The Rapid Elearning Blog

I’ve gotten a lot of emails about the template I used in the Dump the Drone demo.  So I’m going to show you how I built it (all inside PowerPoint) and then I’ll show you some tricks that will make it easier for you to build your own elearning courses.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - Colored template

How Much Graphics Editing Do You Need?

Here’s a secret.  I have Photoshop, Fireworks, GIMP, and a few other graphics applications on my PC.  They’re great applications, but the reality is that for most of the graphics I built in my elearning courses I use PowerPoint 2007.  That’s even true for most of the images that I create for my blog posts.

Here’s why I end up using PowerPoint most of the time.  It’s fast and easy.  Now that PowerPoint 2007 has some better formatting options, I find that I hardly ever go into my other image editors.  To me, that’s a big plus.  Most of those applications are a lot harder to use and they tend to cost more.  I find that for much of what I do, I can do right inside of PowerPoint.

Here are some of the default effects in PowerPoint 2007.  As you can see, for simple graphics it can help speed up your production.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - PowerPoint shapes

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - PowerPoint images

For many courses this is adequate and if you really learn to use your own styles and formats, you can do some pretty cool things.  Now keep in mind, I’m not saying that you can compare applications like Photoshop to PowerPoint, because you can’t.  Those are powerful applications.  What I am saying is that you might find that you can build most of what you need for your course right inside PowerPoint.  And that can be a big time saver, which kind of fits into the whole rapid part of rapid elearning.

So in the case of the template I built for that previous blog post, all of the graphics were built right inside PowerPoint.  They didn’t require a fancy graphics application.

Step-By-Step Instructions on Building the Branched Template

In the demo below, I do a quick walk through of the template from the Dump the Drone demo and then I show you how to build one from scratch.  I recorded the demo in real time so that you can see that it’s a fairly easy process and doesn’t take that long.

Even with all of the explanations, it still only took about 20 minutes or so to build it. The good thing is that once you build this template, you can reuse it and make changes pretty fast, especially if you use the PowerPoint color themes.

Don’t worry, I broke the tutorial into chunks so you don’t have to sit at the computer and listen to me for 20 minutes straight, something my wife can hardly do. 🙂  Just listen to the parts you’re interested in.  I’ve also attached the PowerPoint template for you to download and use.

The Rapid E-Learning Blog - PowerPoint template tutorial

Click here to view the tutorial.

Here’s a list of some of the steps I cover in tutorial:

  • Start with a blank slide and use an extra slide as your work space.
  • PowerPoint is a great way to make graphics.  Then save them to your hard drive.
  • For the titles, I used the Stereofidelic font, which Ray Larabie lets you have for free.
  • Use the design color schemes in PowerPoint 2007.
  • Create two menu slides.  One for animations and audio.  The other for clicking. 
  • Use master slides to save time.
  • In Presenter ’09, you can use the branching and locking features for navigation control.

Bonus tips:

  • Use a color schemer to help pick the right colors. There are plenty of them online.  Find a color you like and have the application pick the right colors to go with it.
  • When you share PowerPoint files, make sure others have the same fonts.  Keep in mind that most fonts are licensed, so you can’t just freely share them unless you own that license (or have permission).
  • On large projects I create two PowerPoint files.  One I use just to build my graphics and then I save those as images.  And the other I use to build my course.  This saves time in the long run and makes publishing a lot faster.

I hope you enjoy the template and the quick tutorial.  I look forward to your comments and any ideas you have to share.  Feel free to add them to the comments section.


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48 responses to “Here's How I Built That PowerPoint E-Learning Template”

Adobe’s Kuler is a great color scheme tool:

And a note on fonts: you can embed your fonts in your PowerPoint presentation (one of the Save options) so that others will be able to edit the content even if they don’t have those fonts installed on their systems. This option makes the size of your PowerPoint file larger, but can save you a lot of grief. Note: only TrueType fonts can be embedded, and even some TrueType fonts will prevent embedding. So YMMV. But it’s usually worth a shot.

February 10th, 2009


In trying to view the demo once I got to slide #3 and clicked the next arrow to advance the slide it looped back to slide #1. I even tried clicking on the individual links to the demos and it would say the slide was paused. When I clicked the play arrow it looped me back to slide #1 again.

Kuler is cool. I second that. Also: I know I’m a PowerPoint nerd, but I think I enjoyed watching you play in PPT just a little too much. Never would’ve thought it’d be so fun.

Certainly watching you demonstrate awesome and innovative PowerPoint tips is better than seeing 95% of the presentations that people make. (Ahhhhh!)

Finally, we use Captivate, but since Office ’07 came out, I’ve been pushing for Articulate too. Your demo will help my case. *fist pump*

Thanks, Eric

Tom, I watched the entire 20 minutes! Thanks for the tutorial – priceless!

I am still fumbling my way around when to use Presenter 09 branching vs PPT hyperlinks. But I guess all will become clearer as I build more courses.

Hoping to get to Articulate 09 if the wind’s in the right direction and the pound doesn’t fall more against the dollar…

February 10th, 2009

Tom, I too watched from beginning to end with my mind racing with all of the possibilities. What fun! Thanks so much for the free lesson. What a great service!

February 10th, 2009

Thanks so much for a wonderful tutorial! I can’t wait to apply these wonderful tips to my presentations.

I have been doing instructional design for a little over a year. My work is a drastic change to what has normally been created in my business and it is much appreciated by those who take the training as well the training department for the rave reviews. I pretty much get all my ideas from your blog, so thanks a lot!

I just watched the Dump the Drone tutorials and they were great.

February 10th, 2009

As useful as this tutorial was, what really grabbed me was the navigation system you used for the presentations that described how you did the “drone” template. How do I “nest” several Articulate presentations together?

Once again your blog has gotten my creative juices going. This came just in time as I am working on a presention that I will now go in and make some changes to based on what you discussed.

Is there a place to buy bitmaps that can be used like you do so often. I use a lot of graphics, but most of them cannot be ungrouped.

Thanks again.

Great tute – I am still on the tarmac but starting to rev up to get to the steep learning curve.Your blog/s and this sort of material is very helpful. Thanks

Thanks Tom – great demo as always. I immediately went and had a play with the trial of PowerPoint 2007 which I hadn’t yet touched – and can’t see myself going back to 2003.

A couple of things, firstly could I ask if you’ve ever tried doing multiple interactive callouts on the same screen in Camtasia? I tried that and it didn’t like it.

Secondly, are you on Twitter please? I tweeted about this post but would like to follow you if you’re there!



This was great. We don’t have the new version of powerpoint yet, but this presentation made me a little less fearful about it. Just a question: When I clicked on the attachments, I saw that they were read-only but in your presentation you talked about downloading and using the templates. Did you mean for these to be read-only or for us to use them?


Once again you are saving me time. I haven’t really taken the time to look at all the PowerPoint functions in 2007 and I am amazed at how the themes work. Great tip which should save me a lot of time.

Hi Tom,
Great set of demos as always. One question — how did you create the backgrounds (two blackish, one bluish, I believe), on slides 4/5/6 in the “drone demo?” The backgrounds aren’t in slide masters, so when I tried to copy/paste those slides to experiment, the background turned white.

Hi Tom,
Just figured it out. Thanks again for demos. Ideas for layouts are especially welcome.

I am a self-professed PPT virgin compared to what you have been able to demonstrate through your tutorial! Thank you for taking the time to build my capacity so quickly.

Hi Tom,

Love the tutorial on Dump the Drone. I did have a comment about the list of steps in the tutorial. I’m not sure what you mean by “Create two menu slides. One for animations and audio. The other for clicking.” Did I miss this in the tutorial or am I just addle-brained this morning?

Keep up the great work – you have helped our firm tremendously in the practical application of Articulate.

Thanks for the feedback and comments.

@Larry: the demo is designed to go to the main menu. So the forward bars are disabled. To access the various demos, click on the buttons. Next time, I’ll make the navigation more clear.

@Eric: My kids are counting on that Articulate purchase. Don’t let them down. 🙂

@Gary: those are all individual slides in one presentation. I just didn’t create a sidebar menu and relied on the slide hyperlinks.

@Nancy: there are a lot of clip art sites to purchase graphics. Just do a search online. Not all can be ungrouped though. Look for vector images and those typically can be ungrouped.

@Sandy: the files shouldn’t be read-only but I think something happened in the upload. In either case, you can save them to a new name and that should get past the read-only.

@Emily: When I use Camtasia, I just do straight screencasting. I don’t normally use the callouts. I like to limit my editing. Someone on the Techsmith site might be able to give you some technical tips. I do have a personal twitter account, but am not an active user. However, that is going to change. I’ll let you know when I set up a twitter that is more relevant to the blog and ideas on elearning.

@Diane: The menu slide has audio and animations. If you click away and come back to click on another link, you don’t need to hear the audio and animations again. So I create a duplicate menu. Once you visit the first time, you always end up back at the one with no audio and animations. Hope that makes sense. Click around on the menu to see how it works.

FYI on read-only downloads. When I tested it in Firefox, the PPT was read-only for me. When I tested in Chrome, it wasn’t. There must be a local setting in the browser that causes that.

This is such useful information. I really got some creative ideas. I have been using 2007 PowerPoint to create the storyboard, and I think it will help me in certain ways.
Thank you

February 13th, 2009

Thanks Tom, I enjoyed the tutorials, and have been experimenting with creating PPT masters with animations and hyperlinks as you demonstrated in the blog.

I followed his instructions, creating the masters from scratch, rather than using his attachment download. After creating the masters, I selected the various layout masters to create each slide. When I view the presentation in Powerpoint, everything seems to work fine. Once I have published it, however, the animations (fly-ins etc) no longer work and the hyperlinks either don’t work or are offset in location from where they should be.

Is this a problem with the Flash compression? Are their some bugs in need of a fix? Or is it operator error?

It’s a great idea, but it doesn’t seem to work too slick. Am I missing something?

Hi Tom,

I had a similar problem to Larry. When I click on one of the module buttons it takes me to slide 4 but the navigation bar is paused and nothing comes up?

You are one of the most effective persons in Learning/Training way, and I use so much of your doing…

Thank u so much

@Mark: It’s possible that the video is taking too long to download. At the end of each video, the next button will take you back to the main menu.

@Pam: I am going to assume it’s operator error. 🙂 Just kidding. Without looking at the file, it’s tough to say. Jump into the Articulate user forum and create a thread for some of us to look at what you’re doing.

Tom – GREAT Post!!!

For such an appealing and engaging presentation, do you have any suggestions for creating a learning objectives slide that doesn’t look eye-glazing?

I find I create eLearning that I’m happy with, but I find the learning objective slide always looks eye-glazingly boring (I think I just invented a word)…


You always offer such creative ideas that I really enjoy learning new things from you! As I watched you create your template on this one, I noticed that you moved from side to side on the bottom black bar to lengthen it. Did you know you could hold down the CTRL key as you drag a handle to change the size from both sides at once?

I’ve enjoyed your blog so much that I thought I’d share a tip with you this time.

March 5th, 2009

I am enjoying your tutorials and learning a lot at the same time. This was a powerful presentation I especially enjoyed building graphics in powerpoint. Love your work; always anticipating your next blog.


I like the tracking feature but I must be missing something. How how did you get the check marks to animate on the menu after the learner finishes viewing a section? Also, does this get trickier if there are more than 2 sections?

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Tom, I just finished watching your “Dump The Drone Demo” and “Dave’s Ladybirds on Branches” demo. I am trying to learn all that I can about branching and hyperlinking with Articulate! I do have a question for you. In your demo, you gave users the option of clicking “next” to opt out of doing either section. In the course I am developing, I need to be able to “force” the user to complete all sections before continuing. Do you know a way to do that? In Dave’s Ladybirds demo, he also used branching to indicate when a user had completed each section. Is there a way to do that and to force the users to complete all sections before continuing? Ideally, I would like to have 4 options. The user choses each option in their own order. Once they have completed all 4 options/section, they are free to move on in the course. Ideas for a non-flash programmer? 🙂

@Kimberly: Good question. I moved it to the user community because it’s a bit more detailed and you’ll also get some good ideas from other Articulate users. Here’s a link. If you haven’t already done so, register in the community to engage with other users.

Dear Sir/Madam – Help !
I am not having much joy here with regard to understanding if I am able to sell the courses I make with powerpoint with articulate studio.

As the basis of the course I am building is in powerpoint and I wanted to be able to sell the courses to the public, i have asked Microsoft if i can sell the powerpoint based course with articulate software (do i need a commercial license or something similar?). They said that i may not be able to sell my courses for commercial gain ?) how can this be ? thousands of organisations use powerpoint for presenting and these will all lead to commercial gain in one form or another ? Can you help clarify if I need to have a special license to resell the articulate courses on CD/DVD or online if I have based them on powerpoint slides or do you have a special license for your customers so they can sell the courses onto the public ? thankyou,

You can sell your courses. The only considerations I see are whether or not you have rights to the content you publish such as the course information and any graphics (or other multimedia) you use. If you own the rights to the content, then you have no issues selling the courses you create and publish using Articulate Presenter.

[…] Here’s How I Built That PowerPoint E-Learning Template […]

I am impressed.

That is the best tutorial I have ever seen. I am 4 weeks into my eLearning master course at present and I am up to the Design Concept and Principles of Instructional Design stage and this blog is like going to be my home from now on. Even the blog itself is intuitive, informative and graphical. I’m off to upgrade my powerpoint2003 to 2007!

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I am very impressed with this and to understand how it has been out together I am trying to download the Powerpoint templates from within your tutorial piece. However nothing is happening – have they been moved perhaps? WOuld you be able to send them to me? thanks Justin

@Justin: I just checked on the links and they work for me. It’s possible that your browser is blocking the download. I’ll move these over to Heroes in a few days and you’ll be able to get the templates from there.

[…] The Rapid eLearning Blog and tips like how to make a PowerPoint template. […]

[…] The Rapid eLearning Blog and tips like how to make a PowerPoint template. […]

I also have PPT 2007, but where did you get the “Add-ins” and “Articulate” options on your ribbon?

@Lauren: the Articulate tab is from the Articulate elearning software. In PPT 2010 you can customize the ribbon and add your own tabs, too.