of slides can keep professors from losing track and from straying off on tangents; as a consequence, students praise PP slides for being easy to read, nothing that professors' chalkboard scrawls can be illegible (Young, 2004). As noted by Young, however, the following complaints from students are important: (1) reading PP slides verbatim (many professors cram slides with text and then recite the text during class, which some students say makes the delivery flatter than if the professor does not use slides; and (2) wasting class time fumbling with software and cables (that is, professors who are uncomfortable with technology can spend too much time troubleshooting instead of lecturing). It is important to get student inputs regarding PP presentations as well as to assess the value of the PP presentation slides and student learning (comparing exams from traditional lectures and PP lectures) (Reinhardt ( 1999). As a future direction of the study, a large scale ofPP surveys will be included,just as conducted (see Table 4) by Frey and Birnbaum (2002), focusing on student attention to the lecture, classroom


MICRONESIAN EDUCATOR (2006) VOL. 11 to different learning styles, are still the critical factor (Ahmed, 1998). PP is deliberately designed to be outlines, rather than detailed summaries of the lecture; PP slides can help students follow the lecture, organize their own notes, and review for quizzes and examinations, but PP slides are definitely not a substitute for attending lecture (Frey & Birnbaum, 2002). After the PP lecture professors should evaluate their own PP slides, focusing on the following critical questions (Faculty Development Services, n. d.): 1. How can the PP lecture enhance student learning? 2. Are the most important points emphasized? 3. Is the order of content presented logically? 4. Is there an introduction and conclusion? 5. Would it benefit students to have a handout of the slides prior to class?

At the same time, as noted before, "the presentation software should be considered as an enhancement of the instructional process, not the determining factor for student success" (Bushong, 1998, p. 30). It should be noted that the outcomes of the present study resulted not from the characteristics of the participants (most of them were minority students) but from the ways that the instructor taught in the two different class settings in terms of instructional methodology. Future research is needed to replicate and expand this study to further investigate student learning in college courses utilizing presentation software such as PP. Future research is also required that is sampled in such a way as to ensure that the findings can be generalized to the study population. The PP presentation (originally developed for business purposes) (1) has quickly penetrated higher education as a valuable instructional tool, (2) offers visual appeal , up-to-date links through the Web, and (3) has the ability to address various learning styles; moreover, when used effectively, this presentation tool certainly can serve to emphasize key concepts, stimulate interest, and promote understanding (Faculty Development Services, n. d.).

Finally, it is also true that attending lectures enhanced with the PP presentation software still remains a relatively passive instructional activity; therefore, in order to facilitate student learning and to achieve course goals and objectives, research on strategies that incorporate "active learning" into presentations, such as PP presentations, would be valuable (Frey & Birnbaum, 2002). Certainly, it is a useful notion .

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MICRONESIAN EDUCATOR (2006) VOL. 11 Montecino, V. (1999). Creating an effective PowerPoint presentation. Retrieved February 7, 2006, from http://mason.gmu.edu/-montecin/powerpoint.html Moore,D. (1999). School+ technology= changes. School Planning &Management, 38(3), 11. Reinhardt, L. (1999). Confessions of a 'techno-teacher.' College Teaching, 47(2), 48-50. Ricer, R. E., Filak:, A., & James, S. (2005). Does a high tech (computerized, animated PowerPoint) presentation increase retention of material compared to a low tech (black on clear overheads) presentation? Teaching & Learning in Medicine, 17(2), 107-111. Russell, M. A., & Schriner, W. M. (2001). Creating effective PowerPoint presentation. Retrieved February 8, 2006, from http://www.gst-d21.com/ TLCITLCProj .html Shelly, G. B., Cashman, T. J., Gunter, R.E., & Gunter, G. A. (2004). Integrating technology in the classroom. Florence, KY: Thomson Learning. Simon, H. A. (2002). Cooperation between educational technology and learning theory to advance higher education. In P. S. Goodman (Ed.). Technology enhanced learning, opportunities for change (pp. 61-74). LEA Publishers. Wiersma, W., & Jurs, S. G. (2005). Research methods in education (8th ed.). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon. Young, J. R. (2004, November 11). When good technology means bad teaching. Chronicle of Higher Education, 51(12). Retrieved February 9, 2006, from http://chronicle .com

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Micronesian Educator, Vol. 11 Effects of the PowerPoint Presentation  

Software in College Teaching: Results and Analysis of a Quasi-Experimental Research By: Yousuo J. Zou and Yukiko Inoue pgs. 27-40

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