Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

Student Study Tips: Learn More From PowerPoint Lectures

PowerPoint Lecture Tips

Few people can use PowerPoint effectively, and professors are no exception.

I took a six-year break between the end of my undergrad and the start of my MBA program. To me, the biggest difference between lectures in 2004 and the present is that professors have become incredibly reliant on PowerPoint (even though many of them complain about computers).

However, I find very few people can use PowerPoint effectively, and professors are no exception.

The Wrong Way to Use PowerPoint

Some professors put far too much information on a slide, and then spent 10 minutes explaining the slide with a laser pointer (or at least, trying to explain it). Some professors put quotes on slides, and then they read those quotes aloud at half the pace it takes me to read it silently. The worst is when a math professor puts a problem on a slide and tells you (rather than shows you) how he arrived at the answer. I’m sorry, but math problems should be worked out on the board.

And of course, the lecture never progresses at the correct pace, and the professor just blasts through the last 10 slides in 3 minutes and says

“Don’t worry, I’ll post these online so you can go through them later.”

The presentation is bad enough that I don’t even bother attending lectures anymore. And this really hasn’t been a problem for me.

Alternate Ways to Learn the Material

Skipping lectures hasn’t been a problem for me, because I’ve found alternate ways to learn the material.

First of all, as much as I hate the way the professors present their slides, I have to admit that the PowerPoint document is usually the first place I go when it comes time to study.

All that information they pack onto the slides, though a detriment during presentation, is a goldmine during review.

In fact, I find this is the best place to get all of the material in one place, with the additional benefit of having been filtered for importance and relevance. Also, I like to put my material in outline form, and I’m able to copy from a PowerPoint and paste in Word or One Note with ease.

In addition to PowerPoint slides, about half of my professors are putting an mp3 version of their lecture online. I greatly prefer this to the real thing. First, the convenience is unbeatable. Second, I find that if the professor doesn’t have a laser pointer to rely on, he has to be much clearer in his descriptions of concepts (no more “…and this leads to that…”). Finally, and most important to me, I can run through several lectures back to back.

Use Web Learning to Study Online or On-The-Go

I am very much a person that likes intense periods of learning, and a one-hour lecture twice a week just doesn’t cut it. I spend the first few minutes of every lecture trying to remember what we went over last week. And how many times has the professor asked “Do you remember six weeks ago when we discussed X?” I remember going over X, but that’s about all I could tell you about it.

With mp3 files, I’m able to study until I can’t take it anymore. By way of example, I recently went on a road trip: 12 hours out and 12 hours back. I was able to cover an entire semesters worth of Economics in two days (though admittedly it also took a bit of coffee). This approach has the added benefit that I am able to recall most of Lecture 1 even during Lecture 20. For review purposes, if I ever do forget Lecture 1, it is only a few click away

Finally, if I ever run across a concept in the slides that I can’t understand, I find the internet more helpful than the professor, even when it comes to explaining the concepts on the professor’s own slides. If I ask a question during a lecture, all I can hope for is the best the professor could come up with on the spot.

The internet has everything. Wikipedia, of course, is a great place to start. But there are more specialized sites springing up all the time (e.g. Investopedia.com got me through Finance). I am able to copy the relevant text and paste it right in my outline. And the Internet’s information tends to be more thorough and more succinct.

And if all else fails, I can always fall back on reading the textbook. I’m mean, the authors probably got it right by the 14th Edition, right?

Chris Spartz
Author: Chris Spartz
Chris Spartz is currently a grad student at the University of Texas at Dallas.
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  1. Claviclekiss Says:

    Wikipedia is NEVER a great source for accurate information!

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