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Last Updated by:
Tom Whittaker
Dec 5th, 2001

Instructors' Tips for Making Better VISITview Lessons

updated: 5/10/2004

The purpose of this page is provide a clearinghouse for techniques and ideas that instructors use that lead to more effective teletraining. Please share your own!!

Preparing your "slides"

  • You may use image files (GIF or JPEG) or slides from StarOffice, PowerPoint, CorelDraw, etc to prepare your slides. Note: if you use PowerPoint2000, do not save the images a GIF files. If you must, then you need to re-convert them with ImageMagick ( before using them in VISITview.
  • Since most offices have projectors with only 600x800 (lines x pixels) displays, keep the size of your frames appropriate to this.
  • The control bar on the VISITview session window requires 120 lines of the display, and about 660 columns. You might consider using "tear-off controls", which gives you nearly the full 600x800 for your images. If you have images approaching this size, it is recommended that you specify "tear-off" as always in the Lesson Builder's parameter setting dialog that pops up when you are saving a lesson.
  • To save higher quality images when using a Windows machine, set your desktop resolution to 600x800, start your Slide Show, and then save each image using the ALT+Print Screen button, then paste the slide from the clipboard into the image software of your choice, and then save it to a file. Or do a 'screen grab' with a graphic utility like PaintShopPro and then save the image to a file.
Organizing your presentation
  • The Rule of Tell'em - Tell'em what you are going to tell'em, Tell it to them, and then Tell'em what you told them. Start with an introduction (including an "agenda" or set of goals for the presentation), provide the content and summarize the presentation.
  • The 5 Key Points - Research shows that most people attending a presentation will only remember 5 key points. You as the presenter should always keep in mind the five most important points/concepts/facts that should be remembered. It helps to write your summary slide first. Once you visualize your key points, the presentation is easier to develop.
  • Recent research has shown the importance of adding "authority" to your presentation. Stick in a relevant quote (hundreds of "quotation" sites on the web to help). Throw in a picture of the subject matter expert (even if it is you).
  • Be selective, use the minimum number of slides, for maximum impact. Ask yourself "is this slide really necessary, does it add or detract?"
  • Aim for an average of 1 slide for every 1-2 minutes. Every slide must be on the screen for at least 10 seconds.
  • Consider where you might ask questions; anticipate and guide. Remember you will want to engage your audience at least once every 10 minutes (see delivery tips).
  • Add a final slide to remind you to thank the attendees, make yourself available (either e-mail or phone), and refer them to where the materials, speaker notes and feedback tool are located.
Tips for construction and layout
  • Image readability (quality) is very important (and something that can spoil an otherwise interesting and informative lesson).
  • Keep lettering/numbering large.
  • Scanning images should be avoided if possible -- make your own drawings.
  • Use few words -- and don't just read them when you present!
  • Use the "predefined annotation phrases" feature of VISITview to highlight additional terms or points; this keeps the main slides clean and free of too much clutter, yet allows you to add a term or short phrase at just the right moment to make your point!
  • Be mindful of color blind people -- make sure everything has a high contrast (looks good in "black and white").
  • Use overlays for putting plots and analyses on top of imagery.
  • To compare two or three images, try using "fading".
General tips for slide development for any presentation

The Oceanography Society's "Tips for Preparing and Delivering Scientific Talks and Using Visual Aids - Ten Commandments of Visual Aids" is quite good.

Here are some other tips from instructors:

  • Word slides should be colorful, but not gaudy.
  • Dark backgrounds, light letters are easier on the eyes. Never use bright red letters.
  • Stick to one font with different sizes, styles (Bold, Italics), and colors.
  • Title each screen using a larger font and perhaps different style/color.
  • Never use a font size of less than 18 point!
  • Avoid using sentences, highlight only key words of phrases.
  • Limit bullet points to 6 per page (yes that includes sub-bullets).
  • Order bullets by order of importance - most important first
  • Replace or supplement words with photos, clipart, graphic symbols, etc where possible.
  • Don't spend all your time developing special effects or fancy graphics, remember your purpose is to communicate ideas and information, not to dazzle people.
  • Use pie charts for comparison of components, line charts for trends, bar charts to do both.
  • Avoid tables if possible, as they can be pretty hard on audiences.

Importing images

  • If you need to do a screen-grab from AWIPS, here are some pointers:
    • There are two ways to get a consistent AWIPS snap-shot:
      1. Put the display into "three pane" mode, and put whatever image you want to capture in the upper-left pane. It will be about 470x450 -- perfect for most things -- and have all the labels and colorbars you need.
      2. ...or... leave the display in the "default pane" mode (which is 4 small panels down the left, and one big one). Set the main display into "4 panel" mode -- the panel in the upper-left (of the now quartered main display) can be used.
      Either of these techniques will give you a consistent (x,y) coordinate of the upper left corner of the display, and a fixed size.
    • Use the screen-grab technique described at: this URL
  • Do NOT import your screen-grab into PowerPoint (or CorelDraw, etc) unless you can do it without having the image re-sized.
  • If you need a "sub-panel" type display, create your "background" image with text on it, then use a VISITview portal to contain your image(s). If you're not familiar with VISITview portals, click here to see one.
  • When you save your PowerPoint pages as GIF or JPEG image files, you may need to first set the size of the page so that the image files are the proper dimensions. For example, on my machine, I have to set (in "landscape" mode) the height to 5.01" and the width to 6.68" to obtain a 480x640 image (which comes out to 95.8 pixels per inch).

Making quizzes

  • Keep the questions and answers short and relevant!
  • Don't do a quiz question on every page; use this as a way to connect with the students and find out if perhaps a key point was missed.
  • Use the "discussion" after the quiz as an opportunity to elaborate.

Teaching Effectiveness Tips

  1. Familiarize yourself with the VISITview Controls.
  2. Start the class on time. Do not allow offices that are late or unprepared to delay the class. An alternate instructor or technical assistant should be available to assist offices off-line as needed.
  3. The instructor and technical assistant should be the first to dial into the audio conference and be available to greet the students.
  4. As students join the conference, verify that they have the appropriate VISITview lesson running. Offer assistance as time permits, but not to the extent of delaying your check-in procedure.
    Note: when you build your lesson, it is suggested that you specify a different group name for each version of your lesson, since this is the easiest way to make sure everyone is using the correct version. (You define the group name when you save your lesson from the Lesson Builder -- please view the How to Make a VISITview Lesson lesson for more information.)
  5. Check the audio quality and volume with each office; encourage them to use the "mute" button, if they have one.
    • Be sure they are not using a line or a phone connected to a modem or fax machine.
    • Tell the offices not to put the phone line on "hold", since that often causes the NOAA Weather Radio audio to play!
  6. Have each office/student draw something on the screen, to make sure they are actually connected to the lesson and to ensure they know how to do this basic operation. You might mention that they can draw a question mark on the screen if they have a question during the session, if that is your style.
  7. Clearly state the role of any written materials that have been provided. If they have a student guide that closely follows the lecture and is designed for note taking...say so at the beginning and make occasional references during the session. If they have a student guide that consists of supplemental material...say they will not be distracted looking through it asking themselves"where are we in this book?"
During the session
  1. Try to interact with each site at least once per hour. This includes asking questions of individuals, asking questions of the group, asking someone to annotate on an image, asking for individual or group experiences with a concept, etc. Frequency and variety are equally important in keeping the interaction engaging.
  2. When asking questions, it is important to occasionally direct the question to a specific office and perhaps keep track (perhaps on a sheet of paper) of which offices you've questioned so you get everyone involved.
  3. Never read slides or text to the students. Use your experiences and personality to add value to the material.
  4. Remind the students that they can draw a question mark on the screen if they have a question...sometimes we instructors tend to ramble on!
At the end of the session
  1. Ask each office individually if they have any questions
  2. Ask each to provide the number of participants from their office
  3. You should email the number of participants to Dan Bikos (
A note about audio quality
  • This is such an important issue that it stands alone. Never forget that all the students have is the image and your voice. The most sophisticated graphics, loops, and annotations will never overcome the drudgery of a monotone voice. It is your most powerful tool to convey emphasis, enthusiasm, even warmth and humor...use it!

Recording audio and annotations for off-line viewing

  • After your lesson is "done" and you've been through it a hundred times, you're ready to record the audio and annotations.
  • Find a quiet room
  • Use a computer that is not running other applications
  • Use a headset - mic combintation that will keep the microphone a constant distance from your mouth.
  • If your computer is on a network with lots of traffic, consider disconnecting it from the network while recording; sometimes, high priority traffic can interrupt the sampling of your voice, causing "drop outs".

If you have any questions or contributions, please send email to

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