Love it or hate it, presentation software has found a hallowed place on many an educator's desktop. Indeed, Microsoft PowerPoint, Apple Keynote, and Sunburst HyperStudio slide shows have become common sights in classrooms and conference rooms everywhere. But while programs like PowerPoint were created for the local desktop, a relatively new category of presentation products is aimed at users who want to deliver their content exclusively over the Web. The simplest of these tools let users post prerecorded, narrated PowerPoint slides over the Internet, while the more complex allow for live interactive meetings that incorporate video, audio, and other media. Unlike online courseware platforms such as Blackboard and WebCT, however, they're not intended to be full-fledged learning management systems.
Not surprisingly, many schools are intrigued by the technology's potential to streamline staff development. The Georgia Department of Education, for example, uses WebEx Meeting Center to conduct long-distance trainings and staff meetings. By doing so, they're able to reach a wider audience in one sitting while cutting down on participants' travel expenses (for more professional development examples, see "Theory into Practice"). Web presentation software is also being tested out on student audiences. In West Haven, Conn., the district is using Macromedia Breeze Live to design an online homework help system that allows teachers to broadcast after-school tutorials using PowerPoint, audio, and video. During the sessions, students will be able to ask questions over the phone in real time or by instant message with the teacher on screen.
While the steep price of many of the products listed on the following pages make them a tough sell for some districts-especially since educators are already accustomed to posting their PowerPoint slides online for free-they're an emerging technology worth watching, particularly for those looking to take advantage of the Web's interactive capabilities for professional development. Read on to learn more.
Jeffrey Branzburg is a contributing editor and regular columnist for Technology & Learning.
Theory into Practice
How are Web presentation applications being used in the real world? Here, three compelling examples.
- The Richmond Public Schools in Richmond, Ind., use the Mediasite Live system to provide real-time and archived online staff development to district educators, with a special emphasis on teaching specific software applications. Called the WebCast Academy, it's available at http://rcsmsserv.rcs.k12.in.us.
- Students at the Briarcliff Manor school district in New York interacted with marine biologists at the Maritime Aquarium at Norfolk, Conn., with the help of Wave Three Software's Session. Visit http://www.techlearning.com/story/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=16000694 for the full story.
- The Technology Information Center for Administrative Leadership has used Breeze (in its earlier incarnation as Presedia) for prerecorded professional development. Click on http://www.portical.org/Presentations/rienick/index.html to view a talk on math education.
- Users can add narration and external audio
- Quiz and survey tools; online content library
- Windows authoring platform
- Supports PowerPoint, video clips, animations, application sharing, live polls, and more
- Annotation and whiteboard features
- No downloads or plug-ins necessary
Breeze Presentation and Training Bundle: $9,750 for perpetual license. Breeze Live: $9,750 for perpetual license or $56.25 per user per month (hosted). cast:stream
http://www.caststream.comcast:stream is a cross-platform communications and learning tool for delivering live and on-demand presentations that include video and audio with synchronized graphics and animation.
- Handles up to 500 simul-taneous viewers
- Supports videos, PowerPoint slides, Macromedia Flash, and many file types (e.g., JPG, PDF, QTVR)
- Instant messaging, survey, and polling features
Enterprise Edition: $15,000 (includes server, editor, and distribution licenses). Centra Knowledge Composer for PowerPoint
http://www.centra.comCentra Knowledge Composer is a desktop application that creates Web-ready presentations using standard PowerPoint formats, menus, and templates. It's available only as an add-on module to the Centra 7 Web collaboration platform.
- Interactivity, such as audio overlays, quizzes with scoring, and book marking can be added to new or existing presentations
- Centralized library for uploading content
- Windows authoring platform
Centra Knowledge Composer module: $500. Centra 7 starts at $80 per month per concurrent seat. Contact company for additional pricing options. Genesys Meeting Center
http://www.genesys.comGenesys Meeting Center is a multimedia conferencing tool that lets users deliver presentations to a wide audience via Web, audio, and video.
- Participants without Internet access can host and join a meeting by telephone
- Supports surveys, quizzes with automatic calculation, and desktop video
$0.32 per minute; volume discounts available. Impatica for PowerPoint
http://www.impatica.comImpatica for PowerPoint lets users stream narrated and animated PowerPoint presen-tations over the Internet.
- Accessible to dial-up users
- Supports most PowerPoint features, including text, graphics, transitions, and animations
- Windows authoring platform
Single user perpetual license: $299. Site license: $995 per year per school (includes teachers' home computers). Mediasite Live
http://www.sonicfoundry.comMediasite Live is a Web communications system for creating, managing, and viewing interactive content for online presentations, Web casting, distance learning, and content publishing.
- Synchronizes audio, video, and data output from any presen-tation device (e.g., notebook PC, document camera)
- Presentations can be viewed live or on-demand (content is automatically recorded for future playback)
- Windows authoring platform
MediaSite Live RL system (rack-mounted appliance): $21,950. MediaSite Live ML (for mobile applications): $24,950. Microsoft Producer for Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2003; Microsoft Office Live Meeting
http://www.microsoft.comMicrosoft Producer is a free add-on for Microsoft PowerPoint, enabling users to organize and publish audio, video, slides, and images for on-demand access.
Microsoft Office Live Meeting, formerly named PlaceWare, provides both file and application sharing using a telephone, PC, and the Internet. Producer:
- Slides can be edited directly within Producer; retains animations
- Supports many audio and video file formats, and can capture live audio or video
- Handles streaming videos, PowerPoint presentations, graphics, and more
- Viewers can ask questions, highlight information on screen, and create PDF files of materials
Producer: Free for Microsoft PowerPoint users. Live Meeting: $0.35 per minute per user; subscriptions are five seats for $375 per month; 10 seats for $750 per month. Pixion PictureTalk
http://www.pixion.comPixion PictureTalk is a cross-platform Web conferencing solution that's accessible to users with a phone, computer, and Internet connection.
- Allows presenter to share software applications
- Integrated teleconferencing enables combined data and voice
- Live chat, instant polling, anno-tation, whiteboard, and Web tour tools
Hosted service starts at $60 per month per connection. Installed servers are $6,625 for 10 users or $14,750 for a perpetual license. Session
Wave Three Software
http://www.wave3software.comSession is a cross-platform videoconferencing product that can also be used as a presentation tool.
- Integrates video over IP, voice over IP, application sharing, and media sharing
- Supports a range of both standard and proprietary media types
- Works optimally with five locations, but can go to 20 or more
$199 per license for the software only, or $299 per license with 12 months maintenance. WebEx Presentation Studio; WebEx Meeting Center
http://www.webex.comWebEx Presentation Studio lets users create and prerecord multimedia presentations that can be accessed on demand via the Web.
WebEx Meeting Center, along with some of the company's other conferencing services, enable live interactive presentations over the Web. Presentation Studio:
- Option to embed quizzes and surveys
- Full PowerPoint slide animations are retained
- Windows-based authoring platform
- Handles Macromedia Flash, WebEx recordings, streaming video, PowerPoint, documents, and more
- Digital whiteboard feature included
Monthly subscription starts at $550. WebEx live services can be purchased for $0.45 per minute per user, or as a license starting at $375 per month.