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Yes, I did do it on repurpose!

Stephen Michael Barnett
Gilles Plains College of TAFE
Sayre and Montgomery (1991), of the Telecommunications Development Center at the University of Minnesota said, "Throughout the 1980s, interactive videodisc was hailed as a powerful tool for solving many educational problems". They noted that the cost of videodisc production and delivery systems have greatly restricted its application. They received funding to undertake a research project to investigate low cost alternatives to videodisc production and implementation. The project focused on investigating the benefits and limitations of repurposing existing videodiscs for use on low cost hardware systems.

My paper examines the concept of repurposing laser videodiscs and using them in a technical and further education institution. A trial is planned at the Learning Resource Centre, Gilles Plains College of TAFE, in Adelaide, South Australia of a number of videodiscs produced by institutions in the United States, and attempts will be made to repurpose these discs for use in learning delivery in the School of Para Dental Studies and the Para Veterinary Unit of the School of General Studies.

In the year of Columbus, 1992 when America and Spain re-examine the discovery of the America's by Christopher Columbus, there is also a rediscovery of the medium of videodisc. IBM have commenced a project called Columbus: Discovery and Beyond which appears to be a hypermedia environment product (or perhaps cynically just hype), which will incorporate both CD-ROMs and videodiscs.

Mark (1991) reported that in 1991 there were an estimated 1800 educational videodiscs available with a further 800 titles to appear in 1992. Other criticisms have been because of the costs of developing discs.

Workers at Auburn University in the United States said:

Interactive video technology tends to encourage us to 'think big'. When we learn of possibilities like multiple branching designs, touch screen, still frame audio and all the bells and whistles, we begin dreaming of producing such complex and sophisticated courseware ourselves. We may spend so much time dreaming that we forget about simple designs that we might actually implement under existing budgetary constraints. (Branch et al, 1987)

These workers also saw that the concept of a consortium approach had much merit to develop, evaluate and distribute interactive video lessons. The consortium approach allows the sharing of the expertise of instructional designers, video production staff, computer specialists and the cost of expensive equipment. They also saw the use of interactive video technology as allowing students access in their setting, a veterinary science school, to abnormal animals not always available when needed. These two themes, that is the consortium approach and the access to 'patients' or situations at the time the students require are themes repeated often in the literature.

In 1991, the School of General Studies of Gilles Plains College of TAFE, received funding for a pilot project to investigate the use of a commercial software package developed by IBM called Principles of the Alphabet Literacy System. This software at that time ran on the IBM platform using the InfoWindows environment, touch screens and laser videodiscs (it now is available on CD-Rom). It was successfully trialed with adult basic education students, including people from a Non English Speaking Background. During discussions with David Hale, a consultant with that project, this author learnt of the existence in the United States of a consortium of veterinary educational institutions called CONVINCE as well as work being done at the University of Kentucky in the dental education area.

Several attempts were made in 1991 to contact staff at the University of Kentucky to inquire about access to their materials. In late December we received a copy for trial of the laser video disc, "The Anatomical Features of the Permanent Dentition". We found the disc of interest but needed the software to trial the disc. The most expedient method to communicate was to telephone Eric Spohn, Professor of Dental Education. This was done and has resulted in a great spin-off effect. During our discussion inquiry was made about similar work with laser videodisc and contact names were provided.

We contacted Lyn Johnson of the University of Iowa and Professor James Craig of the Dental School, of the University of Maryland at Baltimore. We have now found that they are the leading developers of interactive laser videodiscs for dental education.

Laser disc technology has great storage capacity-for example one of the veterinary discs we have identified has 23,000 slide images of veterinary pathology; a dental disc has 33,000 slide images as well as video and audio. The prices we have been quoted make the discs well worth while purchasing just as repositories of images. However their use as they stand, with supporting software, supplied by the developers as self paced/open learning materials would also appear to have great value. Adding to this we have the opportunity to develop these stores of visual images into our own learning materials through the use of Authorware and HyperCard and the use of the recently released system software from Apple 'QuickTime'. (In virtually all cases, the developers of the laser discs have invited us to 'repurpose' their discs.)

Curriculum will increasingly be delivered through electronic media in the future, and students will use computers extensively during their education and throughout their careers. Increasing proportions of learning will focus on problem-solving tutorials and lectures will decrease.

Computer learning environments must be highly interactive and provide for the natural progression of inquiry and feedback for learning to occur. The use of optical disc technology and simulations can allow this to occur. Siegel (1990) said "...the unique contributions made by this form of instruction is that it enables students and staff to diagnose and manage conditions that they might not otherwise be exposed to because of the rarity of the disorder or inadequacies within a given patient population, and without threat of bodily harm".

In another article, researchers said that "students enjoyed the opportunity to practise diagnosis and treatment planning for multiple patients in much less time than is necessary clinically. The students ... predict that the simulations will help develop their clinical diagnosis, treatment planning, and problem solving skills systematically".

This line of thought was also taken up in the Australian context by Baker and Ziviani (1986) who said, quoting the work of Gayeski and Williams (1984), "...the power of interactive video to simulate conditions which are rare, dangerous, distant or otherwise difficult for students or researchers to encounter is one of its most significant attractions".

Brandt (1986) suggested from a literature review as a student paper as long ago as 1986 listed 10 situations where interactive video should be considered as a delivery system:

  1. To gather together a large collection of multimedia material such a slides or a mixture of slides and motion sequences on film and video.
  2. A large number of learners are distributed over time and place.
  3. Teachers with subject matter expertise are in short supply.
  4. Equipment simulation is required.
  5. Simulation of a potentially dangerous situation is required.
  6. The situation requires continuous practise and or retraining.
  7. The subject matter is relatively stable.
  8. The training involves the teaching of processes, procedures, problem solving, and decision making.
  9. Learners vary in experience and/or entry level skills.
  10. There has to be a better way.
We have currently a research proposal for funding to examine discs produced in North America.

Project outline

This project will examine and trial a number of laser video discs produced in the United States of America to determine their validity for use in South Australia. The project leader has identified a number of videodiscs developed in the USA. and has been encouraged by the response from lecturing staff in the disciplines at Gilles Plains College of TAFE.

We believe we can access and use the work of a number of overseas bodies. They include a veterinary consortium, CONVINCE made up of 31 academic institutions in Canada and the United States, a dental consortium, COMMITTED (the Consortium on Multimedia Information Technology to Enrich Dentistry) and at least one commercial supplier, VIDEODISCOVERY in Seattle, Washington.

The project objectives are as follows:

  1. To assess student reactions to interactive technology as a means of learning.

  2. To investigate the effectiveness of teaching students through interactive simulations.

  3. To provide advise to other TAFE staff on the suitability of interactive platforms for delivery of learning.

  4. To examine the use of barcode technology in learning materials.
Gilles Plains has a number of teaching programs unique to South Australian TAFE and, in the case of dental hygiene, unique to Australia. We have the opportunity to provide a national centre of excellence for retraining and updating in the pare professional fields of veterinary nursing and dental hygiene using learning materials produced by overseas institutions.

The intent of the project currently with the working title of "Seeing the Light" is to use the discs in two ways.

  1. The first is to use the laser discs as originally developed with supporting computer based software and in the case of one package with a number of simulations. (Simulations provide student exposure to patients that are not readily or conveniently available during clinical experiences. Simulations provide clinical and radiological images and require the student to investigate the patient's previous medical and dental histories and the present complaint. This produces "realistic" patient experiences.)

  2. The second use is to 'repurpose' the visual information stored on the videodiscs to develop our own learning materials, including print, videotape, and computer based materials such as Authorware and HyperCard packages.
We believe we can enhance dramatically our delivery methodology in our current and planned courses including Traineeships as well as allowing us to develop new learning materials for new training and retraining initiatives.

The opportunity exists for example in the dental hygiene area for retraining of dental hygienists and other dental staff using computer simulations of patients suffering from current 'health crisis diseases' as AIDS, herpes. Upwards of 300 simulations are being developed in North America. This sort of training lends itself to the self-paced competency based curriculum to which our courses are moving.

Even the entry competencies of basic reading skills, particularly for English as a Second Language, and Adult Basic Education can be met, using this technology, the PALs project at Gilles Plains has demonstrated this. Another follow on disc, SKILLPAC, uses workplace contexts such as phone use, reading first aid manuals, interpreting invoices, to improve basic communication skills in language, listening, reading, writing, maths, and problem solving-all skills referred to by Mayer and others like, Carmichael and Finn, whose voices are now being heard in education and training.

As a parallel project, an undergraduate student of the School of Library and Information Management, Anthea Duthie, is undertaking an annotated bibliography of laser disc and CD-Rom technology and she will prepare a handbook to the area describing the possible uses, the different types of discs and hardware environment required. There appear to be thousands of discs available yet their use in Australia is quite low.

Cheetham (1988) noted that:

Videodisc as a medium almost died before it existed. The only advantage that it had over videotape was that it had random access of sections of the disc and could hold frames in still motion without damage to the disc or the equipment. Videodisc is able to hold all types of media; film, video, slides, graphics, audio and computer data.

However, interactive videodisc combines the resources of videodisc with the ability of the computer to operate the disc.

Others have avoided videodisc because of the cost of the hardware. O'Neil (1988) commented:
However, a note of warning should be sounded, as at least two problems exist. The first is that the videodisc is basically a single user system. The second factor is that of cost. Although it is good value for money, as a single user system it is beyond the budget of schools to buy in the numbers required for efficient class usage.
To argue against the concept of the videodisc system as a single user device we could consider a number of strategies for its use.

Lookcatch (1989) provides some useful insights. He was writing in a training concept but I feel that his arguments are valid for a further education setting. It can be used in a small group situation which can provide for debate and group interaction; group presentation is simple to schedule, and in many cases is more cost effective than individual learning settings. Its use by pairs of learners rather than individuals also provides advantages-two students working together require half the time it would take them individually. A very positive learning strategy mentioned was that working in pairs (or as Lookcatch put it-cooperative learning) facilitates learning through discussion-discussion of course related issues with another contributes to more thorough comprehension. Students have reported that the discussions themselves are significant learning opportunities.

Aker and Gordon (1986) suggested after a study which examined the application of "group use" videodisc, that small group and individualised approaches must be combined to optimise the educational process. They found that whilst students found the technology easy to use and the group process valuable in examining the material available they preferred to work with others rather than alone with the machine. Faculty perceived the group approach as more consistent, a better use of class time and a more efficient use of financial resources when contrasted with individualised instruction. The point has been made to arrange trials of learning settings to ensure the best solution-sound advice!

Milheim and Evans (1987) also examined group instruction using interactive video and they stated that many students simply learn better in a group instructional setting where interaction with others can be very stimulating and that the different experiences of various students. They also suggested the obvious cost benefits of not needing expensive duplication of equipment and the costs of new learning spaces can also enrich the learning situation. Other criticisms have been because of the costs of developing discs.

Ebert-Zawasky and Abegg (1990) used students successfully to develop lessons from generic videodisc material. This author wishes to examine this technique in his own institution as costs can be reduced, and students appear to benefit from producing their own learning materials.

Blanto, Robin and Kinzie (1991), graduate students at the University of Virginia, found that they could inexpensively repurpose a feature film on videodisc, using a Macintosh computer with HyperCard and a Pioneer videodisc player. Their paper provides good suggestions for "repurposing".

Sayre and Montgomery (1991) in their study indicated that repurposing existing materials consisted of three initial stages. These were:

  1. Videodisc Review: That is the locating of materials. This author has certainly found that it is not at all easy and has learnt that others have had similar frustration. A major problem is that much educational material is produced in education institutions but is not commercially available, nor listed.

  2. Videodisc Documentation: We could refer to this as "shot-listing" or providing a map of the disc. This is very time consuming but very essential and must be thorough and accurate. I have found disks with no frame listing available as well as disks with very good documentation.

  3. Program Design: We could refer to this process as reverse story boarding as we identify existing material, then storyboard the applicable frames, and then use instructional design to work within the constraints imposed by the material available.
Sayre and Montgomery suggested in their report that by repurposing a dedicated disc to achieve objectives similar to those of the original design, the instructional designer can obtain the maximum flexibility with the least amount of work. They also said that generic discs, although having the advantage of being widely applicable, require more work. A caution was offered by these workers who said:
Even with best case scenarios, repurposing remains a compromise because of design restrictions it inherently imposes. Success is dependent primarily upon three variables: the availability of applicable material, the budget, and the designer's creativity.
The notion of repurposing videodiscs has been addressed by workers in Australia, Baker and Ziviani (1986), who said:
It is worthwhile noting that programs can be produced to access useful frames and sequences on existing discs, and that the same videodisc can be used for initial presentation as well as the review system. The system is not limited to undergraduate training. Refresher studies and distance education both stand to benefit greatly.
The notion of refresher studies or professional update was a key issue identified by Keller (1989), who prefaced his thoughts with a quote from Bruner (1966) before outlining five reasons for impetus for change in instructional delivery. Because of its insight I will repeat his quote here:
Man's use of mind is dependent upon his ability to develop and use tools or instruments or technologies that make it possible to express and amplify his powers. It was consequent upon the development of bipedalism and the use of spontaneous pebble tools that man's brain and particularly the cortex developed.

It was not a large-brained hominid that developed the technical- social life of the human; rather it was the tool-using, cooperative pattern that gradually changed man's morphology by favouring the survival of those who could link themselves with tool systems and disfavouring those who tried to go it on big jaws, heavy dentition, or superior weight.

Keller's article discussed the CONVINCE veterinary medicine consortium. He outlined four benefits of interactive videodisc systems. These were that there is:
  1. Active or learner controlled involvement in the learning process.

  2. An individualised pace at which one can work in the interest of skill development, reviewing clinical procedures and basic science matter, and participating in scored practise to assess her/his skills.

  3. No limit to the number of PCs on line.

  4. When combined with satellite, microwave, cable and computer technologies it is possible to have widely placed personnel and centres take part in teleconferencing.


Aker, S. R. & Gordon, J. M. (1986). Designing the Group Use Videodisc. Paper presented at the 36th Annual Meeting of the International Communication Association, May 22nd-26th, 1986, Chicago, Illinois.

Baker, J. & Ziviani, J. (1986). Interactive Videodisc: Two Bites at the Cherry. In G. Bishop and W. van Lint (Eds.), CALITE 86: Proceedings of the fourth annual computer assisted learning in tertiary education conference. Adelaide: University of Adelaide, Office of Continuing Education.

Barker, P. (1986). Video Discs in Education. Education and Computing, 2, 193-206.

Blanton, S., Robin, B. & Kinzie, M (1991). Repurposing a feature film for interactive multimedia. Educational Technology, December, 37-41.

Branch, C. E. et al. (1987). Producing a simple interactive videodisc-Auburn University uses videodisc technology to enhance veterinary learning. Educational and Industrial Television, January, 20-21.

Brandt, R. (1986). Interactive video: when to consider its use. Eric Document ED272174.

Bruner, S. (1966). Toward a theory of instruction. In Keller, W. F. (1989), The potential and promise of interactive videodisc instruction for veterinary medicine. Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association, 25(4), 350-353.

Byard, S. M. & Shaw, N. A. (1987). Applications of interactive video. In J. Barrett and J Hedberg (Eds.), Using computers intelligently in Tertiary Education. Papers presented on November 29th to December 3rd, 1987. Sydney: Australian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education (ASCILITE).

Christie, A. (1987). Interactive videodisc in the teaching of orthopaedics in physiotherapy. In J. Barrett and J. Hedberg (Eds.), Using computers intelligently in Tertiary Education. Papers presented on November 29th to December 3rd, 1987. Sydney: Australian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education (ASCILITE), ppl64-169.

Christie, A. (1988). Evaluation of an educational innovation-interactive videodisc in the health sciences. In K. Fielden, F. Hicks & N. Scott (Eds.), ASCILITE conference 1988: Computers in learning in tertiary education. Proceedings of sixth annual conference held 4-7 December 1988, (pp 47-63). Canberra.

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Ebert-Zawasky, K. & Abegg, G. L. Integrating computer interfaced videodisc systems in introductory college biology. ERIC Document ED 324240.

Finkelstein, M. W., Johnson, L. A. & Lilly, G. E. (1988). Interactive videodisc patient simulations of oral diseases. Journal of Dental Education, 52(4), 217-220.

Goforth, D. (1992). Visualisation and computer assisted learning: The role of videodiscs. British Journal of Educational Technology, 23(1), 21-27.

Lookatch, R. P. (1989). Options for interactive video. Training and Development Journal, December, 65-67.

Lord, T. (1987). Interactive laser disc in community medicine. In J. Barrett and J Hedberg (Eds.) Using computers intelligently in Tertiary Education. Papers presented on November 29th to December 3rd, 1987. Sydney: Australian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education (ASCILITE).

Milheim, W.D, & Evans, A.D. (1987). Using interactive video for group instruction. Educational Technology, June, 35-37.

Sayre, S. & Montgomery, R. (1991). The feasibility of low-cost videodisc repurposing. Educational Technology, September, 57-58.

Schroeder, E. E. (1992). Interactive multimedia computer systems. Educational Technology, February, 59-60.

Siegel, M. S. & Craig, J. F. (1990). Evaluation of oral diagnostic and management skills using interactive patient simulations. New educational programs paper. Journal of Dental Education, 55(1), 49.

Sorge, D. H., Russell, J. D. & Campbell, J. P. (1991). Interactive video with adults: Lessons learned. Educational Technology, July, 25-27.

Stockdill, S. H. & Morehouse, D. L. (1992). Critical factors in the successful adoption of technology: A checklist based on TDC findings. Educational Technology, January, 57-58.

Author: Stephen Barnett originally qualified as a librarian and has studied in the educational technology and further education fields and is currently Lecturer, Learning Systems and Resources at Gilles Plains College of TAFE and has particular interests in desktop and electronic publishing. He has been involved with developments in Open Learning and educational technology and also in establishing various networks within TAFE and also within the disability information area. He also has a long time interest in HyperCard and Authorware and has recently been exploring the optical disk environment. His address is Gilles Plains College of TAFE, Blacks Road, Gilles Plains SA 5086.

Please cite as: Barnett, S. M. (1992). Yes, I did do it on repurpose! In J. G. Hedberg and J. Steele (eds), Educational Technology for the Clever Country: Selected papers from EdTech'92, 102-109. Canberra: AJET Publications.

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