Designing a Computerized Presentation Center

DR. DORIS A. CHRISTOPHER, Associate Professor California State University, Los Angeles Los Angeles, Calif. The Office Systems and Business Education Department at California State University, Los Angeles, has faced what so many schools face -- declining budgets and increased demands for teaching state-of-the-art technology skills. The School of Business and Economics has long recognized the need to deliver teaching methods and techniques that enhance the communication skills of its students. And we have undertaken a project -- a computerized presentation design center -- that intends to fulfill those needs, now and in the future. Reasons Behind the Project California State Los Angeles is one of the most culturally diverse campuses in the U.S. Over two-thirds of its student population are non-native English speakers. Therefore, preparing students to be adequate writers and speakers for the business community is of paramount concern. Also, the recent changes in technology necessitated the department's upgrading of equipment in the office systems courses that focus on application and technical knowledge. The impetus to better serve our students resulted from research findings and technology-growth projections. The department met with a local business advisory council comprised of managers, teachers, human resource personnel and former students. Objectives set forth by the department and advisory committee to make the presentation center a reality were: Objectives of the Center: 1.To increase student retention and learning. 2.To offer office system students state-of-the-art training and a technological knowledge base. 3.To prepare business education students to effectively teach in either a Macintosh or IBM/IBM-compatible environment. 4.To expose business students to desktop publishing, desktop presentation, presentation graphics, presentation media and computer-based shows. 5.To develop the communication skills (oral and written) of all students in the School of Business and Economics, by utilizing voice annotation, e-mail, video presentations, voice recognition and electronic research services. 6.To develop a direct partnership/training collaborative venture with business, utilizing distance learning and conducting meetings via teleconferencing (audio/video). 7.To serve as a resource center for faculty in the School of Business and Economics. 8.To offer courses via distance learning to break constraints of availability of faculty, location, course limitations, etc. 9.To create new opportunities for faculty to rethink content, as well as deliver content in non-traditional ways such as computer networking, etc.

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An ubiquitous component in the design of the center reflected our tenet that technology is only a tool to accomplish the overall objective (communication and technical skill development). Purpose of Design Center The center comprises two electronic classrooms (one IBM/IBM-compatible and one Mac-based) and a multi-purpose electronic center. Each of the IBM and Mac classrooms houses 30 computers, while the design center will have 12 workstations and seating for 30 (see Illustration 1). We proposed to implement the center in three phases. The first phase consisted of upgrading the IBM/IBM-compatible classroom; the second phase upgrades and restructures the Mac classroom. The third and final phase implements the "heart of the center" -- a multi-purpose electronic design center. Multimedia Classrooms The IBM classroom, the first phase of our project, has been completed. The focus of the multimedia classroom is to provide students with the necessary setting in which to train them to interact successfully in a technology-based business environment. The multimedia classroom is expressly designed to teach students to use e-mail technologies to retrieve information from data services. It enables them to send and receive voice documents and to prepare multimedia materials to enhance their presentation and communication skills. This type of classroom promotes the kind of learning so important to us in higher education -- the process of transforming raw information from various mediums into meaningful knowledge. The type of computing environment -- IBM or Macintosh -- is not a crucial factor in most instances. The following breakdown of courses and examples of equipment used for them is offered solely as a guide to make such an environment a reality. Courses & the Equipment Needed for Them Courses: Word Processing Applications, Computer Applications, Presentation Graphics Objective: Ability to prepare text documents, spreadsheets, database applications and visual aids for presentation delivery Equipment needed: computers (8MB RAM minimum), printers, scanners, LCD projection panel Courses: Office Systems, Office Administration, Business Communications Objective: Input and print documents, videotape presentations, design presentation graphics, e-mail document processing, electronic data retrieval Equipment needed: Computers with CD-ROM drives, sound cards and video boards, networked to a server, camcorder, laser printers, LCD projection panel, voice-recognition system Courses: Desktop Publishing, Multimedia Applications Objective: Word processing, DOS/Windows/Mac operating environments, forms packages, office layout, desktop publishing, spreadsheets, integrating media in a "document" (voice, video, text, graphics and animation) Equipment needed: Computers, scanners, sound and video cards, laser printers, camcorders, CD-ROM drives This classroom concept fared well with faculty and administration. All recognized the need for fully-equipped classrooms that would meet accreditation standards set forth by AACSB. Thus the first phase of implementation went very smoothly and only final detailing (cabinets, special curtains, etc.) remains (see Illustration 2). The classroom depicted in Illustration 1 is planned for Phase 2. It will be similar to the Phase 1 classroom but encompass a different technology environment -- Macintosh. Faculty wanted students to have a working knowledge of both environments and to have technological cross-training. As indicated by its name, the multi-purpose room -- "the heart of the center" -- will serve a multi-fold purpose. However, since the very nature of such a room fell outside the guidelines of a "traditional" university classroom, the concept was more difficult to sell to the administrative body. Rationale for Multi-Purpose Room The multi-purpose room would be ideal to conduct distance learning, teleconferencing (audio/video), training, graduate seminars, conferences with business and industry, or by business and industry. This room will house videotaping and telecommunications equipment, ten computers (five Macs and five IBMs), scanners, color printers, closed-circuit equipment, plus voice-recognition and voice-verification technology. The rationale for such an area is that it will serve a wide range of users. It functions as a support center for faculty to prepare multimedia presentations and materials for their classes and professional development activities. The center will also allow students housed in the School of Business and Economics to prepare multimedia materials for class, facilitate the critiquing of interview and presentation skills, plus serve as a site for them to intern as presentation coordinators and assistants. In addition, the center should further entice industry to participate in a collaborative venture with the School of Business and Economics. It should be identified as a business center that offers both on- and off-site training courses plus two-way interactive conferencing and electronic meetings. Illustration 3 shows a graphic design workstation in the design center, while Illustration 4 shows the seating area for presentations, training courses, etc. As evidenced by the artist's drawings, the multi-purpose room must be aesthetically pleasing -- lights, carpeting, drapes, furniture, etc. -- if it is to entice local businesses to visit, tour and, ultimately, to utilize for training or help in presentation creation, design and/or delivery. Such a center makes it more possible for education and industry to collaborate in joint ventures. Such collaborative projects, which are conducted onsite and "beamed out" to various locations, are already underway. This partnership between education and industry allows schools to generate additional sources of revenue, which enables upkeep and purchase of additional equipment and supplies. For instance, it has been estimated that U.S. organizational communicators spend over $8 billion on their presentations each year. Schools have the built-in expertise to attract clients and, with such a facility oncampus, a place to do the work. In turn, schools can upgrade their classrooms with the earned revenue. The center will be advantageous to other departments in the School of Business and Economics as well. In one application, "live" interviews can be conducted with CEOs, human resource personnel, and other business and industry personnel. Students can discuss current issues and trends in today's business operations with those already in the trenches. The benefits of such a center in terms of student interest and involvement would far outweigh its costs. And, as previously mentioned, the center could also generate revenue for schools -- from training, rental of rooms to business, and presentation and support services. Purposes: Traditional & Non-traditional The center could be used for inservice training, support classes and courses on the use of technology. Course topics might include various software applications; live, two-way video; computer conferencing; e-mail and fax; networks; plus designing presentations and delivering them. This center should serve as a catalyst, allowing faculty, staff and students to bring together in a room a core of people to share concerns and ideas involving technological changes. This center should also be used as a vehicle by which faculty learn to use the technologies. That, in turn, further allows them to re-examine appropriate approaches to instructional design practices. The statements in this section cover some of the traditional ways such a center would enhance the business and education arena. However, one cannot envision this center as a traditional environment. Instead it should be established as a "visionary" environment. It should be non-traditional in the sense that it provides unlimited opportunities, thus promoting higher levels of cooperation and participation between industry and education. The center can link faculty, colleagues, administration and students in convenient and unique ways. It can be reactive in terms of decreasing budget forecasts, diminishing class offerings, and forced "rightsizing" of staff and personnel. Support Personnel Needs A center that offers the latest in technology in a networked environment will only be as effective as the personnel who operate it. A site like the one described, with all three phases in operation, should have at least one full-time coordinator and one full-time systems administrator to maintain the entire center (Mac, IBM and multi-purpose rooms). Personnel should have a clear vision and knowledge of all of the technology components (video, audio, print, broadcast, presentation graphics, voice technology, software, e-mail, fax and the computer network system). The center should ultimately serve students who desire to complete an internship or serve an apprenticeship in a multimedia environment. These students could provide the additional support service to keep the labs operating at full capacity. Conclusion Multimedia technology has impacted the way we will learn information, the way we will impart that information, and the media by which that information is transmitted. New technologies permit teachers in business to overcome major obstacles that have arisen in the business curriculum such as increased curricular demands in other courses, budget cuts and training hindrances. These new technologies, brought together in a computerized presentation center like the one described, enable educational institutions to operate outside the boundaries of traditional training and education, while keeping their function and mission intact. An active advisory board for such a center can be instrumental in hastening the pace of the slow, grinding wheels of education. Unless we push for innovation and change and emerge as leaders, we will always be led. Doris Christopher is an associate professor in the School of Business and Economics at California State University, Los Angeles. She proposed the center for the college's Office Systems and Business Education department in 1992; Phase 1 was completed in the winter of 1994 and other phases are underway. E-mail: dchrist@calstatela.edu

This article originally appeared in the 03/01/1995 issue of THE Journal.

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