HealthFebruary 29, 2020

Creating a PowerPoint to engage students and promote learning

Since some nursing subjects include an overwhelming amount of material, it's  important to revamp PowerPoint presentations to engage students and promote learning.

Katie Morales, PhD, RN,CNE

I have taught gastrointestinal (GI) material for five years. It includes an overwhelming amount of material, which may not be as exciting to students as other systems. Last year, I revamped my PowerPoint to engage my students and promote learning. 

In the past, the end of course evaluations would include comments from students about how overwhelming GI was, but there were no such comments after implementing these changes. (Never fear, students still had suggestions for improvement, but not for GI.)

Here's my process for creating engaging PowerPoints:

  1. I start by downloading the PowerPoint from the instructor's resources in the text. This ensures the material is congruent with the text. Nothing distresses novices more than conflicting information! 
  2. I don"t stop there. Parker Palmer (1998) explains that “teachers teach who they are". I can"t use someone else's material and knock it out of the park. I must make it mine.
  3. Based on student feedback, I have a separate PowerPoint for each chapter. Students were previously overwhelmed when the PowerPoint took too long to download and had over 100 slides. 
  4. Based on overwhelming research indicating that notetaking promotes learning, I require students to print their PowerPoint and take notes in class. 
  5. I comb through the completed PowerPoint to make sure the font, font size, bullets, etc. are consistent. I proof the printed slides as well. I include slide numbers so students can easily refer to a slide they have questions about and utilize bullet points rather than complete sentences to reduce the amount of words on each slide.
  6. I view the slide sorter to rearrange the slides in a logical manner and include title slides to help students identify we are changing focus. For example, I have a title slide for “assessment", “mucosal erosion", etc. It adds to the number of slides but once students realized the title slides served as bookmarks, they really liked this.
  7. I color code the slides using a Pepto pink for general GI, red theme for inflammatory conditions, brown for colon, yellow for jaundice, etc. 
  8. I am consistent with my language. I replace “patient” with “client” and “doctor” with “provider.” Our text mixes the terms “gastric” and “duodenal” and “first degree” and “superficial” burns. This can be very confusing to novices.
  9. I start each class session with a countdown clock embedded in the PowerPoint. This helps build excitement and lets students know if they have time to run to the restroom, printer, etc.
  10. I hyperlink my name on the title slide to my bio, so students can get a sense of who I am.
  11. I revisit the learning objectives and remove information bloat. If it is not a stated objective, I remove it.
  12. I organized the objectives. For example, I organized the objectives and the order of the presentation as follows:
    • Weakened incompetent LES
      • Describe the medical, surgical, and nursing management of clients with esophageal varices.
      • Describe the various conditions of the esophagus and their clinical manifestations and management.
    • Erosion in mucosa
      • Compare the etiology clinical manifestations, and management of acute gastritis, chronic gastritis, and peptic ulcer.
      • Describe the dietary, pharmacologic, and surgical treatment of peptic ulcer.
      • Describe the action of seven groups of antiulcer drugs used to treat peptic ulcer.
      • I list the reading assignments on a slide after the objectives. 
  13. I list the reading assignments on a slide after the objectives. 
  14. I begin by asking what questions, comments, concerns the students have now that they have completed the reading assignments and wait until 2-3 students respond. This sets the tone that I expect them to come to class prepared.
  15. I begin each system with an “in a nutshell” review of what the system does. I provide the students with general questions as they study, such as:
    • Location of system
    • What does the system do?
    • What can go wrong?
    • How are you going to know something is wrong?
    • What are you going to do?
  16. I include a “Who's at Risk?” slide so we can discuss populations who may be affected by the disorders.
  17. I present the material in a logical manner. For example, I grouped symptoms of anemia by the body system affected:
    • Headaches, tinnitus, irritability, difficulty sleeping or concentrating;
    • Chest pain, dyspnea, palpitations, poor activity tolerance;
    • Anorexia, indigestion;
    • Abnormal menstruation, impotence, loss of libido.
      • I rearranged the table included in the text to present gastric before peptic ulcers as follows a head-to-toe approach, and grouped the list of medications for constipation by the route of administration. I also group assessment findings by priority findings.
      • Faculty can take this approach, or can take class time and ask students to identify the body systems affected, sort by head-to-toe, or identify the priority findings. 
  18. I include a photo of a cardinal on slides that list cardinal symptoms or a red flag for a priority finding.
  19. I include photos of assessment findings such as a beefy red tongue or free air in the abdomen.
  20. I include snapshots from the text of important tables, figures, etc. 
  21. I include “application” slides with various learning activities. This may be manipulating an anatomic model, issuing learning challenges, etc.
  22. I include humorous memes or videos that relate to the content. This may include Jeff Foxworthy's colonoscopy video or ZDoggMD's Nothing Compares to Poo video. 
  23. I hyperlink titles to pertinent websites, such as the American Cancer Society.
  24. I include review questions at the end of each section. I used to include some fill-in-the-blank slides, but I found them too distracting as students were more worried about getting the missing word than listening. 
  25. I end sections with blank tables for students to complete to compare the different conditions. I previously include a completed table, but found students attempted to memorize it rather than actively complete it. Next, I tried including the blank table but posted a completed table later. Students would wait for the completed table rather than complete it themselves. Now, I only post the empty table. 
  26. As we end each system, I have a “review question” slide. I ask the students what the most important thing they learned was and we write a NCLEX style question. I include this question on the comprehensive final. This allows some time to pass before they see the question again. I believe it helps the students understand NCLEX style questions better. 
  27. I end each system with the same “Questions, comments, concerns” slide with a “Thank you” for allowing me to present the material. I also include my contact information in case students have questions, comments, or concerns later. 


Palmer, Parker J. (1998). The courage to teach: Exploring the inner landscape of a teacher's life. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.


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