The use of PowerPoint in the library classroom: an experiment in learning outcomes.

Author:Kapoun, Jim


For several years I have been using PowerPoint for various library instruction classes. In the spring of 2000 I was asked by a senior undergraduate psychology student (Lynn) to participate in a project she had to complete for her senior research class. She had attended my psychology library instruction class and was impressed with my use of PowerPoint to emphasize major points. Her problem statement to prove was that students learn more from a PowerPoint-enhanced lecture than a lecture with overheads or a traditional lecture. I accepted her invitation and was part of her experiment team.


Lynn's project team included her psychology professor, who would be responsible for the final grade, and me. Lynn was convinced that students learn more about the library from a lecture given with PowerPoint than a straight lecture with no visual aids or a lecture using just overheads or a chalkboard. Her first duty was to find out in psychology, education, or computer literature if any similar studies had been done on this thesis. She found no evidence of any study similar to her project. With this in mind, Lynn devised a three-day study where I would give a total of nine lectures; three with no visual aids, three with overheads and/or writing on a chalkboard, and three with PowerPoint including multi-media capability.

Literature Search

I decided to conduct a separate literature search on PowerPoint or use of multimedia and any relationship with library instruction. I found no studies that matched Lynn's search specifically; however, I did find a few articles that addressed the issue of hypermedia in the classroom. Dillon (1998) examines the published findings from experimental studies of hypermedia emphasizing quantitative, empirical methods of assessing learning outcomes. According to Dillon, the benefits gained from the use of hypermedia technology in learning scenarios appear to be very limited and not in keeping with the generally euphoric reaction to this technology in the professional arena.

He reached these conclusions:

  1. Hypermedia affords the most advantage for users in specific tasks that require rapid searching through lengthy or multiple information resources and where data manipulation and comparison are necessary. Outside of this context, existing media are better than or as effective as the new technology.

  2. Increased learner control over access is differentially useful to learners according to their abilities. Lower ability students have the greatest difficulty with hypermedia.

  3. The interaction of learner style in the use of various hypermedia features offers perhaps the basis of an explanation for the generally confusing results in the literature comparing hypermedia and non-hypermedia learning environments. Specifically, passive learners may be more influenced by cueing of relevant information, and the combination of learner ability and willingness to explore may determine how well learners can exploit this technology (Dillion, et al., 1998).

Rebecca Gatlin-Watts (et al.) commented in their 1999 article that the use of multimedia creates a potential tendency to go overboard with flashy graphics and sophisticated sound that could actually detract from the information being presented. Substituting technology over substance should be avoided. Multimedia must not allow the subject matter to dwindle into entertainment. It is important for the instructor to emphasize that the use of multimedia provides a way of learning. When using interactive multimedia, instructors must exercise vigilance and make sure that every student is getting the comprehensive picture. They cited a Department of Defense study, which revealed...

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