College professors and students now can give presentations using the power of cloud computing, while possibly saving thousands of dollars compared to other online presentation services.

Slidelive is a an alternative to services such as WebEx, a popular online meeting and video conferencing service that often proves too pricey for colleges and universities, especially over the past year as budgets have been cut while endowments shrink.

After creating a free account, educators can upload Microsoft PowerPoint presentations, invite students to attend a meeting, and flip through the slides with a click of a button. The presentations can be made public or private, and students can download presentations and review them for upcoming quizzes and exams.

Jack Miller, CEO of Slidelive, said he created the service after years in the business world, where some corporations he worked for spent upwards of $10 million annually on online meeting services. The largest web presentation companies also offered complex services that were difficult to grasp for anyone but the tech-savviest in a corporate office.

"They’re very hard to use and very expensive," he said. "One of the things we think they’re missing is a [social networking] kind of feel when it comes to online collaboration."

Slidelive is among a myriad of web-based services using cloud computing, a paradigm in which users access networks and information using a series of servers and connections. Like many sites designed for higher education, Slidelive lets teachers connect to students in the same lecture hall or thousands of miles away.

"People are now used to collaborating on the web," said Miller, who began developing Slidelive three years ago and launched the site last year. "Why would that not apply in an education situation?"

Marv Wittenburg, vice president of training and staff development for Marketplace Chaplains USA, a company that provides chaplains for corporate offices, said Slidelive’s support for PowerPoint–one of the most-used presentation programs in the world–has proven easy to grasp even for employees who aren’t trained in computer use.

"Everyone in our offices can use this program with no problem whatsoever," said Wittenburg, a Slidelive customers since the company launched on the web last year. "People are comfortable with the product."

Marketplace Chaplains USA, a Texas-based company, used video conferencing until Slidelive services became available, and Wittenburg said the company has saved money since the switch.

While some campuses spend thousands of dollars on web presentation services every year, Slidelive charges $1.99 per month for up to 20 PowerPoint downloads for schools and nonprofit organizations. For-profit companies are charged $4.99 monthly, Miller said. There are no restrictions on how many people can attend a Slidelive online meeting, he said.

Miller declined to say how many users have registered on Slidelive, but he said it’s in the "high four figures." Registrants have signed up gradually on Slidelive, and Miller said he expects more educators to look for cost-effective alternatives during the current economic downturn.

"It’s been great to build something and get a good response right away," he said. "We’ve seen a real steady, organic growth."