Sitting through a boring PowerPoint presentation or two may be the right of passage into the corporate world, but Microsoft doesn't believe that it has to be that way.
The company has rolled out a private preview of Office Mix, a free PowerPoint add-on that incorporates interactivity and sharing features into the popular presentation software. Although it has the potential to affect many types of businesses, Microsoft is initially targeting one type of professional that is more likely to benefit from the technology: teachers.
"We've heard from teachers that it can be difficult and expensive to make online lessons," said Microsoft's Office Team in a company blog post. Their efforts to provide online lessons are often stymied by expensive software and a lack of specialized skills and video editing chops. Office Mix is Microsoft's answer.
Microsoft asserts that the technology was created "to enable teachers (or anyone who presents) to take a PowerPoint document, and mix it into an interactive, playable document that can be viewed on almost any device, anywhere with an internet connection." The goal, according to the software giant, "is to make it easy to create an online lesson or presentation with something you already know how to use—PowerPoint."
The PowerPoint 2013 add-on, which requires Office 2013 SP1, blends screen capture, pen input and video recording to generate instructional presentations. Users can also embed online videos and insert interactive elements such as quizzes and polls.
Several quiz formats are supported, including true/false, multiple choice and multiple response. Users can control several test parameters, like randomly shuffling the order of multiple choice answers or adding timers.
Selecting "Upload" after a presentation is complete turns the project into a "mix." Built-in sharing options allow users to distribute their creations to selected recipients.
Office Mix is also extensible via specialized apps. In keeping with the educational theme, Microsoft has included apps from the Khan Academy and CK-12 Foundation, enabling teachers to drop videos and interactive problem-solving experiences into their mixes.
Instructors get near-immediate feedback, courtesy of the product's built-in analytics. Described as "secure and for your eyes only," Microsoft said that Office Mix provides users with such statistics as the time it took to complete a question, enabling them to home in on the areas that challenge test takers.
Microsoft reported that some early pilot testers have already been putting the add-on through its paces. Office Mix has been used in "blended learning, a new trend where the lecture takes place in non-traditional places, for instance at home, and class time may be used for more individualized instruction."
Office Mix has business uses beyond education and training, said Microsoft. The software can be used to record meetings for non-attendees. Further, it can be used to "record a meeting and have people watch the presentation outside the meeting, and then repurpose the meeting time for discussion," asserted Microsoft.