A True "Flash" Back

In 2012 I began teaching a course as part-time faculty at the Pan Atlantic University's School of Media and Communication. It was labelled "Interactive and Motion Graphics" (COM545). It was a hands-on course compulsory for the Post Graduate Diploma in Digital Media, and the tool of choice then was Adobe Flash. I was really good at creating amazing visual content using Flash, as I am among the first people to ever use it in Nigeria (I started killing it with Flash in 2001), and I had done lots of great work for clients and employers using it.

Let my People Go

I facilitated that course for 3 sessions plus one crash program, and while it was a greatly fulfilling experience, I realized that my students had a serious handicap: most of them didn't have Flash installed on their private computers, therefore they only encountered it when they were in the digital lab at the school - and when my class was in session. Most of them were eager to learn this magic I was exposing them to, but they couldn't practice on their own when they got home. It didn't help that the classes were in the evening, and they were usually tired from a hard day's work; or that most didn't see themselves using this knowledge (or tool) in the course of their work. I began losing their interest. By the third year of handling this course I knew that they were mostly just trying to fulfil the requirements for the programme.

A Flash in the Pan? (AKA "Death of a Tool")

And what was also most critical to me was the fact that the knowledge and skill of using Flash had already become obsolete! Adobe had stopped shipping new versions of Flash; and content made using Flash was only useful when exported in video format (which was heavy). A "Flash Player" plugin was required to play SWF files; browsers didn't ship with that as default, smart devices didn't either. It would have been heavenly to have such rich media landing on everyone's screen at a tiny fraction of the file size of its equivalent in video. This was the most notable advantage Flash offered.

But alas, social media was exploding with video and images... I knew we weren't tapping the full potential with the course. It was up to me to change that. So I approached the heads of the Digital Media department and proposed we drop Flash and switch to teaching them interactive and motion design using PowerPoint instead.

Flipping The script

It had taken me a while (3 sessions) to step up to the plate on this decision because the department already had a PowerPoint presentation course... in which they were learning great stuff from an experienced gentleman and a great teacher, and I didn't think the Department Heads would go for something that either duplicates or conflicts with an existing course. But they agreed! I had designed the focus areas to be specifically motion and interaction design skills using PowerPoint, and I guess they wanted to see how I'd pull it off. Besides, it was the crash program. The students were confused when i told them they won't be learning Flash, and even more so when they heard it would be PowerPoint - which they thought they already knew and were taking a course in. But it turned out to be the most productive stream we had.

They were able to do a lot of practice both in class and at home. And this was particularly important because we had only 3 crash series of 2 days each that "semester". We actually had more fun discovering methods that were previously alien to them than we ever did struggling to unravel the paradigm of Flash and the deep world of professional motion design. They no longer felt like outsiders.

What the Teacher Learned from the Lesson

I've learned from experiences such as my time at the SMC that the best way to learn is by doing. The moment it became possible for these ladies and gentlemen to pick up their computer and launch a familiar environment to design something amazing, they did it more often, and the more they did it, the better they became. They had a great time learning, and (for the first time, truly) my students were excited to put what they learned and the skills they had acquired to use at work.

That was the last time I taught that course, but that experience was what have birth to my dream of helping busy entrepreneurs, corporate executives, and (generally) people in marketing, sales and knowledge transfer functions step up their motion and interaction design skills in PowerPoint so that they can make mind-blowing presentations and content that their audience will remember, and they can advance their careers and businesses.

How SLAP was Born

Years have gone by since 2014. Design, content and media have evolved exponentially. What has excited me the most where this journey is concerned is how tools like PowerPoint are now capable of creating more stunning content than even the once-celebrated Flash ever could, and these tools are already "in the palm of our hands"! I learn something new EVERY TIME I use PowerPoint or any other tool I work with. It's a guiding principle for me, and it's making it possible for me to create more and more learning content to transfer this exciting knowledge and powerful skill.

I created the "SLIDESHOW LIKE A PRO" (S.L.A.P) course when my original 3-day Modern Presentation Design masterclass was unable to hold due to COVID-19 lockdown restrictions. But it has turned out to be the best thing, because I kept getting asked why that masterclass had to be offline and only in Lagos. A number of people had approached me asking for an Abuja edition soon, so I had to get practical. It took some weeks to put it together, but now it's available to anyone anywhere.

I'm already working on other courses, and it'll go beyond PowerPoint. Everyone is a content creator now, so there'll be a premium on attention, and an even higher one on retention.

Nobody should be left behind.