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Updates in IUSM Undergraduate Medical Education

Tips for Maximizing the Impact of PowerPoint Presentations – Part I

Filed under: Technology Matters — Sarah Lang on August 22, 2014 @ 3:12 pm

We’ve all experienced it and, let’s admit it, we’ve all done it: we have ALL created ineffective PowerPoint presentations at one time or another. And despite our best efforts to forge ahead, we have all been victims (and, some of us, perpetrators!) of “Death by PowerPoint”.   Over the next two weeks, I will share three tips for maximizing the impact of your PowerPoint presentations while keeping “Death by PowerPoint” at bay. Here are the first two:


Tip #1: Words before Slides

One of the simplest ways to maximize the impact of your PowerPoint presentations is to write down what you want to say before you create or select your slides. Though this sounds like a “no-brainer”, most people, particularly those pressed for time, typically do not do it. All too often, presenters will create their slides while (or worse, before) they decide what to say. We have all seen the evidence of this live—whether it’s the presenter who reads their slides verbatim; the presenter who repeatedly tells the audience to “ignore the details” on slides; or the presenter who attempts the land speed record for slide advancement to finish their presentation on time—these are all evidence that the slides, rather than the presenter, designed the presentation.

So, what method for capturing your plan is best? That really depends on the type of presentation and how you like to organize your thoughts. For example, you could write an outline, or draw a flow chart, or talk through what you plan to say, jotting down notes as you speak. You could also use a design template, such as this one created by Jean-luc Doumond, an engineer who trains people about effective technical communication.

Whatever method you choose, just get it down (on paper or your screen!)

Doing so will lessen the likelihood of your presentation including cluttered, unnecessary, or supernumerary slides, which I’ll tackle next.


Tip #2: Less Is More

When most people are asked to define “Death by PowerPoint” they will usually give examples of presentations that contain text-heavy slides, overly-complicated diagrams, or simply too many slides. Though much of that can be minimized in the planning process (see Tip #1), there are some simple techniques you can use to ensure your message does not get lost during your presentation. Each of these follow a simple principle: Less is More. Why? In many cases, presenters lose the audience’s attention not because of their presentation style, but because they are asking the audience to do too much to pay attention. In the world of PowerPoint, this usually involves requiring the audience to assimilate both written text and spoken words simultaneously, which research shows can overload working memory, often at the expense of retention. If you are not immediately familiar with this effect: try reading a book and listening to a conversation at the same time. Not so easy, right?  Keeping that in mind, here are ways to keep true to the “Less is More” principle while designing your PowerPoint presentations.


One Message Per slide

If there is only one thing you do to adhere to the “Less is More” principle, then do this: one message per slide. Sounds simple, but what does it really mean? It means figuring out the point or the purpose of the slide and then designing (or selecting) a slide for that purpose. Ask yourself “What is the point of knowing this?” and “What do I want the audience to come away with?” and then construct the slide (even a headline) from the answers to those questions. If you do not do this, you will be in danger of including unnecessary slides or ones that confuse more than educate.


Less Text More Meaning

Keeping with the one message per slide guideline, another way to maximize the impact of your PowerPoint presentations is to use text sparingly and purposefully, so that it is adding value rather than distracting your audience. This does not mean creating

  • Truncated
  • Bullets
  • Lacking meaning
  • Thus, impact

Rather, it means using text to convey messages and enhance images. Not only will this help your audience maintain attention, it will also help them better understand the content of your presentation. For example:


Avoid making your audience listen and read simultaneously. As mentioned above, doing so causes cognitive overload, hampering both your audience’s attention and their retention of information. In the simplest, most direct terms, do not make slides that look like these:










  • Pair your speech with images, using text to highlight what you have said or, when relevant, highlight the key parts of the image.
  • Create handouts when you expect your audience to read significant amounts of text or are presenting complicated or text-heavy diagrams. When appropriate, give the audience time to read or review the handout.
  • Rethink bullets. Always ask yourself: who are these bullets for—me or the audience? If the bullets are for your audience (i.e. the information is best conveyed in a list), then keep the bullets. However, if the bullets are really for you, better approaches are to:


Use text not just to convey information, but to demonstrate how information is organized. Remember: the purpose of a presentation is not to tell your audience what you know; it is to help your audience understand what you understand. The easiest way into your understanding of a topic or concept is to show your audience how the information is organized, and not just what the information is. To accomplish this, you can:

  • Use SmartArt to present processes, hierarchies, categories, and relationships.
  • Use tables to show comparisons or reorganize information in a more digestible format.
  • Use charts to summarize and compare data.
  • Draw live, when appropriate. It slows you down and allows the audience to participate as well.


Use images that suit your audience’s needs. For example, unnecessarily text-heavy or complicated diagrams are difficult enough to quickly digest without being told by a well-meaning presenter that the “details aren’t important.” Better approaches are to:

  • Locate or create more appropriate images
  • Edit extraneous information from a complicated image
  • Label the important parts of the image
  • Break apart the image into parts and show each part separately
  • Draw a more appropriate version during the presentation, explaining as you go

These last two options work really well for complex processes because they direct the attention of the audience to what is most important as the process unfolds.

Stay tuned for Part Two!


In the meantime, below are some helpful design resources (most links are in the post):


July Learning Technology Newsbits

Filed under: Technology Matters — Lorie Shuck on July 2, 2014 @ 3:55 pm

This blog post covers a few new things in the world of learning technology for the IU School of Medicine. Contact me with any questions you have about these items. I can be reached at or (317) 278-1506.



First of all, I want to take a moment to introduce you all to Rachel Mahan, who is new to IUSM. Rachel will be working as the Assessment Technology Coordinator for UME. In this role, she will manage aspects of ExamSoft exams and NBME exams. Please feel free to contact Rachel with your exam questions. Here is her contact info:

Rachel Mahan
Assessment Technology Coordinator for UME
(317) 274-8303



Another item that might be of interest to some is a pilot for a video management tool that IU is conducting this fall. (more…)

Grade Scale Proposal starting Academic Year 2015-2016

Filed under: Assessment Matters,Curriculum Matters — Mark Seifert on June 25, 2014 @ 4:49 pm

An email was distributed earlier this month from the CCSC requesting input and comment from faculty and medical students concerning a proposed change to the IUSM grading system. This proposal arose from an ad hoc Grade Scale Subcommittee (GSS) that identified and reviewed relevant literature on the effects of various grading systems in both preclinical and clinical years of the curriculum. The window of opportunity for receipt of your comments is quickly closing (Friday, June 27th). I hope you have taken or will take the opportunity to register your thoughts on this important matter. We need to hear from you!

The instructions below provide you a step-by-step guide for accessing resources and submitting comments in Oncourse. Once in the Feedback and Resources page you will find the proposal, articles the GSS reviewed, and their report. A link is provided for submitting your comments. Please take the time to enter your views.

To provide your feedback on the proposal, follow the steps below.


Call for Nominations for Course Leadership Roles

Filed under: Curriculum Matters — Sara Grethlein on June 18, 2014 @ 4:39 pm

The following is the text from an email by Sara Jo Grethlein, MD, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Medical Education

Dear Colleagues

As you are doubtless aware, the Indiana University School of Medicine is launching our curriculum reform with academic year 2015-16. We are seeking dynamic educators to lead our newly designed courses and help to propel IUSM to the forefront of educational innovation. We seek nominations (including self nominations) from faculty at all 9 campuses.

For the last four years, hundreds of faculty working with countless other contributors over thousands of  hours have toiled to create our new curriculum. This work has led to revision of our Institutional Learning Objectives, then definition of our Course Level Objectives for our 16 new courses and finally to the sketching of course schedules and learning objectives for each session. The Course Development Teams have finalized their creative efforts.

We are now striving to identify two sets of leaders to move our courses from theory to reality. The attached documents define the roles and expectations of Statewide Course Director and Course Site Leader, as well as, the process that will be used to select and confirm individuals to fill these roles.

Applications with supporting materials need to be submitted on our special CANVAS site. The deadline for application is 9 am on July 7, 2014

To access the site, click this URL:

Click the ‘Enroll in Course’ button and then click the ‘Go to the Course’ button. Once in the site, read the content on the home page and follow the steps for submitting your application.

If you have questions about the process, expectations or new curriculum please feel free to contact me, Dr. Mark Seifert (about Phase 1 courses) or Dr. Butch Humbert (about Phase 2 courses).


Sara Jo

Sara Jo Grethlein, MD
Associate Dean for Undergraduate Medical Education
Professor of Clinical Medicine
Indiana University School of Medicine
Office of Undergraduate Medical Education
Suite 417, 1110 West Michigan Street
Indianapolis, In 46202


Documents referenced in article

Courses and Goals

IUSM Course Leadership Selection

Curriculum Reform: Building the Home for Learning (presentation slides)


Oncourse to Canvas Transition

Filed under: Technology Matters — Lorie Shuck on May 29, 2014 @ 12:12 pm


Indiana University has selected Canvas by Instructure as the successor to Oncourse. What this means for the IU School of Medicine is described in this article. Here you will learn the implementation plan and find resources to help you get started using Canvas.

Implementation Plan

All four years of medical school will continue to use Oncourse for the 2014-2015 academic year. Canvas will be used for the 2015-2016 Clerkships. In the Fall of 2015, first year courses will use Canvas while second year courses will remain in Oncourse. By the Fall of 2016, all medical education courses will be in Canvas. (more…)

Competency Transition

Filed under: Curricular Currents — Butch Humbert on May 20, 2014 @ 4:22 pm

In 1999, the Indiana University School of Medicine was one of the first medical schools to launch a competency-based curriculum based on 9 domains of competency: Communication and Interpersonal Skills; Basic Clinical Skills; Using Science to Guide Diagnosis, Management, Therapeutics, and Prevention; Life Long Learning; Self Awareness, Self Care and Personal Growth; Social and Community Context of Healthcare; Moral Reasoning and Ethical Judgment; Problem Solving; and Professionalism and Role Recognition.  This spurred many valuable contributions to our curriculum in the 15 years since the incorporating these 9 competency domains.

Since that time, medical education at large has (more…)

New System for Student Evaluations

Filed under: Evaluation Matters — Tony Ribera on May 13, 2014 @ 4:40 pm

The following is a copy of an email that was distributed on April 28.


Date:   April 28, 2014

To:       All Curriculum Council Committees

From:   Tony Ribera, PhD, Director of Program Evaluation for UME

Sara Jo Grethlein, MD, Associate Dean for UME

Re:       New System for Student Evaluations


New Grade Policy to Take Effect Academic Year 2014-2015

Filed under: Policy Points — Mark Seifert on May 7, 2014 @ 12:42 pm

We want to let faculty know about some recent changes to our School’s grade policy in light of new programs planned for our incoming class of medical students this fall and in anticipation of implementation of the first phase of the new curriculum in fall 2015. It is our hope and expectation that these changes will simplify the grading process while still providing students and faculty with the tools to identify competence and areas for improvement.

  • First, the Curriculum Council Steering Committee (CCSC) approved (December 2012) the realignment and adaptation of our previous nine competencies into the six ACGME (Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education) competencies (more…)

Distilling Your Message: Communicating Scientific Research to All

Filed under: Research Matters — Lorie Shuck on April 29, 2014 @ 3:54 pm

The following is an event sponsored by the IUSM Office of Faculty Affairs and Professional Development


Morning Plenary: Distilling Your Message

Friday, May 02, 8:00 – 9:30 AM | Emerson Hall Auditorium, Room 304

Award-winning actor Alan Alda once said, ‘Communication is not something you add on to science, it is the essence of science.’

In this interactive lecture, faculty members from the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University will provide the tools necessary to (more…)

Promoting Data Quality of Student Evaluations

Filed under: Evaluation Matters — Tony Ribera on April 24, 2014 @ 11:51 am

In UME, we often discuss not only how to improve the quantity of responses we receive on student evaluations but also how to improve the quality of the responses students provide. In examining data quality, we have recently begun exploring satisficing in the student evaluation process. When one engages in satisficing while completing a survey, evaluation, etc., they are simply using enough energy to produce a suitable response rather than the best possible response (Kaminska, McCutcheon, & Billiet, 2010; Krosnick, Narayan, & Smith, 1996). Straight-lining items can be an example of strong satisficing with respondents failing to put much thought in their responses and simply selecting the same response for an item set (Cole, McCormick, & Gonyea). Various factors can contribute to a respondent engaging in satisficing while completing student evaluations of courses and instructors such as (more…)

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