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Helping students become presentation sensations

- June 9, 2014

Nilofer Mehta and Anuj Shah are the Dal students behind Presenter's Podium. (Danny Abriel photo)
Nilofer Mehta and Anuj Shah are the Dal students behind Presenter's Podium. (Danny Abriel photo)

Masters of Applied Computer Science students Nilofer Mehta and Anuj Shah are no strangers to success.

Last fall the two, along with three other students at Dal, placed second at Startup Weekend Halifax 2013. The group developed a mobile app that alerts shoppers when the price of their recent purchase had dropped.

Now Nilofer and Anuj are on to their next successful project. They’ve teamed up with Matthew Fanning, a Bachelor of Commerce graduate from Saint Mary’s University, to develop an eLearning platform to help university students improve their oral communication skills.

Fanning had noticed that in larger classes, professors were having a difficult time giving students enough one-on-one attention to help them improve their oral delivery skills when making presentations. Recognizing the issue as a valuable skill in the workforce, he came up with the idea of Presenter’s Podium and turned to Nilofer and Anuj to develop the technology.

The tool is a cloud-based program that lets professors assign subjects that need to be researched, turned into presentations, and then practiced and recorded. Once recorded, students can receive constructive feedback from their peers. The presentations can be recorded using a computer, cell phone or a device using the Presenter’s Podium’s built in media server.

“The first reaction from students was that they were terrified of presenting in front of a camera and they were intimidated by the technology,” says Nilofer. “But as they got familiar with the technology they felt it was quite useful.”

Finding their comfort zone

While many Canadian students have said that they’ve seen improvements in their presentations, Nilofer says many international students in particular felt the platform helped them get over the nervousness of speaking in a second language.

“It’s really great to know that students are using our platform and really improving their communication and presentations skills,” says Anuj. “I can definitely relate to some of the online testimonials. Sometimes it’s difficult balancing school and outside projects, but it’s worth it.”

Presenter’s Podium is garnering attention, and the team is starting to bring the platform to universities in the region.

“We see schools from all over the world using this platform in the future. It really helps build student's confidence,” says Nilofer. “This is an age for educational technology and schools are constantly looking to help students prosper. This tool will be valued by teachers and students alike.”

Nilofer and Anuj say working with Fanning on the project has been a great experience and the opportunity has set the stage for future partnerships together.

“We thank Matthew for presenting us with this opportunity… It is really heartwarming when we see something that we have built being used and appreciated by others,” says Nilofer.  “We are just coming out of school and already have an opportunity to see people use what we have built from the ground up.”

This article was first published in Dal's CS Magazine.


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