Multimedia program enhances classroom experience worldwide

by Melinda Rogers

When Richard Peifer came up with an idea to bring University students more interactive classroom presentations a decade ago, he never imagined that one day his program might be utilized by students worldwide.
For Peifer, assistant director of the University’s general biology program, that day has come. His multi-media presentation program, UPresent, has been downloaded more than 32,000 times and is used by people in as many as 148 countries.
“The whole idea was to begin using computer technology thoughtfully and wisely,” Peifer said. “We wanted to bring a rich source of digital content to students in the classroom and create tools that would capture their attention. As new media (programs) come out, we add them to the software.”
UPresent allows up to 55 different multimedia types to be incorporated into a presentation. The program allows content including video, audio, graphics and Internet links to be assembled for display in any sequence, allowing the monotony of a “text only” presentation to be broken up.
“Many people have seen a PowerPoint presentation where it is screen after screen of text,” Peifer said. “I don’t think that is using technology wisely. By making UPresent widely known, hopefully it will change those (text only) types of presentations that are common today.”
Faculty using UPresent are able to navigate backward and forward to each screen, rather than using screens in a strictly chronological order during their presentations.
“We wanted to design an interface that was not intrusive in the classroom and easy for faculty to learn,” Peifer said. “The program allows faculty to jump ahead or go back to different screens, creating access to these rich media types quickly.”
Response to Peifer’s program has been positive. Available for anyone to download from the World Wide Web, the program experienced its first public exposure at the Macworld exposition held last January.
Macworld’s exposure created more awareness about the program and UPresent has been distributed with publications throughout the world.
While the program is currently only available for Macintosh, Peifer hopes releasing a Windows version of the program in November will draw even more attention to it.
“Windows has about 90 percent of the market and Macintosh has about 10 percent. By releasing a Windows program the University will be able to draw more and more attention to it (UPresent),” Peifer said.
Discussions are currently taking place to consider the option of marketing UPresent as a commercial product. Whether that step is taken or not, Peifer and the general biology program will continue to enjoy the success of UPresent and work on ways to expose the program to the University community and the world.
“We hope (UPresent) will be widely adopted and be another way that the University will make an impact on the community and the world,” said John Anderson, director of the general biology program.

Melinda Rogers covers science and technology and welcomes comments at [email protected]