Mini Redesign Example

Original Presentation

For my mini redesign, I choose a PowerPoint presentation on the History of Sound Technology in Films by Georgia Hilton, an audio engineer. This presentation is loaded with great content and has been a valuable resource, however it is an ineffective teaching tool itself. Since the presentation is quite long (33 slides), I made a short excerpt for the purpose of this example.

It is provided via Slideshare and as a downloadable PowerPoint file.


There are several flaws in the graphic and instructional design of this presentation. Unfortunately, they cause the presentation to be an ineffective teaching tool. Each year I teach a course in audio for Film and TV, and briefly touch on the technological developments of sound that accompanies film. While this presentation is a great resource for my instruction, I hesitate to provide it to my students, for fear it will do more harm than good.


Cognitive Load Theory (CLT) - Limited Working Memory
One of the most glaring error is the original presentation is the amazingly vast amount of material that it attempts to cover. I find that my working memory is quickly overloaded, even though I am quite familiar with the content, much more so than a learner see it for the first time. The amount of detail and trivia contribute to an extremely high extraneous cognitive load. In my redesign, I reduced the information and focused on the fundamental concepts.

Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning (CTML) - Limited Capacity Assumption/Dual Channel Assumption
CTML's version of CLT's limited working memory is the Limited Capacity Assumption. Learners are limited in the amount of information that can be processed in each channel at one time. Since the original powerpoint presented a large amount of material solely thru text, it quickly exceeded this limited capacity. I reduced the amount of text and moved much of the material into the presenter's notes area, so that it would be given as auditory, not visual information. This served not only to stay within the learner's limited capacity, but also to better utilize both channels defined by CTML.

I also sought to better balance the auditory and visual channels by choosing graphics that better supported the main concepts. It is more important that the learners come away with the understanding that the technological developments in film sound had to overcome three major problems during their development. I utilized the film countdown (3...2...1) in the slides that showed each problem being solved. At the end of the slide is a funny graphic that emphasizes the point that these developments were ultimately drive by money.

Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning (CTML) - Coherence Principle/Modality Priniciple
The CTML coherence principle states that students learn better when extraneous material is excluded rather than included. Much of my work redesigning the presentation was in choosing what to leave out. Superfluous material was simply removed. Important material was not deleted, but rather moved to the presenter's notes, where it could be spoken. This is partially to stimulate both channels, as mentioned earlier, but also to satisfy the modality principle, which states that students learn better when words in a multimedia message are presented as spoken text rather than printed text.

Graphic Design
The original presentation could be a lesson in poor powerpoint design. A small selection of the violations inlcudes:
  • far too many bullet points and words on each page
  • the pages are crowded and confusing
  • poor contrast between elements
  • alignment and proximity are not used to emphasize key points

I started from scratch with the graphic design, aiming for a presentation that is simple and clear. That presentation is given below, both via Slideshare and downloadable powerpoint file. (note: the Slideshare does not show the presenter's notes, which would be spoken as narration)