Many of you have used RealPlayer in the past, although probably not in quite the manner you will use it for this course. Whether or not you are familiar the software, you will probably want to review this set of tips on what to expect.
All course presentations using RealPlayer are launched from and end with an associated course Web page. You begin a presentation by clicking on link in the upper right hand corner of its page.
Because all presentation pages require you to login and because current versions of RealPlayer incorporate a browser, you may want to launch RealPlayer before beginning a course session and use its browser for navigating to the relevant topic page and presentation pages. (RealPlayer allows you to add a Web page to its favorite list. I've got the course syllabus page on mine.) By starting out with RealPlayer you'll assure that you only have to login once. If you start the audio with another browser – Internet Explorer or Firefox, say – your login will not carry over to the RealPlayer browser and you'll have to login a second time.
The Presentation Control Panel
Each presentation is accompanied by a control panel that allows you to skip directly to a particular portion. This feature is useful when you want to replay a portion either during a first listening or later for review. The numbers it shows correspond to the numbered headings in the presentation outline. At the bottom of the panel are links that allow you to direct the Web browser to relevant material while the presentation is in progress.
The RealPlayer control panel and browser can be detached, which allows the browser to take the full screen. That is how I prefer to run the presentations for it provides a larger window on the material being discussed.
Logging, Pausing and Rewinding
The counter shows you two numbers -- on the right, it shows the total length of the presentation, while on the left, it ticks off the time as the presentation runs. For example, 03.50.0/07.30.0 represents three minutes and fifty seconds into a seven and a half minute presentation. (You will know the approximate length of a presentation before you begin from the duration figure, rounded off to the nearest minute, at the top of its page.) There are occasions when you will find it useful to check the RealPlayer counter during a presentation. If, for example, there is a portion you conclude you may want to replay at the conclusion, noting the counter time will help you go back with precision. With it you should be able to rewind or fast forward to that spot, rather than simply bouncing around and trying to remember what it was you wanted to find. And of course, if you need to stop the presentation for some reason, knowing the time will make it easier to resume the presentation later exactly where you left off.
You might want to try fast forwarding, rewinding, and pausing some of the early presentations just to get a feel for how the software works.
The only other thing to keep in mind about the Real Player software is that it is vulnerable to heavy web traffic -- i.e. it is possible for a presentation to be interrupted if the signal is not getting through clearly. If you observe the counter running for more than 20 seconds or so, while you are not hearing anything, that is a good indication something is interrupting the signal flow. Try rewinding the presentation just a bit, and if it still doesn't play, try again later. In general, net congestion shouldn’t be too much of a problem because of the way RealPlayer caches the streaming audio, but particularly with "dial up" connections it may affect the time of day you decide to access the audio material.
At the Conclusion
When a presentation is over, the counter will stop and you should find yourself back at the top of the presentation page.
After you have reviewed the text on the page or accessible through its links, done any problems, gone back over any portions of the presentation that puzzle you, and reflected all of this in your notes, you can return to the appropriate point in the Topic sequence by clicking on the Topic link in the upper left hand corner of the presentation page.