3 Alternatives for your learning objectives slide

Bullet points…agh!

When time is limited, cognitive dissonance seeps in. However, making a small change in the opening of your slide deck is easier than you think – seeing a new way can be a simple remedy.

This article gives you a few ideas to freshen up your required and important learning objective slide.

A special thank you to Dr. Stefanie Nigro, an Associate Clinical Professor at the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy. These are real learning objectives, repurposed with permission.

The Starting Line

Here is a typical learning objectives slide:

This is a fairly standard-looking slide, with bullet points to highlight the objectives. While effective, the overutilization of bullet points promotes the learner to read off of the slide and disengage from the speaker (..that’s you). Fortunately, you have alternatives.

There are several options that help improve engagement while still getting your message across effectively.

Let’s review a few alternatives.


Numbered list

Content with Caption layout

Advanced templates


A quick update to try is changing your bullet points to a numbered list:

However, if this feels like you’re cheating, you can reformat the numbers using Shapes.

In this case, we’re using an oval shape to create our numbered list:

Content with caption layout

Another alternative is to change the layout of the slide. One particularly useful option is the Two Content slide layout.

This update makes it easy and simple to change from a Title and Content slide, which most of the slides end up being, to a Content with Caption slide.

Advanced templates

Templates can enhance or limit both creativity and learner engagement. While Microsoft Powerpoint has many different templates, sometimes it is helpful to see what other options are available.

This is where graphic design and presentation-focused websites come in. There are many sites you can find and here is merely a short list (in alphabetical order):





There are often reduced pricing options for students/educators, in addition to the usual free/basic tiers.

Here are a few examples of what you can find and create using these various sites:


Built using a template on Visme, this offers a very different look and feel compared to a traditional PowerPoint template.


The following slide is built with Canva and is essentially a mix of a few of the PowerPoint template slides that are shown above. One quick note: Including the image (stethoscope) could be distracting, so you’ll want to consider where you want to draw the learner’s focus to.


One last version, built with Beautiful.ai, is a powerful site used to create presentations. You’ll need a paid version or student (.edu) account to remove the branding though.

The Finish line

There you have it! A few new options for creating your learning objectives slide.

An important note – you can build many of these slides within PowerPoint as well, however, it’ll be much faster to use a template.

Good luck and happy learning!

Smart Recombinations

From a 2010 HBR article, The Four Phases of Design Thinking, you are introduced to the idea of “smart recombinations” and the work of John Thackara (In The Bubble and others).

The idea of combining unseen concepts (or groups) is very interesting. For example, you could combine difference disciplines at a health care conference:

  • Pharmacy and Social Work
  • Nursing and Occupational Therapy

You can also combine different learning methods and types.

What combination of didactic, interactive, and peer to peer learning can you create?

What combination of visual, auditory, and hands on learning can you incorporate?

The challenge is taking the time to look – but when we do, lots of unique combinations show up.

Happy Combining!

Critical Thinking

If I had a nickel for every time a co-worker has said “where was the critical thinking” I could buy a lot of things at the dollar store. 🙂

Joking aside, this is one of the most common (and recurring) themes of feedback I hear about our colleagues in healthcare.

Unfortunately, the type of education and teaching we provide often reenforces this lack of thinking. While there are organizations (think “bigger”) with more technology and virtual learning spaces, the vast majority of healthcare facilities cannot afford this type of resource.

The alternative is to be creative and create learning that will test critical thinking. Learning that empowers Nurses to make decisions and see what happens next, with the safety of being wrong. Learning that allows Pharmacists to see the whole picture and think quickly to solve a problem.

You all have the ability to build this type of education. Our workforce will be better for it.

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If you are going to a movie, you look at the Rotten Tomatoes score.

If you buy something on Amazon, you often look at the star ratings.

Even when I’m looking for a new movie to watch with my son, I look at Common Sense Media.

The rating system is everywhere.

Even when you are completing an evaluation for an education course, you have to fill out a rating, usually a scale of 1 to 5.

However, those ratings are not shared with attendees or prior to the next conference, potential attendees.

What if ratings were collated in order to show them to Nurses or Pharmacists before they decided to attend the conference or purchase the online course.

Ratings are similar to testimonials and it is also what people already expect at other websites. They are familiar with the system and the familiarity can build trust with your website since the audience knows what it means.

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Who do you want to be?

We can ask healthcare providers what they need to learn – and educators are asking this question often. The interesting part is we often get what people want to learn, not necessarily what they need to learn. Sometimes, they aren’t even sure.

The Missing Question

There are tons of evaluation/survey questions asking about what you want to learn or what topics you find interesting.

However, what if you included, “who do you want to be?”

If this is too existential for learners, you can ask what they hope to accomplish in 1 (or 5) years and look at their goals.

I wonder what types of answers you’d start getting with this one change. If we want better answers, we need to ask better questions.

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Bad Weather

It’s always a concern when planning a conference that speakers will get stuck flying in. Interestingly, sometimes it can be equally challenging flying out!

Several years ago, we were holding an Annual conference and two speakers flew in without issues – unfortunately, their flights to get out were cancelled.

Terrible weather was hitting the East Coast and there were no flights. We were two-thirds through our conference when a small group started diligently working on how to get people back home. Two kind and patient gentlemen might be stuck in Connecticut for some time…

One speaker was flying back to DC and we were able to find the best Amtrack schedule to get him there before his next presentation at 7am the following day…with a few hours of sleep to spare and some recommendations for pizza in New Haven, CT. This apparently was the easy the case.

Who knew how challenging it can be to fly out (and back in) of Arkansas? Well apparently, it was quicker to drive there than wait for another flight. After driving from CT to Philadelphia only to find out the flights were cancelled there too and then fully booked because everyone else was trying to get out too – he decided to drive back to AR.

It was a bit of a nightmare for them. We haven’t dared asked either to come back yet – maybe we’ll plan a webinar 🙂

We all have our own horror stories – I’d love to hear about your favorite.

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Choose Who You Write For

I was talking with someone a few days ago who was building a new product to help people with retirement planning. I asked, “who’s it for,” and the response was “everyone.” Gasp!

There are over 7.5 billion people it the world – the product can’t possibly be for everyone.

Too often we approach the outreach to learners in a similar way. You may have an email list of 500, 5,000, or 50,000. Who you send your marketing email to, is a choice you have.

The cool thing about technology, especially email marketing services, is you can segment your audience…and you should. Using the segmentation and email management features will certainly help you. If you have a home grown product, ask IT if it is already an option.

People have a limited amount of time and when they read emails from you that are not applicable, they unsubscribe or stop reading altogether. You may have heard the worst medication for a patient is the one they aren’t taking. Well, the worst email for your company is the one your audience isn’t reading.

To zoom in a bit more – your email list might include practitioners from different care settings (e.g. hospital, community, long term care, etc.). Each of these learners has a slightly different focus and interest level in what they are learning. Making that assumption, you can create “tags” or separate audiences to better segment your email list and send content that people are interested in reading.

Also worth noting: There are a many people who are already in a niche environment and might think – cool – but not for me. However, there’s typically a way to further breakdown the list. For example, if you create content for hospitals, you can add tags for IT, oncology, ED, administration, etc. etc.

Be creative. Try a segmented list and see what the response is. You get to choose.

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The Cost of Accreditation

Accreditation is a necessary part of education programs. For an educational organization to provide learning to healthcare professionals, the course/class has to be accredited.

But wait, in reality – providing education does not require accreditation. However, getting a Nurse or Pharmacist to take the course, accreditation is a piece learners are looking for.

For an educator to provide accredited courses, they will need to meet standards created and monitored by their respective accrediting organization.

For Pharmacy, accreditation is set through the Accreditation Council of Pharmacy Education (ACPE); Nursing is through American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) [or the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP)]; there is also a joint accreditation option through Joint Accreditation – Interprofessional Continuing Education, which offers accreditation for CME, CNE, and CPE – and recently has added the option to include PAs, Social Workers, Optometrists, and Psychologists.

To give you an idea of the costs for accreditation, here are a couple of tables:


Nursing (annual fees):

Joint Accreditation:

Zooming in on Pharmacy, the annual fee is dependent on how many credits you offer and how many learners you have within those learning activities.

Zooming way in – ESU is calculated by taking the number of continuing education units (CEUs) of a CPE activity multiplied by the number of participants receiving an ACPE statement of credit or certificate for that activity. Adding the total ESU of all your programs puts educators in a specific level, which decides the annual fee.

When deciding to get accredited, there are many pieces to weigh/factor in. Mostly, it comes down to how many courses are you offering per year and how many learners do you anticipate attending (not including administrative and IT components needed to meet ACPE requirements). From there you can decide if the cost of accreditation is affordable or is it less expensive to get your program accredited individually through another organization – with corresponding fees.

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What’s a Needs Assessment?

Knowing what your audience needs to learn (or wants to learn) is an important first step in creating content. In the world of healthcare education, it is also a required component for any education you create. While this topic may appear dull at first, there is a simple reframe for it – you get to connect with your learners, hear what they need to learn and you build trust by continuing to listen to them and create education they are looking for.

The two most common forms of needs assessment we see are the Annual needs assessment survey and a post-course evaluation, which includes a question on what topics learners would like. These are also known as verbalized needs.

Needs can also be identified by looking at gaps in care when reviewing recent research or reading literature from different National Organizations (e.g. CDC, AHRQ, etc.).

However, there is a gap in the data you are collecting, especially with verbalized needs. People do not always know what they want. Typically, you are interrupting learners to get their feedback or adding it into an evaluation – the problem is that you are asking at one point in time. Often, they skip the section on the survey asking what topics they want to learn more about.

How can you connect with learners when they don’t tell you what they want to learn? First, you start with people who are telling you. Second, at a live conference you spend time talking with attendees about the sessions and listen to their responses – it’s a good indication of a needs assessment as you’ll get.

A good needs assessment looks at where the learner is and where they want to go. One of the roles of an educator is to help them meet their professional development goals. Not only will taking the time to ask deeper questions help you identify more engaging and meaningful content but you’ll also build a stronger connection to your audience by seeking enrollment.

Listening, asking better questions, and providing a survey that isn’t an interruption – start with these three tools and you’ll be on your way to developing more meaningful education.

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Adaptive Learning

When many of us took licensing exams, we experienced “adaptive testing” or CAT – computerized adaptive testing. While we answered questions, the algorithms in the test would change the questions based on our responses.

While CAT has been used for well over a decade, the use of adaptive learning (or adaptive teaching) has gained popularity in the last 5-10 years. Similar to testing, the AI/algorithms will adapt to the strengths and weaknesses of the learner, based on mastery and knowledge of the content.

(A quick side note: A recent episode of Akimbo by Seth Godin talked about Systems Thinking – and how we can learn about the systems available in our industry and how to use them effectively)

A specific framework used is ALGAE (Adaptive Learning for GAme dEsign). This concept uses a mixture of game design, adaptive learning and instructional/teaching models to enhance learning.

If you’re interested in adaptive learning, here are some additional resources:

Happy Learning!

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