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IMPATICA FOR POWERPOINT:
A PROSPECTIVE TOOL FOR INSTRUCTORS


by Ray A. Gross, Jr.
(Professor, Physical Sciences)

Instructor-prepared PowerPoint (PP) presentations that contain narrations, graphics, animations, video, and so on are especially useful in online courses, but they require a large amount of file space. Accordingly, these files take a relatively long time to load. The delay caused by the load time is a nuisance that can be avoided by the use of the Impatica software. Impatica for PowerPoint (IPP) is a computer program that translates PP files into IPP files, which load and play much faster than normal PP files. This is accomplished by an approximate 90 percent compression of the file. If your online PP presentations require a large amount of file space, then IPP may be a useful tool for you. This article is intended to bring IPP to the attention of online or other instructors, who may not be aware of it and to help them decide whether or not to try IPP.

Impatica is applicable to slides or animated PP presentations. This report focuses on slide presentations such as those provided to students who take Organic Chemistry II (CHM 202) as an online course, which is offered during the fall semester. The PP slides are posted on Blackboard (Bb) as lecture surrogates for student use. For the past two years, the PP lectures have also been made available to each student on a CD. The CDs are burned and mailed to the students as soon as the rosters are available, and the cost is less than two dollars per CD. This way, students have access to the lectures when Bb is down or running slowly.

Students find the PP slides very useful. The PP lectures for the online course are dramatically improved by adding narration to the slides. Narration is being added to all of the lectures for CHM 202 for use in next fall’s course. The advantages and disadvantages of IPP for narrated slides, and information on how to obtain a copy of the software on a trial basis are discussed in the following paragraphs. Web URLs where IPP-enhanced slides can be seen and heard are also provided.

As noted, the major advantage of IPP over PP is the speed at which it loads. In addition, PP presentations are easily converted into IPP presentations. One simply opens the IPP program and selects a PP file to be translated. The process is much like attaching a document to an email. The PP file to be translated is found by browsing and, once found, is translated into an IPP file by the click of a button labeled “Add.” The new IPP presentation may be previewed. Then, with a click of “Done,” a new icon representing the IPP presentation appears next to the existing PP icon together with an icon for a special IPP reader. Thus, users are not required to download a special  viewer.

A nice feature of the IPP software is that it allows presentations to be made with or without playback controls. Figure 1 shows how the playback controls appear at the bottom of the slide. The playback controls allow a user to decide whether or not to listen to a narration and whether or not to advance the slides manually or allow them to advance automatically. To see an example of a narrated IPP with the playback feature, go to http://academic.pg.cc.md.us/~rgross/Student-Research.html.

Instructors who use narrated IPP slides with playback controls give students the flexibility to listen to a presentation and then review it later without the narration. To view a narrated IPP presentation without playback controls, go to http://academic.pg.cc.md.us/~rgross/Spring-2004-Course-Schedule.html.

Figure 1. An IPP slide with playback controls.

 

The major disadvantage of IPP is that some PP characters do not appear correctly in the slide after translation. Figure 2 shows a slide in which the superscripts, made in the normal manner in PP, do not appear as they should in the IPP slide. Instructors can avoid a translation problem such as this one by making a picture with another program and then pasting the picture into a PP slide prior to translation. Figure 1 shows the superscripts correctly.

The graphic was made with another program, ChemWindow, and then pasted into a blank PP slide. The new PP slide was translated correctly into the IPP format shown.

Figure 2. An IPP slide showing improperly translated superscripts.

 

 

The IPP software is not free, but a trial version of it can be tested without charge. The trial version is the real version except that an Impatica logo is pasted into each slide of the IPP presentation. Upon purchase of the IPP software, a buyer is provided a registration number. After registration, the logo does not appear in newly created IPP presentations. To learn more about the IPP software, go to the URL: http://www.impatica.com/imp4ppt/.

From this URL, several links are available from which you can download an evaluation copy or buy the software for about $270 for a personal copy. For many online courses, the advantages of IPP will outweigh the disadvantages.

 

The Instructional Area Newsletter, Volume 19, No. 3

Spring 2004