Innovative Higher Education

, Volume 41, Issue 5, pp 365–380 | Cite as

How Do Academic Disciplines Use PowerPoint?

  • Nathan Garrett


How do academic disciplines use PowerPoint? This project analyzed PowerPoint files created by an academic publisher to supplement textbooks. An automated analysis of 30,263 files revealed clear differences by disciplines. Single-paradigm “hard” disciplines used less complex writing but had more words than multi-paradigm “soft” disciplines. The “hard” disciplines also used a greater number of small graphics and fewer large ones. Disciplines identified by students as being more effective users of PowerPoint used larger images and more complex sentences than disciplines identified as being less effective in this regard. This investigation suggests that PowerPoint best practices are not universal and that we need to account for disciplinary differences when creating presentation guidelines.


PowerPoint Media in Education Pedagogical Issues 


  1. Açikalin, F. S. (2011). Why Turkish pre-service teachers prefer to see PowerPoint presentations in their classes. Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology, 10, 340–347.Google Scholar
  2. Alley, M., & Neeley, K. (2005). Discovering the power of PowerPoint: Rethinking the design of presentation slides from a skillful user’s perspective. Paper presented at American Society for Engineering Annual Conference & Exposition, Portland, OR. June 12–15. Washington, DC: American Society for Engineering Education.Google Scholar
  3. Alley, M., Schreiber, M., Ramsdell, K., & Muffo, J. (2006). How the design of headlines in presentation slides affects audience retention. Technical Communication, 53, 225–234.Google Scholar
  4. Amare, N. (2006). To slideware or not to slideware: Students’ experiences with PowerPoint vs. lecture. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, 36, 297–308.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Apperson, J. M., Laws, E. L., & Scepansky, J. A. (2006). The impact of presentation graphics on students’ experience in the classroom. Computers & Education, 47, 116–126. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2004.09.003 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bartsch, R., & Cobern, K. (2003). Effectiveness of PowerPoint presentations in lectures. Computers & Education, 41, 77–86. doi: 10.1016/S0360-1315(03)00027-7 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Berrett, D. (2012, October 25). Lectures still dominate science and math teaching, sometimes hampering student success. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from
  8. Biglan, A. (1973a). Relationships between subject matter characteristics and the structure and output of university departments. Journal of Applied Psychology, 57, 204–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Biglan, A. (1973b). The characteristics of subject matter in different academic areas. Journal of Applied Psychology, 57, 195–203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bird, S., Loper, E., & Klein, E. (2009). Natural language processing with Python. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly Media.Google Scholar
  11. Blokzijl, W., & Andeweg, B. (2005). The effects of text slide format and presentational quality on learning in college lectures. Paper presented at IEEE International Professional Communication Conference, Limerick, Ireland. 10–13 July (pp. 288–299). Piscataway, NJ: IEEE Professional Communication Society.Google Scholar
  12. Bonwell, C., & Eison, J. (1991). Active learning: Creating excitement in the classroom (AEHE-ERIC Higher Education Report No.1). Washington, DC: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  13. Braxton, J. M. (1995). Disciplines with an affinity for the improvement of undergraduate education. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 64, 59–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Burke, L. A., James, K., & Ahmadi, M. (2009). Effectiveness of PowerPoint-based lectures across different business disciplines: An investigation and implications. Journal of Education for Business, 83, 246–251. doi: 10.3200/JOEB.84.4.246-251 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cashin, W. E., & Downey, R. G. (1995). Disciplinary differences in what is taught and in students’ perceptions of what they learn and how they are taught. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 64, 81–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Chandler, P., & Sweller, J. (1991). Cognitive load theory and the format of instruction format. Cognition and Instruction, 8, 293–332.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Duarte, N. (2008). Slide:ology—The art and science of creating great presentations. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly Media.Google Scholar
  18. Entwistle, N., & Tait, H. (1995). Approaches to studying and perceptions of the learning environment across disciplines. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 64, 93–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Franklin, J., & Theall, M. (1995). The relationship of disciplinary differences and the value of class preparation time to student ratings of teaching. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 64, 41–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Garrett, N. (2012). PowerPoint’s impact on conference ratings and social media likes. Paper presented at ELearn 2012—World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education. Montreal, Quebec, Canada. October 9–12. Waynesville, NC: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education.Google Scholar
  21. James, K. E., Burke, L. A., & Hutchins, H. M. (2006). Powerful or pointless? Faculty versus student perceptions of PowerPoint use in business education. Business Communication Quarterly, 69, 374–396. doi: 10.1177/1080569906294634 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kahraman, S., Çevik, C., & Kodan, H. (2011). Investigation of university students’ attitude toward the use of PowerPoint according to some variables. Procedia Computer Science, 3, 1341–1347. doi: 10.1016/j.procs.2011.01.013 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kincaid, J. P., Fishburne, R. P., Rogers, R. L., & Chissom, B. S. (1975). Derivation of new readability formulas (automated readability index, fog count, and flesch reading ease formula) for Navy enlisted personnel. (Naval Air Station Research Branch Report No. 8–75). Memphis, TN: Chief of Naval Technical TrainingGoogle Scholar
  24. Kotsko, A. (2009, November 24). In defense of the lecture. Inside Higher Ed, 126(16). Retrieved from
  25. Krippel, G., McKee, A., & Moody, J. (2010). Multimedia use in higher education: Promises and pitfalls. Journal of Instructional Pedagogies, 2(1), 1–8.Google Scholar
  26. Mayer, R. E. (2005). Introduction to multimedia learning. In R. Mayer (Ed.), The Cambridge handbook of multimedia learning (pp. 1–16). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Mayer, R. E., & Johnson, C. I. (2008). Revising the redundancy principle in multimedia learning. Journal of Educational Psychology, 100, 380–386. doi: 10.1037/0022-0663.100.2.380 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Nelson Laird, T. F., McCormick, A. C., & Chamberlain, T. A. (2008). Effective educational practices and essential learning outcomes in general education courses: differences by discipline. In AAC&U 2008 integrative designs for general education and assessment (pp. 4–7) Boston, MA: Association of American Colleges and UniversitiesGoogle Scholar
  29. Nielsen, J., & Pernice, K. (2009). Eyetracking web usability. San Francisco, CA: New Riders Press (Pearson Imprint).Google Scholar
  30. Pascarella, E. T., & Terenzini, P. T. (2005). How college affects students: Volume 2. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar
  31. Python Image Library [Software]. (2015). Retrieved November 11, 2015, from
  32. Reynolds, G. (2008). Presentation Zen: Simple ideas on presentation design and delivery. San Francisco, CA: New Riders Press (Pearson Imprint).Google Scholar
  33. Richardson, L. (2015). BeautifulSoup: We called him tortoise because he taught us [Software]. Retrieved from
  34. Rickman, J., & Grudzinski, M. (2000). Student expectations for information technology use in the classroom. EDUCAUSE Quarterly, 23, 24–31.Google Scholar
  35. Slykhuis, D. A., Wiebe, E. N., & Annetta, L. a. (2005). Eye-tracking students’ attention to PowerPoint photographs in a science education setting. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 14, 509–520. doi: 10.1007/s10956-005-0225-z
  36. Smart, J. C., & Elton, C. F. (1975). Goal orientations of academic departments: A test of Biglan’s model. Journal of Applied Psychology, 60, 580–588.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Smart, J., & Elton, C. (1982). Validation of the Biglan model. Research in Higher Education, 17, 213–229. Retrieved from CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Smith, S. D., & Caruso, J. B. (2010). ECAR study of undergraduate students and information technology. Boulder, CO: Educause Center for Analysis and Research.Google Scholar
  39. Sweller, J., & Chandler, P. (1994). Why some material is difficult to learn. Cognition and Instruction, 12, 185–233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Tufte, E. (2009, November). PowerPoint is evil. Wired Magazine. Retrieved from
  41. Webber, K. L. (2011). The use of learner-centered assessment in us colleges and universities. Research in Higher Education, 53, 201–228. doi: 10.1007/s11162-011-9245-0

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Woodbury UniversityBurbankUSA

Personalised recommendations