Feature Preview: Presentation Rooms

TL;DR: Presentation Rooms is a new feature of SlideWiki enabling anyone to create a virtual classroom with up to 100 participants per room. Presentation rooms allow you to broadcast your slideshow through SlideWiki to offer a dynamic classroom experience. Rooms are publicly visible on SlideWiki, are not access restricted in any means (you don’t even need an account), pay strict attention to your privacy, and are packed with some features to support handicapped people. We are actively developing new features, such as Twitter integration, social sharing, subtitles, recording a room and multilingualism (not just of the interface!). Try out this feature at your favourite deck at slidewiki.org – just use the camera button at the right sided panel.

What’s a Presentation Room?

You may have already used some video conferencing tools to present some slides to a small amount of people. Often these free services have a limit on the size of the audience (typically less than 10 people, if you don’t pay) and rely on you inviting attendees before hand. Other aspects that bothers people about these tools are:

  • The audience can’t access previous slides again (e.g. in case the presenter went over something too fast)
  • If a participant interrupts your presentation (e.g. by asking a question or by intruding), you can’t choose if or at which time to react or whether to allow interruptions at all
  • Video conferences are not open education, as they rely on inviting a closed group of people
  • All data is tunnelled through third party servers (at least some promise end-to-end encryption)

By introducing Presentation Rooms (PRs) to SlideWiki, we are embedding remote slideshows within our Open Education Platform, allowing your broadcast to be available to everyone as well as allowing people to access your slides independently of the broadcast. PRs may be imagined like video conferences, but are different and offer advantages in many aspects:

  1. Up to 100 participants per broadcast/room.
  2. Participants can switch back and forward between the slides while the presentation goes on – you can always resume to the current slide
  3. Participants can submit questions for you to answer when you are ready and submit answers to your questions (both through a chat like feature, named “Questions” in the image on the right).
  4. Experimental subtitles feature supports those who have problems hearing or who are struggling to understand the speaker.
  5. Add interactive activities into your presentation through tasks or surveys and receive live feedback (e.g. via a growing chart)
  6. Rooms are publicly visible on SlideWiki and are not access restricted.
  7. Broadcasts are distraction free – the presenter is the one who speaks
  8. Using our decentralised approach to be as secure as possible. We do not collect data or use dubious third party servers
  9. Free to use, open education resources and a libre open-source project!

With SlideWiki’s Presentation Rooms , you can easily start up a new room by just pressing a button on some deck. This creates a public room that is listed on SlideWiki and you can invite anyone by sharing a link for example by email, messenger or Twitter. Anyone can join the room via Slidewiki at any time.

The concept of PRs is easy: Someone presents a deck, others follow the presentation (like depicted in the picture on the right). We have focused to replicate of what is happening in real classrooms most of the time. Thus we put the presenter in charge of the room – so he or she decides whether to answer a (text-based) question, whether to issue a task to the audience or whether to allow interruptions at all. In contrast to video conferences, audience members are able to stop the slideshow and switch slides individually (they can always resume) while the presentation progresses, leave a comment at the presented slide/deck (linked SlideWiki feature), can ask (text-based) questions and submit answers, fork a slide/deck to fix something (linked SlideWiki feature) and read the subtitle (live transcription of the presenters voice). We imagine more audience activities in the near future – so stay tuned!

Interested in trying our a Presentation Room? Simply head to slidewiki.org, go to your favourite deck and open a Room through the camera symbol in the right panel. Start presenting and remember to invite some friends or colleagues to the Room – being lonely is not much fun!

For those interested in the technical side:

We are using a browser technology called WebRTC to accomplish a 99% decentralised architecture. Presentation Rooms exist only on the participant’s devices. We connect the presenter and audience via end-to-end encrypted peer-to-peer connections, so no data is tunnelled through any third party servers (not even ours). So what’s about the missing 1%? In order to list currently open rooms at decks, we needed a list of live rooms and links to join these. Additionally limitation of the current technology dictates that we host a mediator to acquaint people (called signaling). However,  this mediator is open-source too!

One cool feature that WebRTC has enabled us to implement is the presenter remote controls the shown deck at the audiences devices. Instead of  streaming a video we run the same application on participants devices and the presenter moves the application through the slides. Participants can choose to opt-out of remote control features if they desire (opted-in by default).

New Features to come

We are on the road of developing new features for Presentation Rooms. Features in the pipeline includes:

  1. Room specific Twitter timeline as part of the questions/answers
  2. A button to tweet about the room (room specific hashtags are provided)
  3. Share the room or what you think about it on popular social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, G+, …)
  4. Record your session and get a video from your performance (recording is optional)
  5. Multilingual rooms

Why extend Twitter support (1)? Twitter is being used widely by audiences watching a presentation so but often, as the speaker, you can see how your audience is responding. We thought it would be nice if the presenters were able to read what people are tweeting about their room, even live during the presentation. So by defining a hashtag (automatically created for you), tweets about the broadcast can be displayed in the questions/answers-box. Displaying tweets is a opt-out feature.
Technical side note of the Twitter support: Although Twitter seems to be everywhere, it is tricky to integrate a tweet timeline into a distributed application. As already teased above, PRs exist mostly at the participants devices only and participants are directly connected (peer-to-peer) to their presenter. This (privacy) feature is exactly what made integrating tweets a hard piece of work. Twitter does not offer to retrieve tweets decentralised – at least not without us revealing our Twitter credentials or you granting us access to your Twitter account – but dictates to host a server and forward received tweets to connected clients. Really Twitter – that’s not nice! As we did not found a way to work around this, we used the existing connection of the presenter to our servers (intentionally used as of the signaling process) to forward room specific tweets. The presenter will forward any tweets to the participants of the PR decentralised again. This is not a beautiful solution, but at least protects you from granting us access to your Twitter account (that we do not need) and being traced by Twitter.

A feature that many people have requested is to record a broadcast (4). This is something we are still working on, but are on a good way towards a first preview. In this preview, we record the presenters voice and any slide changes and offer the presenter the possibility to create a video out of this data. As we always pay attention to our users privacy, any recorded data is stored on the presenters local device until telling us to create a video out of it (that’s unfortunately not realistic locally – we tried!). So if you change your mind or said something private, just don’t tell us to create a video (thus not sending us any data). The recorded data is discarded on local devices as a PR is closed.

We already planned to to support multilingual rooms (5). But what do we mean by multilingual? We are concerned not only with the user-interface. In SlideWiki, we are workings towards true multilingual presentations – so even if some presenter chose to present in English, audience members are able to view the slides in a different (e.g. their local) language. This builds upon deck-translations, that is a SlideWiki feature which will soon hit the stages.

Keep tuned for other new features to come!

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