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Class Lectures with PowerPoint

Adrian Podpirka's picture

I am pretty new to having a class that is fully powerpoint presentations and am wondering how everyone else is coping with it. Does anyone have any pointers or useful ways they keep notes in powerpoint classes? Printing the notes before hand? Anotating directly on the notes? Having a seperate notebook for notes and seperate handouts of presentation, etc etc?


I myself have a seperate notebook but I also have a binder with the printouts of the presentation that I follow along with the lecture. I usually rewrite some of the powerpoint slides into my notebook to help me understand the material better.


Looking to hear from someone about there own methods for following in class.




Jeffrey T. Chambers's picture

It is going to depend on the presenter's style. Some presenters will use the powerpoint slides as supplementary information to their lectures while some use the slides as the actual lecture.

That being said, I have always preferred powerpoint presentations to contain the lecture and to be made available before lecture. That way I can follow along during lecture and take notes directly on the slides. I have taken a class that the professor made slides with some missing information that you add in as the lecture progresses. This definitely keeps you following the lectures.

Overall, it is going to depend on both the presenter's style and your personal learning preferences. It will be great to hear others' thoughts on this issue.


Alex Liberzon's picture

 switching from Powerpoint to LaTeX + Beamer + IPE, I can generate high-quality presentations that are 100% compatible with other scientific publicaitons, e.g. articles, books (not that i've written one :-)), theses, etc. Latex then includes all the work in one consistent format. Recently it became very convenient to add Latex expressions to Wordpress, for example, and through mimetex to any website.


Experimental fluid mechanics

Zhigang Suo's picture

Dear Alex:  It is important.  Many iMechanicians would love to add equations into their posts.  Do you see the approach that you outlined as a viable approach for iMechanica?  Thank you very much.

Teng Li's picture

Drupal has a module "LaTeX", to allow use TeX/LaTeX commands. I don't have
experience with it. Maybe our IT expert can help us on this.

Alex Liberzon's picture


1. In your post - press HTML

2. add a text that includes a link to the public mimetex.cgi and the Latex expression - a bit ugly approach but works quite well and doesn't require installations.


<img src=\int_{-\infty}^xe^{-t^2}dt alt="" border=0 align=middle>


the result is:


for more help, read


hope it helps :-)


Zhigang Suo's picture

Dear Alex:

Thank you very much for this tutorial. I've tried it myself and it works! Delightful. I've just added a pointer to your tutorial in the link, How to post an entry?  This link appears in a block called "Links", on the top right corner of iMechanica.

Hi Alex,

Thanks for this info.  Finally I am able to type math entries in the blogs.  I've tried it out and it worked perfectly.


Thanks again!!

Thank you for the hint.


Henry Tan's picture

My test:

Hi Adrian,

Yes, I have had powerpoint lectures before. As Jeff mentioned, it is always helpful to have the powerpoint lecture notes beforehand so that I can take notes directly on them during the class time. I like good powerpoint lectures because they summarize the important points and allow me more time to digest material without taking time to write down much notes. (At the same time, I found it useful taking notes from the chalk board. By writing them, I go through equations better.)

For our class, in addition to the lecture note, I read the separately supplied notes after the lecture. I found the notes useful when I want to check details such as derivation, or more variety.

Nanshu Lu's picture

I have experienced many courses taught by powerpoint slides in my undergraduate university and got quite used to it. It helps save time of writing down equations or drawing pictures so that you can concentrate on listening, thinking and digestion. I always feel that lecturers would like to write down the most standard and classical laws and equations on board or ppt. Usually they don't explicitly write out much about their own understanding or specific notices. But actually these precious information is contained mainly in his talk, which requires careful listening and plenty of time to take notes.

However, the drawback of ppt lecture is obvious. Ppt guides your thinking and prevents the oppertunity of having emanative thoughts. People can hardly get concentrated for a long time if they don't have there hands writing through something. I really enjoy writing down neat and complete notes in class so in conclusion either way will work for me.

Another concern of this course is the interaction with classmates in Univ. of Nebraska. Local students are more active in asking or answering questions but we are also delighted to share opinions from our net-classmates.

J. Alberto Ortega's picture

Howdy Adrian,

Thanks for opening the ‘floor of ES242r’ for discussion about this topic. In the past, I have had a broad range of experiences: from having lectures entirely taught in PowerPoint to good-old chalk and blackboard classes. Perhaps, one of the best lecturers I have had here in MIT used a combination of PowerPoint and blackboard. The computer slides served as motivators for a topic. Each slide carried the main equations or ideas. The development of the idea was done in the blackboard. While each class has its own style, I personally prefer to still take notes on my handbook. If computer slides are available before hand, I try to note the slide number in my handbook and write down the additional comments to what is already presented in the slides. If computer slides contain ‘all’ the information and derivations, I usually tend to become a passive student.

It will be interesting to hear the experiences from your colleagues in Nebraska and ours from Harvard-MIT. Cheers, Alberto

Michael P. Mahoney's picture

Hi everyone,

I'm taking this course at UNL and up until now have had very little experience with classes using slide-shows as the primary means of communicating information but I don't mind it. I have found it helpful to jot down my own notes and to bring a printout of the notes to class.

I generally like the pace at which the class is taught and have found both the powerpoint and blackboard lectures to be very effective. Some people may be having trouble with the blackboard lectures here in Lincoln because of the resolution but so far, in my opinion, it has not been a problem. Granted, every now and then it may tough to read a term like sqrt(Pi*a) during a derivation, but that's why I bring a printout of the notes to refer to.

As far as auxiliary texts or notes I have read a little of the notes that that have been posted on the course home page and they seem to be useful. I also bought a text online. "Analytical Fracture Mechanics" by JD Unger, it's a Dover Book. But honestly, I have yet to refer to it.

So, that's my two cents. Have a nice Spring Break.

Flavio Souza's picture

I also don' have much experience on ppt lectures, but my opinion is that the effectiveness of such lectures really depends on the topic that is being taught. I personally think that slides help when the issue is to present some application problem or to show result of an analysis, such as FEM simulations, something that does not require much fundamental thoughts. However, when some theory, or important equation, is to be derived, I'd rather have chalk and blackboard classes.

On the other hand, sometimes the resolution gets poor here in Nebraska and we cannot precisely understand what has been written on the blackboard. I have experienced other video conferences here at UNL where one can write on the laptop screen and the screen is then projected into big TV's with an extremely good resolution. Maybe this kind of technology could solve our resolution problems...

With respect to supplementary textbooks, I've been trying to follow T.L Anderson's and David Broek's books but unfortunately didn't find it very helpful.

Finally I want to raise a question: I'd like to have some introduction to the use of Finite Elements in Fracture Mechanics, such as computation of Stress Intensity factors, Energy Release rate, J integral; and formulation and use of Cohesive Zone models. Maybe we won't have enough time to do this, but it would be great if we could have at least an introduction pointing some key references where we can find more details. What do you think about that? I'd like to see comments of other students on this.

You all have lots of fun on the Spring Break!

Thanks a lot.

Flavio Souza.

Nanshu Lu's picture

Hi, Flavio Souza,

I am a 2nd year doctoral student in Zhigang's group and I am now doing some FEM computing on 2D fracture problems by using ABAQUS. We just submitted a paper with FEM calculation results.

ABAQUS v6.5 and upper are really powerful instruments on fracture calculation. It is straightforward and very easy to implement. A very nice tutorial on this subject can be found in the ABAQUS v6.6 Documentation -> ABAQUS Example Problem Manual -> Section 1.4. You just have to follow the examples step by step. Please take a look at this first and I am willing to answer any detailed questions as much as I can.





 Hey Adrian,

This is not the first class that I'm taking w/PowerPoint lectures. Honestly, I'm prefer the old fashioned blackboard because I'm not only copying the notes, but I'm also memorizing. However, for this specific class, I think the PowerPoint notes are very useful once  the blackboard lectures quality is not so good. I always bring a printout of the lectures to class and make notes on that.  It seems to work.

For complement the lectures, I'm using Anderson’s book: FRACTURE MECHANICS, Fundamentals and applications; and I'm also reading the papers posted on imechanica. 

In my opinion. the only problem we're having here in Nebraska is the blackboard  resolution. I think, the lectures are working well and Dr. Wu is always helpful when we have any questions about the class.

For improvements, I think that Flavio's idea is a good one. I have had a class like that before and it was pretty good. The teacher could make extra notes in his own PowerPoint lectures and the resolution was great.  


Emmeline Lemos

Francisco T S Aragao's picture

As some of you have already mentioned, I believe that the resolution of the image here in Nebraska is really not good. I'm not expert on those technologies so I cannot contribute with suggestions for improvements on this. Anyway, if the resolution was good I'd really rather classes with written contents on the board or on pieces of paper. I've taken one class besides Fracture Mechanics outside campus and, personally, I really was more comfortable with that where the instructor wrote things live on pieces of paper. This could be an idea. The camera was always showing the pieces of paper where the instructor was writing the contents of the lecture. This could also help on another problem that sometimes happens during Fracture Mechanics lectures: besides not being able to understand what is written on the board, the camera is not able to focalize on the right spot of the blackboard all the time.

With respect to what I've been doing to keep the contents in track, I was trying to make a summary of each lecture up to lecture 6, I think. I generally do this in every class, but, honestly, this semester has been crazily busy for me and I couldn't keep on doing that for the further lectures. This is my fault. Anyway, I think that procedure helps. I also try to write as much as possible about the instructors' words during the lectures.

In summary, I think that the video resolution needs to be improved, that, as Flavio said, chalk makes me more comfortable than power point, that one thing that could help would be to have the instructor writing on pieces of sheet the contents of the lectures, and that summaries and lots of notes during the lectures help a lot on the learning process.

 I hope to have helped. 

 Francisco Thiago S. Aragao, Civil Engineer
Graduate Student - MSc
Research Assistant

NH150 Department of Civil Engineering
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Lincoln NE 68588
Work PH: 402-472-4899

Only Jesus saves!

Jamilla E. S. Lutif's picture

Hi Adrian,

I have already took some class where the instructor used power point presentations. I think that for distance education students, as we are here in Nebraska, the powerpoint notes help a lot, based on the fact that the video quality is not that good, being hard to follow the blackboard. But if I was in class, as the students from Havard, I would prefer to have the notes written in the blackboard. I think we keep more focus in that way.

To help when we are using ppt, It is definitely good to print out the notes before class, thus we can put comments directly on it. I am keeping my notes together with my handbook, but since the volume is becoming too big, I think I will do like you are doing.

Regarding the textbook material, I am complementing my studies with Fracture Mechanics Book from Anderson, as well as some of the online references that are posted in fracture mechanics webpage.

Kind regards,

Jamilla Lutif 



Roberto Soares's picture

This is my first course that uses mainly Power Point slides. This method is not the ideal situation, in my oppinion, and I was expecting more blackboard time. However, by handing out the slides a priori makes things a lot better and enables us to follow the professor closely during class. In addition to the class notes, I am trying to follow Anderson's book and Fracture of Brittle Solids, both do a decent job.

In general, the classes for us are working well, except for the already known resolution problem. Maybe for future classes, we should think about a different technology or a better camera at least. But since Fracture Mechanics is not offered very often here at UNL, it is a good oportunity to have this class offered from Harvard. I'd also like to add that Dr. Wu is being very helpful for us here in Nebraska.

In addition, I would like to know if this class is being taught using PPT because of us or if it would be taught it like this anyway.




 "The use of the PowerPoint presentation has been a disaster," Professor Sweller said. "It should be ditched."

I have taken numerous classes which have used powerpoint slides. I find that it is much easier to follow along and not get lost on something a professor may have said since most of what he/she is presenting is already down on the slides. With that said, having the slides available to print out before the lecture is a very vital part of utilizing the slides effectively and also so one can add their additional notes as one sees fit.

I have just been using the supplemental papers and notes available on imechanica.

 I feel that the lectures have been going pretty well here in Nebraska. We do have an issue with the resolution when things are presented on the blackboard. I believe it is the way the camera is angled most of the time since it has a hard time picking what to focus on. However, the resolution on the graphics is pretty good or well enough since we have the slides to follow along with.

Hope this helps!!


"I have taken a class that the professor made slides with some missing
information that you add in as the lecture progresses. This definitely
keeps you following the lectures."

I like this format of lecturing, for the same reasons as stated. Also, some lecturer's suffer from a terrible case of can't-write-very-neatly-itis. This is not a personal attack on any lecturers (I know there are many here!), it's just a fact of life that not everyone has legible hand writing. Leaving spaces to be filled in definitely helps keep the students' attention, and reduces the hand work required by the lecturer.

I am definitely not in favour of lectures that are conducted solely on power point. First of all, something ALWAYS go wrong. Also, with chalk/pen in hand the lecture tends to become more dynamic, particularly when the lecturer has developed a class to ask many questions, afterall a picture is worth a thousand words.

A larger history can be displayed over several boards, allowing several 'slides' to be in the viewing range of the students. The lecturer also retains the ability to quickly jump back to prior board work when a student asks a question, which is particularly important with many students puzzling over a question for a minute or so before making themselves heard.

I could criticise powerpoints for quite some time, but they do of course have some fantastic advantages when used effectively. I'm about to complete a masters level course in material mechanics with a strong focus on the computational aspects of the subject. My lecturer has created some excellent presentation modules in mathematica which were invaluable for showing the effects of hardening in a much clearer manner than he could have done by hand (perhaps he just downloaded those modules, I know wolfram makes a lot of stuff freely available). 


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