Online Presentation Tools: Prezi, SlideShare, SlideRocket, Zoho Show


Like many other educational technologies, presentation tools have undergone significant transformation within the last few years and focus now on a model that emphasizes the collaborative nature of the web. The next-generation presentation tools allow users to move away from the sequential nature of slides, create and store presentation content online, collaborate on presentations with colleagues, share presentations with the world and receive feedback from either the private or public audience. All of these presentation tools are cloud-based solutions to presenting where all of the work and content is developed and hosted online.

Prezi – http://www.prezi.com


Prezi is an online platform-independent presentation tool that is based on the idea of a canvas. Instead of working with sequential slides, users are given a blank canvas where they can position text, insert images and pdf documents, embed videos and flash, as well as add links to other websites. Users can utilize frames to logically group similar kinds of content or supporting arguments surrounding an idea. Once the content has been grouped into logical units, those units can then be linked via a path that would allow presenters to move from one idea to the next in the sequence they design. During the presentation, users can always veer away from the set path by zooming out and choosing a different object in the presentation – something that is not easily accomplished in traditional slide presentations developed in Microsoft PowerPoint or OpenOffice Impress.

In fact, zooming and panning features allow Prezi to be a great tool for showing relations and context, for hiding small details and focusing on the big picture. During the presentation, users can move from one area of content to the next, zooming in on smaller details that are initially hidden or zooming out to give the audience an overview of the bigger picture. Zooming option essentially eliminates the need for an outline because presenters can zoom out to get the overall structure and layout of the presentation.

Prezi is also an interactive tool which allows multiple authors to collaborate on the same presentation. Users no longer have to keep track of various versions of the file. They can simply log in to prezi.com and know that they are working the latest version of the presentation. Prezi educational lincense which is available to active faculty and students, allows authors to make prezis private, share them only with a few select users or make them publicly available to anyone on the web. Finished prezis can also be downloaded or exported and used to present offline. Exported prezis are supported on Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Mac OS X operating systems.

Additionally, Prezi allows presenters to have an open-ended discussion with their audience. Prezi’s commenting feature provides an opportunity for viewers to leave comments and suggestions for the presenters and carry on a conversation about the ideas discussed in the presentation.

Prezi is an innovative tool for out-of-the-box thinkers who want to try a different approach to presenting. It fosters creativity, puts emphasis on logical relations and encourages dialogue with the audience. All content is kept online and can be shared with select users or made public to the world.

SlideShare – http://www.slideshare.net



SlideShare is a online portal that allows sharing and downloading of presentations, documents and videos. It not only enables users to upload their existing PowerPoint presentations and other types of documents to the website to reach a wider audience, but also allows users to utilize some of the SlideShare’s social networking features. After the presentations have been uploaded to the portal, they can be embedded in blogs, websites or even Blackboard. SlideShare presentations can be shared publicly with the global audience or privately with colleagues or students.

What makes SlideShare most valuable is its vast repository of presentations that have been uploaded by users worldwide. Presentations can be searched based on the topic of interest or by author’s name. Original files can also be downloaded and reused, if the presentation author enables this feature. Additionally, viewing presentations on the same topic developed by others allows users to see a variety of approaches to the same issue.

SlideShare supports the most standard presentation file formats, such as Microsoft PowerPoint, OpenOffice Impress and Apple Keynote files. Users can also upload other document types, including pdfs, Microsoft Office and OpenOffice document files as well as videos. Additionally, presenters can create a narrated lecture, called a SlideCast, by synchronizing their presentation slides with the recorded audio.

SlideShare social networking features allow users to post updates to their profiles, keep track of their favorite presentation and network with other users. SlideShare accounts can be linked to users’ LinkedIn and Facebook profiles and whenever users add new presentations to SlideShare, their Facebook friends and connections on LinkedIn will be able to view these presentations.



SlideShare allows users to set up events or groups to collect presentations that were or will be delivered at a conference, a seminar, a workshop or at a group presentation project. Events can be used to promote ideas and actively discuss topics within a group of people. Events are similar to groups, but they have some added features such as location, date and time. The groups feature on SlideShare also allows collecting presentations about a common topic or theme. This feature can be used to actively debate and discuss issues or simply compile a repository of useful content to refer to later. Students can use the groups feature to view other teams’ presentations and provide comments on each other’s work.

SlideShare is a great tool for conferences. There is no need for presenters to carry their presentation files on CDs or USB drives. Presentations can simply be uploaded to SlideShare and accessed from anywhere in the world.

The next two presentation tools have a number of similar next-generation presentation tool features with some additional capabilities.

Zoho Show – http://www.zoho.com

Zoho is a comprehensive suite of online productivity and collaboration applications. It includes a variety of online tools including mail, office suite, project management and web conferencing tools, among many others. Zoho Show is the presentation piece of this online office suite and it allows users to create and present their content online. Presentations can be accessed, imported, edited and shared with other users “from anywhere and anytime.”

Like a number of other online presentation tools, Zoho Show allows importing Microsoft PowerPoint and OpenOffice Impress files; Zoho presentations can also be exported into a number of formats: HTML document, Microsoft PowerPoint presentation and show, OpenOffice Impress and pdf.

Because Zoho Show is part of the whole collaboration suite, users can use the tool to co-present remotely from different geographical locations. Zoho Meeting and Chat tools allow participating audience to provide instant feedback to the presenters.

SlideRocket – http://www.sliderocket.com



Another presentation tool that is gaining popularity is SlideRocket. In addition to collaboration, importing/exporting, feedback and embedding capabilities, SlideRocket provides the following innovative features in presentations: support for various plug-ins, polling questions, analytics, audio narration and slide library.

Plug-ins allow authors to pull live data from the Twitter feed, get a quote from a repository of famous quotations, insert a word definition or present a stock chart on the slide. Polling questions allow authors to poll audience using a variety of question types: multiple-choice, open-ended, check-boxes, slider and yes/no questions. SlideRocket analytics tool provides the author of the presentation with data about the presentation and viewers. It records the total number of views, viewing duration, viewer comments and polling results. All slides created with SlideRocket are automatically added to the library and can be re-used in multiple presentations eliminating the need for copying and pasting.

All of these SlideRocket features allow users to make their presentations interactive and more tailored to the needs of the web audience.

Summary

While all of the above presentation tools offer a lot of beneficial capabilities, in many cases the full set of presentation features is available only with the purchase of the professional license. Users should also be aware of some of the other challenges these tools have: since no software installation is required for these presentation tools and all content is hosted online, internet connection is required; when made public, presentations can be viewed and potentially reused by anyone; not all browsers are supported equally and presentations created with some of these tools are not accessible to screen readers unless they are exported into a different format. As with the use of any other software, faculty should assess the benefits the software offers and decide whether they can support the purpose and their teaching and learning objectives in a given situation.

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