Communicate Visually by Disguising Bullet Lists

To date in our Communicating Visually with PowerPoint Design Series, we have discussed exchanging lengthy text and bulleted list PowerPoint slides for ones with more visually interesting, emotionally connecting, and easy-to-understand graphics and infographics. Sometimes, however, a list is the best way to communicate your idea, and other times, you’ve just hit the wall and run out of time or creativity. So what do you do with the text then?

Principle #2d: Communicate Visually by Disguising Bullet Lists

Thankfully, Connie Malamed of “The eLearning Coach” shares some wonderful text layouts, which will disguise a bullet list for those times when the list is unavoidable. On her website, Malamed details 6 Alternatives To Bullet Lists1.

The simplest text examples Malamed relates are:

  1. Organizing text into boxes
  2. Placing the content into a table
  3. Diagramming

Other solutions Malamed offers include incorporating icons and graphics (see all options here); however, since we are taking the focus off graphics for the moment, we will share the 3 text-oriented options here:

Option 1:  Text Boxes

ppt_text_boxesOption 2:  Tables

ppt_tablesOption 3:  Diagrams

ppt_diagramEach of Malamed’s suggestions above is simple and works well on its own, or with the addition of icons or background graphics.

Now that we have introduced several ideas for dressing up your PowerPoint slides and enhancing your presentations, we will focus on how to keep from overloading your audience. Stay tuned!


  1. Malamed, Connie. (n.d.). IP Research & Communities. Retrieved January 13, 2015,

Communicate Visually with Illustrations

In our Communicating Visually with PowerPoint Design Series, we have reviewed incorporating photographs and infographics into our slides. Illustrations and icons can be just as useful in visually communicating your ideas to your audience. While PowerPoint and Microsoft Word include a Clip Art library, be wary of choosing art that may not be appropriate for your presentation. Always consider the audience prior to choosing imagery, whether you are lecturing in a classroom or presenting to peers.

Principle #2c: Communicate Visually with Illustrations

For a higher-ed audience, opt for clean, sophisticated clip art with a professional quality


Using an appropriate style for the clip art you choose creates support for your credibility. Choosing the wrong art can cause the audience to question the validity of your statements. See the following comparison–

Clip art credit: Phillip Martin Clip Art



The top image with the cartoon-like clip art may be appropriate for a K-5 music lesson, while the bottom image is better suited for a higher-ed course. Using the top image for a presentation to an audience of college students is out of place and can make the topic appear comical.

Resources for Illustrations

Finding high-quality, free illustrations can be challenging. This may be an area where you have to purchase inexpensive stock art to find exactly what you need. Consider these resources:

Communicate Visually with Infographics

Last week we discussed the powerful influence imagery can have on presentations. Other than photography, what are other options for using imagery to replace text on screen? In the case of displaying data, or contrasting ideas, infographics may be very useful.

Principle #2b: Communicate Visually with Infographics

As defined by Wikipedia, “information graphics or infographics are graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge intended to present complex information quickly and clearly. They can improve cognition by utilizing graphics to enhance the human visual system’s ability to see patterns and trends. The process of creating infographics can be referred to as data visualization, information design, or information architecture.1

That’s a long way of saying that an infographic visually illustrates a complex idea or system. Used properly, infographics can dramatically improve your lecture by simplifying processes you are describing, visually showing relationships between ideas, and creating another mnemonic device for your audience.

Back in week 1 of our PowerPoint Design Series, we shared a slide titled There are More Chickens than People in the World.

Example 1: Slide created with text content from Snapple®’s infographic:



Compare that all-text slide with this information graphic created by Snapple®:

Example 2: Portion of infographic, courtesy of Snapple®



Which one is more memorable and thought-provoking?

The infographic above displays the content in a way that is easier to grasp much more quickly (see the entire graphic here). The illustration takes facts that are relevant on a timeline and represents them visually so they are easier to grasp. Simpler examples of infographics are charts, such as bar charts and pie charts, which are easy to create within PowerPoint.

In reference to a study regarding “how students accessed PowerPoint slides if they were used or made available2” by faculty, compare the results displayed in text format…

ppt_study_text…versus a chart created in PowerPoint:

ppt_study_chartSo where to begin? First review your slides and determine the content or data which may be better understood using an infographic. Keep in mind that your graphic’s primary purpose is to make the information comprehensible to your audience. More importantly, your task is to make the data easier to understand. Don’t forget that as you revise your slides, you can hide notes during your presentation, and then make that text available to the audience later.


  1. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved January 13, 2015, from
  2. Use of PowerPoint slides and quizzes by economics faculty. (n.d.). In Free Patents Online: IP Research & Communities. Retrieved January 13, 2015, from

Communicate Visually with Imagery

As we launched our Communicating Visually PowerPoint Design Series last week, we addressed the first principle of Communicating More with Less, which means using less text on screen during a presentation. So what do you put on your slides once you’ve eliminated those lengthy bullet lists? One alternative is to use imagery, such as photography, which brings us to…

Principle #2a: Communicate Visually with Imagery

Photographs are instrumental in connecting to the audience emotionally, to convey more than words can describe, or mark a transition point in a presentation. Imagery not only grabs attention and draws the viewer into your story more than words, but it also functions as a mnemonic device. The following slides illustrate this point:

Example 1: Text-filled slide

Example 2: Imagery enhances the speaker’s key points


Photo Credit: Gilles San Martin via compfight (CC BY)

Both examples describe the first stage of a butterfly’s life cycle, but you can imagine that the powerful photo with brief text in Slide 2 becomes a visual, mnemonic tool. The image immediately grabs attention and may help generate discussion from the audience as it artfully connects to them emotionally. The image enables the audience to experience what the speaker is describing (the egg stage), rather than just write notes about it.

You can also use an unexpected photo to inject personality into your lecture – such as in the example below1:


Photo credit: j_silla via compfight (CC BY)

Choose Photos Wisely–Consistency is Key

Remain consistent in the style when considering photos and graphics to incorporate into your slides. For example, if you choose a grainy black and white image for one slide, a striking nature shot for another, and then simple clipart for the next, the presentation will not feel cohesive. Also, consider whether an image feels outdated, looks professional, and clearly conveys your message. Remaining consistent in your imagery lends credence to your points.

Another opportunity to incorporate images into your lecture is to choose an image that does not literally state your point but conveys the feeling/emotion behind your point. Jesse Desjardins’s presentation “You Suck at PowerPoint!2” (yes, the title is abrasive, but is consistent with the tone of the presentation) exemplifies consistency in style while choosing images that convey the lighthearted and campy feeling of the presentation. The following slide from his presentation uses text and an image, along with the style of the image, to convey more than just what the words express.


Reference: Jesse Desjardins: You Suck at PowerPoint! (Slide #19) on slideshare

Resources for Photography

ALWAYS check the individual photography rights before using the image. Here are great resources to find images:


  1. Rethinking Global Cities – Enrique Penalosa. (n.d.). In UNC- Chapel Hill Department of City & Regional Planning. Retrieved January 18, 2015, from
  2. Desjardins, Jesse. (2010). You Suck at PowerPoint [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from

All about PowerPoint: Communicate More with Less

It’s no secret that most instructors use PowerPoint for their lecture presentations, but how effectively are you communicating with PowerPoint? With a few weeks into the semester, we thought this would be a good time to revisit some basic principles of good PowerPoint design, which is why we are launching…

Communicating Visually Part I:  A PowerPoint Design Series

PowerPoint is a tool meant to visually support a presentation, so with PowerPoint, you are entering the world of visual design. The role of a visual designer “is to convey complex stories and ideas visually in such a way that the viewer can nearly instantly comprehend the information being presented.1” There are certain principles to consider when designing a PowerPoint presentation so that your ideas are clearly communicated to your audience.

Principle #1: Communicate More with Less

If you only change one habit in PowerPoint, make it this: put less stuff on each slide. Everyone has seen or created the slide with a list of bullet points, such as the following:



When a slide like this is presented in class, students cannot be expected to attentively listen to the lecturer while frantically reading and copying a slide full of text. That being said, students want access to the lecture text as it helps them understand what is important. Faculty and presenters may also need the bulleted list to keep the lecture on track. To solve this dilemma, presentation coach, Dave Yewman, shares the following tip:

TIP #1: “Hide the Slide”

Go ahead, create a slide with all the facts and bullets you want…BUT hide it from view during the presentation. According to Yewman, you can easily do this in PowerPoint’s slide sorter view – “in PowerPoint’s slide sorter view right-click on a slide and you’ll get an option to hide the slide. It will still be there in a printout or an e-mailed slide deck – but you won’t have to subject audiences to all those bullet points2” during your presentation.

ptt_hide_slideThat’s genius! Simplify the slides displayed during your presentation while providing the detailed slides for reading later, not during the lecture. This way, you can transform your busy note-takers into active learners in your lectures.

TIP #2: “Hide YOUR Notes”

Another great tip allows you to place notes for yourself in the NOTES pane of a slide without these being projected for your audience. To do this, use the Presenter View mode when you give your presentation, so only you will see the notes. Of course, you can always print out a separate set of notecards for yourself if you prefer3.

NOTE: You must bring in and use a laptop for Presenter View mode in a campus classroom.

Exception: Learning Objectives

While it is best to hide detailed text during most presentations, lengthy bulleted lists are suitable in your learning objectives at the beginning of an online educational setting. Learning objectives alert your audience to what they are expected to be able to do after your lecture. You will cover a lot of material, but the learning objectives describe what is to be learned from that material and help guide your online audience to key points in the online lecture.


  1. Brewer, Joshua. (2010, April 11). A picture is Worth a 1000 Words, Except When it Isn’t. Retrieved from
  2. J, Arun. (2008, July 15). Slide Tips: Dodging Bullet Points in Powerpoint Presentations. Retrieved from
  3. Effective Use of PowerPoint. (n.d.). In UCF Faculty Center for Teaching & Learning. Retrieved January 12, 2015, from

Create Checklists with Wunderlist

With our daily obligations and responsibilities, all of us understand how staying organized is fundamental to being efficient and effective. Many members across campus collaborate with one another or manage projects that involve different tasks, and it can sometimes be nearly impossible to keep up with all of those responsibilities. In “The Checklist” from The New Yorker, Atul Gawande describes how something as simple as a checklist can have a huge impact on successfully accomplishing all steps of a task.

“Good checklists, on the other hand are precise. They are efficient, to the point, and easy to use…they provide reminders of only the most critical and important steps….Good checklists are, above all, practical.”

- Atul Gawande, The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right

With the advent of smartphones and sophisticated applications, we are equipped with better tools to manage our tasks and reduce stress…introducing Wunderlist!


Wunderlist is a free, easy-to-use task management app within a simple interface that can help you be more productive. You can create lists of tasks, add reminders and deadlines, and share them with others for collaboration. One of the great features of Wunderlist is that it is a cross-platform application that allows you to share and sync your data across all your devices. This means that you can create and access your to-do lists on the go!

Here are key points and a quick video on using Wunderlist:

  • Available anytime, anywhere, and on any device
  • Share and collaborate with classmates and colleagues
  • Email extension to send tasks to Wunderlist
  • Browser extension to add websites to Wunderlist
  • Notification reminders of tasks, communications, and accomplishments
  • Built-in communication tool for collaborative discussions

Also check out how to add tasks to Wunderlist through a browser extension!

You can download Wunderlist to any of your devices and sync your data with your email address. It’s that easy!

google_play       app_store

Tutorial by Jess Stratton

Jess Stratton, via, gives a great demo using Wunderlist:

Consider using Wunderlist to stay organized, on-task, and meet requirements and deadlines on time! Wunderlist keeps your life in sync (Wunderlist).

More on Wunderlist

Track Classes with UNC Class Checker

Students, classes may have already started but are you still trying to get into some classes? Make your life a little easier with an app called UNC Class Checker! Class Checker is a free service that notifies students when classes change status (e.g. from “Closed” to “Open”) via text message or email depending on your preference ( This service is run by your very own peers (just three UNC students!) and Information Technology Services, so you can rest assured that it is tailored toward student-specific needs.

Instead of frantically checking ConnectCarolina for open seats, let Class Checker instantly notify you when a class status changes!

How It Works
Tracking classes on UNC Class Checker is easy! You can track classes, change the type of notification you want to receive, view reports of all the classes you’re tracking, and untrack classes once you have finally gotten into the class.


Here’s how to track classes from the Class Checker homepage:

  1. Click on Track my classes
  2. Enter your name and click continue (optional)
  3. Select to receive email or text notifications, enter your email or phone number and carrier provider, and click continue
  4. Enter the class IDs you want to track (click on “+” to add classes) and click submit

NOTE: Class Checker can only track labs and recitations with an “L” at the end of the course number, such as CHEM 241L-401.

classchecker_labMeet the Class Checker Team

A small group of Carolina students began developing the Class Checker app from information they gathered from University public resources. About a year ago, ITS Enterprise Applications joined the student developers for a collaborative effort on expanding the project. In the following video, Maribel Carrion, Director of Business Applications in Information Technology Services, and the student Class Checker team–Kevin Anderson, An Li, and Joe Puccio–discuss the UNC Class Checker app.

See the full Q&A with Maribel Carrion on ITS News.


Redesigned Sakai Homepage

The Sakai homepage has been given a fresh, new look in time for a new semester and a new year! We are very excited with this redesign and the improvements it will bring to our users. You will find:

  • Simplified outline with a focus on frequently used functions
  • Easier navigation with big icons in the middle of page – quickly register for consultations, access help and tutorials, and view blog
  • Combined pages for important policies and information, including accessibility, UNC Honor Code, and Sakai maintenance (Thursdays 5-7am)
  • Login buttons are still in the same place


Let us know what you think on our Sakai Feedback Form!

Sakai Help Sessions

Spring 2015 classes begin next Wednesday! If you need assistance with setting up your Sakai course sites, we recommend registering for our upcoming Sakai Help Sessions in the House Undergraduate Library!

Intro to Teaching in Sakai [Register]
Tuesday, January 6
2pm – 3pm
UL 034

This workshop is designed as a crash course for instructors teaching in Sakai for the first time or those who need a refresher.

Drop in for Sakai Help [Register]
Friday, January 9
10:30am – 12pm
UL 034

Drop in any time at your convenience from 10:30am until noon with any last-minute Sakai questions.

We hope to see you there! Don’t forget to publish your sites to give students access!

Carolina is #1 Again!
In case you have not heard, Carolina is once again ranked at the top as the best value in American public higher education – for the 14th time in a row – according to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine. Congratulations, UNC! Here’s to another exceptional year!

See more details on UNC’s Spotlights.

Fall 2014 Semester in Review

Congratulations on another successful semester, especially to all the students who graduated this past weekend! Let’s officially wrap up the Fall 2014 Semester with a look at some of UNC’s most popular learning technologies.

Virtual Lab

If there is one secret all students should know about, it’s Virtual Lab! Need to use software for class but don’t want to pay for a license? Virtual Lab is your solution! There are over 60 programs available on Virtual Lab, which can currently support 200 simultaneous users. Here are the top ten most used applications for Fall 2014:

vl_usage_fa14See all Virtual Lab applications available to students.

CCI Printing

CCI Printing offers students the convenience of 50+ campus printing locations with allocated printing funds each semester. Below you can see how many pages were printed at each campus location (excluding residence halls). The top three locations (Undergraduate, Davis, and Health Sciences Libraries) account for nearly 70% of all printing on campus! Students, you will likely find no lines at other locations, so we invite you to check them out!


We had a total of 2,354 instructors and 3,909 courses in Sakai this semester–up 93 courses from Fall 2013! Check out which tools have seen the biggest jump in usage compared to a year ago!

Here is a full view of Sakai tool usage for Fall 2014:

sk_tool_total_fa14And there you have it! The Spring 2015 Semester will be here before you know it, so now is a great time to get started on your courses! Instructors listed in ConnectCarolina can go ahead and create their Sakai course sites.

Please note that we will be doing maintenance work outside of our regular maintenance window next week on Monday, December 22, from 8am until 10am to keep our systems up-to-date. There will be an outage so please plan accordingly.

From all of us at Teaching & Learning, have a wonderful and safe holiday season!


                                     Image by Chris Pirillo on flickr (CC BY)

Final Grades Due + Sakai Help Dec 5

It’s hard to believe but the end of another semester is upon us! Final Exams officially start tomorrow (see Final Exams Schedule), which means final course grades are due! Instructors have 72 hours after the scheduled time of their final exam to approve grades in ConnectCarolina. Here are some Sakai Gradebook tips for getting your grades finalized.

Sakai Gradebook Checklist

Particularly with large classes, it is easy to miss entering certain grades. Here is a quick Sakai Gradebook Checklist to verify all scores in your Gradebook are accurate.

We highly recommend that you check out our **Sakai Blog** for full details on this checklist!

  1. Verify all grades are entered
  2. Check items are included in final grade calculations
  3. Set ungraded items to 0
  4. Release final grades to students
  5. Export grades for ConnectCarolina

Please note that the Gradebook will only calculate items that contain scores. Even if a student has earned a 0 on an assignment but no “0” has been entered in the Gradebook, Sakai will essentially ignore that item until a score has been entered. See step 3 in the above checklist to automatically enter 0’s in ungraded items. Be sure not to complete this step until all grades have been entered!

View Grades as a Student

In case of any discrepancies, it is useful to know what students see when they access the Gradebook. Check out our step-by-step tutorial or the below video for instructions on viewing the Gradebook as a specific student.

Sakai Drop-in Help Session

Have last-minute Sakai questions or need help finalizing your grades? Sakai experts will be in the House Undergraduate Library Room 034 this Friday from 2-4pm. Feel free to stop by at your convenience for Sakai assistance. Please register for the event to ensure a consultant will be available to meet with you.

We can help you:

  • Set up your Gradebook
  • Enter and finalize grades
  • Return student course work in Assignments
  • View stats on students for the course
  • Create Spring 2015 course sites
  • And much more!

If you have any questions, please contact the ITRC Help Desk at 962-HELP or Good luck with finals!