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HyperCard and interactive video

Kay Fielden and James Steele
Canberra College of Advanced Education

The authors have been developing a number of applications using interactive video at the Canberra College of Advanced Education, based on the Ask the Workers... package one of the authors developed for the Australian Caption Centre. This paper describes the conversion of the package to run under the control of Apple Computer's HyperCard software for the Macintosh computer. The presentation at the Conference will cover the technical aspects of the use of the Macintosh computer for interactive video applications and will also discuss the use of HyperCard as a prototyping tool for the development of computer based learning packages.

The authors are two people from different disciplines in the same tertiary institution who share a common view - that new technologies in education offer the promise of improved efficiency and effectiveness in training and education [note the order] with which they must become familiar if their individual disciplines are to continue to exist in the new age of the relevance to industry of tertiary education. The authors also realise that, with the increasing complexity of the technological tools available to developers of educational materials, the skills required to realise the promises these tools offer cover more than any one individual's competence: their effective use requires the skills of a team of people with different expertise, and their activities must be properly coordinated if appropriate resources are to be created. To that end, they have set out to discover what the pitfalls in such an approach are.

Few writers see the future of schools in terms of the way the current education system is organised: in their vision of the future, "learning" is either through an individual's reference to resources, or through their contact with what the sociologists might call significant others - in this context people who are worth listening to and learning from because of their experience and standing in the community. Technology is developing to the point where access to the resources necessary for the general community to realise such a change in emphasis in education from the traditional professorial teaching mode to tutorial learning is becoming distinctly possible. This paper describes the continued development of a multimedia learning resource - the Ask the Workers... package (Steele, 1987; Steele (ed.), 1988) - which could serve as an example of what the possibilities for the use of new technologies are, and what the pitfalls are along the way to translating writers' views of what future education would look like to the reality. The demonstration at the Conference will concentrate on the "nuts and bolts" of including videodisc replay as a resource in HyperCard - more of the technical details of using the tools than the underlying questions of instructional design.

HyperCard as a development tool

As things stand at the moment, to make the endless hours of development work now required to produce even one small lesson of computer assisted learning, there must be a significantly large audience available to experience the materials if they are to be considered successful economically. But education cannot afford this investment - primarily because on the whole educationalists don't use packaged materials widely enough to make the production of professionally developed learning materials economically viable. HyperCard is yet another of those "solutions" we are always being promised which will make the classroom teacher or university lecturer into a producer of professional quality learning materials. Is it to go the same way as all the other technologies (used in the widest sense of the word) which gave such promise (portable video springs to mind, as does word processing on personal computers), or is there really something in HyperCard which will facilitate the process of helping classroom teachers and so on improve their students' learning?

Hypertext and hypermedia

Hypertext systems (Conklin, 1987) feature machine supported links, both within and between documents, that offer exciting possibilities for using the computer as a communication and thinking tool.

As laser disc technologies like videodisc, CD-ROM and DVI (Digital Video Interactive) come of age there is a growing interest in the extension of the hypertext concept into one of hypermedia - in which the elements linked together include not only text but also graphics, digitised speech, audio recordings, still pictures, animation, film clips and so on. The design issues involved in the development of hypermedia systems are worthy of investigation, in an endeavour to develop an understanding of how to choose the most appropriate tool to improve computer assisted learning.

The HyperMedia Lab

The School of Information Sciences and Engineering and the Centre for Media Studies at the Canberra College of Advanced Education have jointly established The HyperMedia Lab with the following general aims: A joint Lab was considered necessary because the skills and other resources required for the development of hypermedia applications transcended those normally available within any one of the traditional divisions usually found within tertiary institutions. In this particular case, the School of Information Sciences and Engineering had the whole range of computing skills and resources to offer, while the Centre for Media Studies could provide complementary instructional design and media production skills, and appropriate audiovisual hardware resources to support the proposed activities.

HyperCard and Ask the Workers...

As a part of the first major project for the Lab, final year computing studies students were given the task of implementing the Ask the Workers . . . package using Apple's HyperCard on the Macintosh II. The Ask the Workers... package was developed originally during the Supertext Superdisc Project, which is described more fully elsewhere (see Steele, 1987, and Steele (ed.) 1988).

This project was in a sense a "project-within-a-project" - implementing designs created during the Supertext Superdisc Project for the Australian Caption Centre. The original instructional design has been enhanced by developing a hypermedia environment to provide effective means for exploring the Ask the Workers... resources, using new hardware and software to take advantage of current advances in information technology. The implementation developed by the students was designed in such a way that the software could be adapted to suit other videodiscs as required with little additional effort.

By using this approach, those involved came to understand the need for cooperation with others in the development of significant resources like those in the Ask the Workers... package, and the team developed an understanding of how interactive videodisc could be included in the HyperCard environment.

The development and use of new technologies in education and training requires new perspectives on designing and delivering learning materials to students, whatever level of education or training is required.

No longer can the individual teacher or trainer hope to be responsible for all aspects of the design and delivery of instruction, if the full potential of new technologies are to be realised in the classroom. This project provides a example of the range of elements that needs to be brought together to develop and implement learning materials utilising such new technologies as the videodisc and personal computers of the capacity of the Macintosh II.

Until quite recently the scope of a project of this type would have been outside the capacity of any one institution alone. As it is, this project follows on from the Superdisc Project, which provided the ready made videodisc and some unimplemented designs upon which new materials could be easily developed.

What is particularly significant with the current work is the reduction in the effort (and resources generally) necessary for the implementation of powerful learning materials, because generally available hardware and software products reduce the amount of knowledge and expertise required by individuals before meaningful materials can be developed to completion.

Hardware and software

Basically the project entailed the transfer of the design prototyped on the BBC Acorn with Microtext Plus authoring language to HyperCard on the Apple Macintosh. This involved a number of steps including the development of external commands for the computer to control a videodisc player from within HyperCard.

In the past, most projects have used IBM based systems to control the presentation of materials to users, but the superior interface on the Macintosh makes the system ideal for this type of work. An Apple Macintosh II computer with 40 Mbyte hard disk drive, purchased with funds provided under a CCAE College Research Grant, has been used in the present project, attached to a Pioneer LD-V6100 PAL video disc player purchased by the School of Information Sciences and Engineering. Appropriate monitors are used to display the output of each.

The software required to implement the project is a combination of commercially available packages, third party developed routines for driving the videodisc player and unique code developed to implement the particular designs used with the Superdisc.

The commercially available software used as the basis on which to develop the implementation of the present project comprises:

HyperCard is what Apple describes as "a personal toolkit that gives users the power to use, customize, and create new information using ... text, graphics, video, music, voice and animation. In addition, it offers and easy to use English language based scripting language that gives users an opportunity to write their own programs" (Apple Press Release, quoted in Williams, 1987, p109). In order for the HyperCard environment to include commands to drive a videodisc player, the right videodisc player driver must be installed in the system, which requires the use of MPW and ResEdit. Extension commands for the computer to control the operation of the videodisc player were developed by the implementation team and installed in Apple's HyperCard. Williams (1987) has coined the term 'metascripting' to describe this facility to extend scripting by adding new commands to HyperTalk.

Microsoft Excel is a combined spreadsheet, database and business graphics application which was used to organise data covering the range of available jobs in the workforce and as an index to the still pictures on the Ask the Workers... videodisc.

Once the basic operational structure was in place, the appropriate software to interact with the user, the HyperCard "stackware", had to be developed by the project team. In this case, the stackware is designed to offer users the opportunity to browse through the entire range of careers available in Australia today with a view to the user finding some areas in which they may be interested.

Designing the system

Much of the design work for the implementation had already been done by the instructional designers on the original Supertext Superdisc Project. Work required on the new delivery system centred around the specific requirements of the Macintosh II and HyperCard In particular, the HyperCard implementation included some elegant design work covering data structures which reduced the size of the stack significantly and allows for easy updating of the data as required.

Constructing the system

Construction of the system required input from a number of people with skills in hardware interfacing, data communications, software development and interface design. All these inputs had to be coordinated by an effective management structure.

One particular feature of the current project worth noting is the ease of development allowed using HyperCard as a prototyping tool: developing and testing elements of the final application in small, easy stages to ensure that each section operates correctly before all are assembled together in a complete stack. For example, the extension commands, scripts and buttons necessary to operate the videodisc player were developed and tested independently before being integrated with the other material required to permit the end users to navigate through the complex matrix around which the package was designed.

One of the drawbacks of using the Macintosh for interactive video applications was the computer's non standard video output. The unique nature of the computer video in the original Macintosh line meant that the computer output could not be combined electronically with video from a videodisc player, to allow both outputs to be integrated and displayed on the one monitor screen. With the advent of the open architecture in the Macintosh II, combining the outputs of both devices on the one screen becomes possible, although additional hardware is required to capture the image from the videodisc and combine it with the computer output.

The graphics oriented environment available with the Macintosh is superior to other, IBM based systems for a number of reasons. In particular, the ease of graphics development with HyperCard allows developers increased scope for developing effective screen presentations which combine video image and computer text and graphic output, once the overlay difficulties are overcome.

The present system requires a Macintosh II computer with a video board capable of capturing the analogue PAL video output of the videodisc player and combining it with the computer video, for display on the high resolution RGB screen used with the Macintosh. Any videodisc player which can be controlled remotely through a serial port can be attached to the Macintosh for videodisc replay.

Additional further work will include the extension of the resources available through the package to include relevant text and statistical data stored on CD-ROM, and a touchscreen will be used to provide input to the system, to replace the mouse and keyboard. Another particularly innovative aspect of this project will be the exploration of the use of icons rather than words to communicate meaning in the dialogue between the computer and the user.


The authors are convinced of the advantages of using a multi-disciplinary project team to bring together the variety of skills necessary to complete a project of this kind. The difficulties needed to be overcome before the computer and the videodisc player could be linked and communicate with each other took the skills of a number of people, covering data communications, software development and hardware configuration. What should have been a simple task in developing a communication link between the two devices was complicated by wrong, incomplete or misunderstood information from a number of sources, including existing HyperCard stacks with videodisc drivers for US players, equipment suppliers and others who provided supposedly operating software with modules missing.

Computer practice

Most of the work was done by a group of five Computer Practice students who elected to take on the current project to satisfy the requirements for their final year unit. Technical support was provided by the School of Information Sciences and Engineering, the Computer Centre and the Centre for Media Studies.

Computer Practice is a unit at the Canberra CAE which all computing studies students must complete successfully during their final semester in their BA in Computing Studies degree. One objective of the unit is to place the students in a situation where they need to face issues involved in working with other people, solving the normal problems presented by the development of a unique application together rather than individually as would usually be the case with tertiary teaching units.

Another objective of the Computer Practice unit is to get the students to produce a quality software product, usually a small application in a microcomputer environment. The product they create should be an interactive system, and the software should be reusable.

One important aspect of the unit is how students allocate among the group the tasks necessary to complete the application - to what extent they demonstrate an ability to utilise appropriate expertise. In the case of the current project, the division of responsibilities was handled by the group internally. All in all, the five group members had, or developed, a sufficient range of skills to cover the different aspects of the implementation they had undertaken, although none of them had had any real previous experience with the Macintosh and the HyperCard environment. In those areas where their skills and knowledge needed some development, one or more of the group had sufficient interest and motivation for the necessary work to be done independently. As it turned out, each member of the group seemed to specialise in one particular aspect of the project, and altogether with the technical assistance provided where possible as requested they covered the necessary work to be done. The students' own report (Hobbs, Perkins, Kempton, Parbs and Craven, 1988) covers the detail of their work.


The present project was one stage in a much longer exercise which when completed will result in an integrated hypermedia delivery environment integrating text, graphics, still and motion images and sound. The environment will be flexible enough to accommodate newly developed technologies (like CD-ROM and DVI, for example) as they become available. In this sense, the present project is part of continuing work in progress which started several years ago and will go on indefinitely.

The schedule for the present project was developed by the students within the semester context dictated by the Computer Practice unit. The resources available to the group are described elsewhere (see Hardware and Software above), which limited the results to the extent that the students were unable to use the teletext facility of the videodisc player because of the lack of resources for a teletext monitor or decoder to be used in the system they were working with.

Goodwin (1988), in his management study of the present project, identified the need for a more formal management structure for the project, including the establishment of a Steering Committee consisting of representatives from all groups with an interest in the project. One responsibility of such a Steering Committee would be to determine and agree on one view of the scope of the task in hand.


The main factor upon which the control of projects like the present one rests is an effective monitoring system providing for good communication between all members of the implementation team. Any difficulties with communication among the people involved in the project will inevitably lead to delays and complications which might otherwise have been avoided - since effective control of the process can only be achieved if there is a clear understanding of what is happening.

In the beginning, there was some difficulty in the control of the present project which can be put down to a number of factors. Most importantly, there was some conflict between the perception of the authors - who wanted a working hypermedia environment to aid further research and development work - and that of the students - who felt they had to satisfy the requirements of the unit themselves, and to seek outside help was not necessarily an appropriate thing for them to do within the context of project work being done for an assessable unit. These differences in perception were resolved and common ground established, although in future projects it would be appropriate to resolve any differences before work began.

Another barrier to a complete solution to the task undertaken by the students was a lack of resources. It is often difficult at the beginning of a research project which is on the cutting edge of technological developments to predict exactly what will be required (or even available for purchase) during the life of the project to satisfy the requirements. In the current project, technology to combine the output of the computer and the videodisc player was unavailable at the beginning of the project, and there was no funding available to purchase a suitable device when one became available. Similarly, a "workaround" solution involving the use of teletext could not be implemented either due to no resources being available. Resources are a part of the control process to the extent that the availability of suitable equipment, skills and experience will determine the success or otherwise of a project such as this one.

Another important influence on the level of control needed to ensure success in a project is the motivation of the group involved in it - the higher the motivation of the individuals forming the project team, the less need there is for control, all other things being equal. In the current project, motivation was quite high, and was a significant factor in the successful outcome. Group motivation was spurred by several factors: the maturity of the members of the group, the fact that the use of HyperCard led to early visible results of the possibilities of the project, and the existence of a completed videodisc and working model of the final implementation in the form of the Acorn BBC and Philips delivery package developed for the original evaluation of the materials in Western Australia. Motivation was also nurtured by the high degree of interaction among group members with complementary skills.

Group collaborative work, the sharing of ideas and the concept of intellectual property also have influence on the motivation of group members. Briefly (since these ideas need to be discussed in much greater detail than is possible in this report), who or what owns the product of the group's endeavours will have some impact more or less on the motivation of the individuals forming the group. This was one aspect of the current project which has caused some concern, since usual practice with Computer Practice projects is that rights to any software developed by students belong to them, and not to the College. The rights issue is complicated further with the Ask the Workers... materials since the rights to all designs and other materials are owned by the Australian Caption Centre. Confusion about what parts of the project are exclusively the students, that is those parts to which they hold the exclusive rights, is still to be resolved, and is an issue that should be addressed in planning future projects.

Collaborative work imposes its own control on a project as well - at the same time the use of a number of different people should expand the available resources and experience to be brought to bear on a task, it also leads to compromise in the sense that individuals must accept that if someone else is going to do a job, that person will do it their way, and not necessarily as one would do the task oneself. Group members must also accept that the management and communications requirements of collaborative group work impose additional demands on the time available to complete the task, demands which would not be there if the task were to be undertaken by just one person. This is a compromise which balances the extra skills and perspectives available through the use of a group against the increased management load it demands.

In terms of the Computer Practice unit context of the current project, the issue of the role of the individual as against that of the group is an important one which is expected to be addressed by the students. One object of the exercise is to place the students in a situation where they must face the issues involved with working with other people - something which equates more with the expectations of industry than the normal individual work expected of students in the tertiary environment. Students are expected to experience the operation of group dynamics in a typical software engineering environment, and to develop an understanding of the need to allocate appropriate expertise to a particular task. The need for adequate communications and control structures is also an important concept which the current project certainly reinforced among the students in the group.


In terms of development time, the HyperCard environment is a cost effective solution to a number of education and industry requirements for purpose designed learning materials easily adaptable to changing situations as needed. It provides for rapid prototyping of new or expanded packages which can be modified as they are being developed, without the danger of having to undo or discard large amounts of work if a proposed solution proves unworkable.

Developments in microcomputer and videodisc player technology, coupled with the availability of sophisticated yet easy to use software, hold great promise for use in training and education: especially since the individual presenter or teacher is beginning to have access to the tools necessary to develop or adapt materials themselves for their own students, within a reasonable time frame and with reasonable effort. Although the actual hardware and software products will change as the technologies are developed and refined by the manufacturers, the Superdisc Project overall has demonstrated the need for educators at whatever level to become familiar with general principles in designing materials for interactive use, and how these general principles can be adapted easily to emerging commercial products as they become available for the benefit of learners generally.

Portable video doesn't make a film maker out of ever user, word processors don't make writers and HyperCard won't make every teacher capable of churning out sophisticated interactive learning materials. All of them are tools which we must learn how to use and integrate into the "workshop" of instructional design, and then we must be able to use these tools to develop successful learning materials. The workshop is about learning how to use the tools, the development of learning materials must be done in your own workshops.


Computer Practice Handbook (1988). School of Information Sciences and Engineering, Canberra College of Advanced Education.

Conklin, (1987). HyperText: An Introduction and Survey. IEEE Computer, September, pp17-41.

Goodwin, P. (1988). Computer Practice Project: Ask the Workers ... Enhancements - Management Study. Canberra College of Advanced Education: Unpublished Report.

Hedberg, J. G., Luha, J. and Steele, J. (1986). Ask the Workers...: Teachers' Guide. Australian Caption Centre: Sydney.

Hobbs, A., Perkins, B., Kempton, J., Parbs, M. and Craven, R. (1988). Ask the Workers ... videodisc package - Enhancements (Final Report). Canberra College of Advanced Education: Unpublished Report.

Steele, J. (1987). The Supertext Superdisc Project. Australian Journal of Educational Technology, 3(1), 45-56.

Steele, J. (ed) (1988). Ask the Workers...: Evaluation. Australian Caption Centre: Sydney.

Williams, G. (1987). HyperCard. Byte December 1987, 109-117.

Authors: Kay Fielden BSc (Hons) is a Lecturer in Information Systems in the School of Information Science and Engineering, and James Steele BA MEd is a Lecturer in Media in the School of Communication at the Canberra College of Advanced Education's School of Communication.

Please cite as: Fielden, K. and Steele, J. (1988). HyperCard and interactive video. In J. Steele and J. G. Hedberg (eds), Designing for Learning in Industry and Education, 43-50. Proceedings of EdTech'88. Canberra: AJET Publications.

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