When your material consist of 75% bullet points.

Sep 15, 2011

Hello everyone,

Firstly, I wanted to say thank you so much for sharing your wisdom in this forum.  Coming from someone who is about 5 months into the Instructional Developer world, I really find this site so helpful. Thank you again.

I am currently working on a training that consist of about 75% bullet point information. I'm really having difficulties trying to transpose that kind of information into something more engaging. Chalk it to lack of experience but this is really hindering my progress at this point.

Can someone point out some concepts, resource, or method that I could do to get my brain into a creative track?

Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you very much.

6 Replies
Kristen Hull

I would try to turn the information into a scenario.  Instead of this-is-the-stuff-you-must-learn, think in terms of why you must learn it.  What can you accomplish once you know these bullet points?  I'm sure people will be able to verbalize this better than me, and will have some great ideas of their own...they are just in already-stopped-working time zones.  :o)  Could you tell us a little bit about the topic and then maybe we could help you brainstorm ideas for it?

Jeanette Brooks

Hi Neil, and welcome! Kristen's suggestions are a great way to transform your bulleted slides into more "actionable" content! If you still end up with some things that you need to express in list form, you could check out the suggestions that David shares in this blog post, to make the slides feel less bullet-y: http://community.articulate.com/blogs/david/archive/2010/09/06/reducing-bullet-points-and-on-screen-text.aspx

Steve Flowers

Hmm... I'd really consider putting the content aside for awhile and focusing some energy on three key areas.

  • The first is the stated problem or problems. This answers the "why am I building this training" question and clears up the performance and business requirement.
  • The second is the tasks that you need your learners to perform when they're done that you know they aren't capable of performing now. This provides a specific and detailed look at the tasks you need folks to perform. This focuses your training in a specific direction and narrows your scope. This also gives you a shield against the urge to create a content bomb. You need folks to do something that they aren't doing now, otherwise you really don't need training.
  • The third component is the results you can expect or assume to gain from employing the training solution. This is a validating assumption or confidence measurement that can be validated further as you test the solution. If you figure that there are barriers to these results, it'll help you figure out where to put your energy to remove these so all the effort you spend on your design isn't wasted.

Here's the order I recommend folks walk the design process. It doesn't work in all cases and may not work for you but it's a "buffer against wasted effort" set of considerations that can focus your effort early on and help to avoid sending out dreaded trifle torpedoes, trivia grenades, and content bombs.

  • Make sure you know your performance requirements. What's the job? What's the desired outcome? If you don't know what your targets are, without really understanding the problems you're facing, "real design" of a solution is truly impossible. I've repeated this one twice. I think it's important enough to warrant a repeat
  • Identify all of your performer's target tasks (actions and results). What does the organization need them to do? Is each task something that is beyond the current skills and knowledge of your audience? If you held a gun to their heads, could they do the task at the required precision and speed? If so, it's not a training problem and deficiencies in this task can't be solved with training - it's logically impossible
  • Do you know all of the skills and sub-tasks (steps, decisions, considerations, values, and variations both covert and overt)? eLearning is pretty good at sub-task and "thinking skill" practice. But you can't design for that practice if you don't know what those skills are.
  • From what you know about the tasks and skill requirements, what practice opportunities do you see? I would use these as the core of the design. This way if everything else falls away, you still have the most effective component (practice and feedback are far more important than any other element in a training solution - in most situations). This will also really help you frame up scenarios. If you have an SME or accomplished performer handy, you can actually use real performance vignettes based on the experience or stories of the SME.
  • From what you know about the tasks and skill requirements, what measurement opportunities do you see? These may look an awful lot like the practice opportunities. 
  • If you have a good picture of the elements listed above, it should be a breeze to assemble your objectives.
  • Same goes for the assessment strategy

Too often folks focus on content as the core element of their courses. If content is used to shape objectives and assessment items, something went wrong in the process. Content isn't a bad thing. But it can be used poorly and is the leading cause of bullet infections.

Doreen Rambke-Hartz

I know that sometimes there's information that folks just need to have some understanding of, particularly when they are new to an organization.  I just had to convert a course that was originally 6 hours of lecture on labor law and unionized workforce. I proposed we loosely  model it after the topics in a vendor based elearning program we use (Harvard ManageMentor  http://www.harvardmanagementor.org/program-elements.html). 

I clustered the training into 3 areas and created sub activities under each.  I set up the Articulate menu so only the major topics displayed when you started the Articulate course.

  • LEARN:  this had the content, plus additional things.  more of the traditional 'lecture' that you find in an instructor led class, with other things inserted every few slides.
  1. "insights", which were single slides with quotes or advice from employees about a particular topic.  We just asked a few people via survey what advice they would give a new employee on XXX topic, then displayed it using a handwriting font.
  2. "Activities" - these were anything from, go view this website, locate the internal policies and procedure page online and bookmark it, to read an article in the attachment section
  3. "more info" was the traditional reference section with mainly hyperlinks to other departments.

 I had to break all of the content into 4 categories so I used a single person from our photo library that was in 4 different settings, then color coded the sections.  I also created a lot of sub-menu's using hyperlinks (similiar to the screen in Engage) so people could jump around to the topics.

  • PRACTICE:  I made this section in 2 parts.  Learners could choose either the traditional quiz about the content, or do a scenario based review, which covered the same content.

I used a fictional character called "Manager Mary".  So the quiz had a question that said, "True or False:  You must grant release from work to your union employees whenever requested to conduct union business", while the scenario review had something like "You arrive at work and the Medical Assistant in clinic A, who is also a shop steward, says she has to leave at 3pm for union business.  Do you need to grant her release?"

  • APPLY:  this was more of a reference section in 3 parts:  steps, tips and tools

steps, which were step by step instructions on how to do a task, tips were the 'insights' from earlier in the program, and tools are links to internal forms, policies, etc.

Maybe this will help spark some inspiration!

David Anderson

Here are some ideas for ways to present bullet point content differently:


Steve's point about rethinking the content and performance objectives is a good one. The more actionable your content, the easier it is to create more action-oriented slides. We spent some good time reworking content in our NE workshop last week. One of the key points was it's not difficult to make any type of content look good. But when the content, writing and objectives are solid, boy it's even easier to design great slides.

@Neil - is there any way you can post 2-3 slides of bullet point content? Just so we can get an idea of what you're working with?

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