SmartArt is a time-saving graphic tool, built into PowerPoint, Word and Excel. If you have never used SmartArt or if it’s been awhile since you explored it, you may want to take another look. With a few formatting changes to the plain vanilla SmartArt, you can quickly visualize your ideas with charts, diagrams, process maps and more. Tips for what type of graphic to choose are available right in the tool:

Using SmartArt in PowerPoint

SmartArt can be added on a slide from the Insert menu, or you can convert existing text to SmartArt. Here is an example of converting existing bulleted text to a nice visual design:

1. Right-click on some text
2. Select Convert to SmartArt

3. In the sub-gallery, hover the cursor over SmartArt to preview the graphics. Select a SmartArt graphic or click More SmartArt Graphics located at the bottom of the gallery to open the SmartArt dialog box.

4. In this example I chose the Picture Strips diagram

Some of the SmartArt designs include placeholders for photos or graphics. In this example, double-click on one of the placeholder boxes to add a photo.

SmartArt Design Toolbar

Use the SmartArt toolbar to make design changes to your graphic. Make sure you have your SmartArt selected (select the entire graphic, not just an element within the graphic):
Add or move shapes and text.  If you need to add a shape or re-order your shapes, use the tools in the Create Graphic section of the ribbon. Using the text pane is an easy way to edit your text.

Change the layout. If you want to change the graphic to something else, just click the drop down arrow to view more layouts.

Change colors. If you are using an Extension template, it will include Extension’s color palette.

Change styles. If you want to change the default style, click the down arrow in the SmartArt Styles section of the ribbon to view all of the available styles for your layout.

SmartArt can be cheesy and over-done so use your best judgement and don't go crazy, especially with the 3D styles and non-Extension colors. It's a quick way to transform your wordy slides into visuals. Here is the before/after of my example:



More Examples:






Have you used SmartArt to improve the design of your slides or help communicate your message? Do you have examples to share? We always enjoy your comments and questions.

Overcoming Barriers to Nutrition Education

The SNAP-Ed program is very aware of the logistical barriers that prevent low-income community members from attending a weekly course. Work schedules, childcare, transportation, and balancing a number of other expected and unexpected daily responsibilities makes regular attendance at classes more than challenging. Yet, there is valuable curriculum that has proven to be successful. So the SNAP-Ed program is ready to begin sharing the curriculum online to improve access and flexibility.

The look and feel of the course will be critical to learner engagement, so early in the project I made sure to observe an in-person course. From that experience it was evident learner interaction with peers and the instructor is the heart of the program and would need to factor heavily into the course design.

Rapid Prototyping in Instructional Design

In order to get the look and feel of the course "right," we have been utilizing a "rapid prototyping" approach to instructional design. That means the design, development, and evaluation phases aren't linear. We're starting with a scaled-down representation of the course by working with one hypothetical lesson modeled after the one I observed in person. Before we create any of our own media content, we simply utilize existing videos and images as place holders. Each prototype invites new conversation to get at a deeper understanding of the "right" fit approach.

We started with a mock up in Ning. Ning is a platform that focuses on social interaction, and would afford us the opportunity to have groups of students learn together over a specific amount of time.

This iteration of the model allowed us to continue the conversation about how learners would move through the content, and we determined that "grouping" was not necessary and might put up barriers and/or create logistical concerns that are unnecessary. This ah-ha moment opened the door to try Google Sites (with FlipGrid for interaction) and Blogger (using comments for interaction) as potential platforms.

Google Sites


The process of prototyping opens up the "black box" we each have in our minds, making coming to a shared vision much easier, preventing major back-tracking later in the project. We hope to bring one or more of our prototypes to a couple of focus group audiences later this spring to increase the likelihood of success even more by letting potential audiences in on the development process.

Are there any projects or growth opportunities for your program you've been thinking about that could benefit from a rapid prototyping approach to e-learning design?


During the University's Learning Management System (LMS) evaluation, we also had the opportunity to play with the Moodle Rooms "Snap" theme.

You can control the start and end times of a WebEx Meeting recording before sharing it with others. This is a nice option when you want to cut out unwanted chit chat, noise or even dead air at the beginning or end of your meeting. But for more extensive editing such as adding a title slide or editing content in the middle of the webinar, you can convert a WebEx recording to MP4 and then use video editing software (e.g. to edit, create a new recording and share it on YouTube. Instructions for both options are below.

Control the Start/End Times of a Recording

  1. Log into
  2. Click Meeting Center
  3. Click My Recorded Meetings in the left navigation. 
  4. Find the recording you want to trim. Tip: play the recording before editing to write down the start and end times you want.
  5. Click the three dots on the far right side and select Modify
  6. Under the Playback Control, select the Partial Playback option. Note: your edits do not actually delete any content. It just controls the start/end time of your recording. 
  7. Enter the Start and End times you prefer
  8. Tip: Notice the Panel Display Options in this section. You can control which panels can be displayed during playback. 
  9. Click Save 

Editing a WebEx Recording

  1. Follow the instructions to download and convert your WebEx recording to MP4 format
  2. Edit your video in or another video editing program. Learn more about WeVideo.
  3. Share it on YouTube
Questions and comments are always welcome!