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Using interactive videodisc for training

Peter Hosie
Instructional Design and Evaluation Australia (IDEA)


This paper is divided into two parts. The first section covers theoretical issues related to interactive video (IV), while the latter half is concerned with an IV project about HF radio developed for the State Energy Commission of Western Australia (SECWA).

Interactive videodisc represents the fusion of video and microcomputer technology in an effort to exploit the strengths of each whilst minimising the weaknesses. New courseware designs, which do not rigidly structure learner responses, need to be explored to complement this medium of instruction. Successful adoption of IV depends on developing quality courseware which takes into account the unique attributes of the technology. Experience to date indicates that IV designs are only just beginning to exploit the capacity of the technology.

After making a cursory examination of the literature about IV it is tempting to conclude that a revolution in education and training has taken place. As Bosco (1984, p.13) observed six years ago, "Many of the articles and reports on IV which have been produced in the last few years are written from a stance of advocacy"; and many still are. A great number of claims made about IV use in training are speculative. A good example of such exuberance is this comment by Jonassen (1984, p.2), "There is little doubt that microcomputer-controlled videodisc systems represent the most potentially powerful communication device in the history of instructional communication"; or Young and Schieve (1984, p.4), "Videodisc technology may well revolutionise training in both public and private institutions by the end of the decade". Such rhetoric is similar to that which accompanied the introduction of microcomputers into training. Interactive videodisc technology has great potential for training but there are some important issues still to be addressed; progress is not imminent.

A hybrid medium

The term IV has different meanings for different people. Rapid development has resulted in a wide range of equipment and techniques complemented by a diversity of applications but there is agreement that, "Interactive video represents the fusion of video and computer technology" (Parsloe, 1983, p.83). Teh and Perry (1984, p.2) suggest that IV "... represents the synthesis of the instructional capabilities of television and the computer", while De Bloois (1982, p.33) suggests "... it is an entirely new medium with characteristics quite unlike each of the composites". The key point of this fusion, as Bosco (1984) points out, is that the information on a videodisc can be controlled by a microprocessor so that the system reacts to learner behaviours. Moving images, stills, computer graphics and printed information can be combined and structured into an instructional unit which can readily interact with the learner.

Technical considerations

The introduction and development of IV has been clouded by technological confusion. Much of the controversy has centred on technical formats which has served to confound trainers disposed to using the technology in much the same way the Beta/VHS video debate did. Such confusion is indicative of the way IV has been promoted - as a technology, rather than a potentially cost efficient method of improving human performance, or as a high quality entertainment medium.

Rerecordable videodiscs

Apart from the cost and inconvenience of mastering optical laserdiscs, the inability to record, erase and rerecord is frequently cited as a major drawback of IV. In effect videodiscs are seen by domestic consumers and many trainers as video recorders that cannot record. Reports of the imminent release of rerecordable videodisc began in 1985 (Laserfilm), and continued into 1989 (The Australian, 31/10/89) when Pioneer announced the invention of the world's first rerecordable videodisc. Sony estimate they will sell in excess of 250,000 ($US1b) rewritable optical drives in the USA this year (The Australian, 26/6/90, p.26). These drives can store large volumes of information, including graphic and audio visual material which can be retrieved, edited, updated and substituted at will. Eventually this technology will presumably be extended to full motion video. Despite developmental drawbacks it is apparent that video, audio and computer technologies will eventually converge into a form of rerecordable IV. Possessing the capacity to rerecord and duplicate videodisc cheaply will undoubtedly significantly enhance the appeal of the technology.

With the advent of rerecordable videodiscs, IV designers and trainers will probably perceive the technology as more accessible but this will not necessarily result in radical cost reductions. Reductions in the cost of hardware and to a lesser extent mastering, will not alter instructional design, coding and television production costs, which will remain by far the most expensive component of any training initiatives (excluding off the shelf courseware) involving IV. The importance of these factors will be considered later in this paper. Like other optical disc formats, such as CD-I and DVI, the likelihood of rerecordable interactive videodisc players developing into a robust market is at least 5-10 years away, if ever (Gery, 1989).

Laservision is the preferred format for training at present because it provides fast access times and very high quality pictures with stereo sound that can be controlled by an external computer to provide interactivity, and to generate text and graphics. If the 54 000 frames were given over to text then there would be room to store 160 million words, or 655 000 A4 pages, or 1300 books. The whole of Encyclopaedia Britannica could be stored on two thirds of one side of a full motion videodisc (Gienke, 1984). While the one gigabyte data storage capabilities of 12 inch (30 centimetre) optical videodiscs is enormous in data storage terms it still only represents 36 minutes of video. An important feature of a videodisc is its ability to store a variety of multimedia materials (slides, film sequences, audio, etc.) on one format.

Videodisc players with reasonably powerful on board microcomputers are already available but, despite claims to the contrary, their use is still restricted to dedicated tasks because programme information is often stored on the videodisc and therefore cannot be altered. Future units will no doubt incorporate a fully integrated microcomputer into the design. This should do away with costly and cumbersome interface devices and allow for a system that is simpler to operate. Features such as dual audio channel, stop motion, frame by frame review, either slow forward or reverse, auto stop, and rapid scan are also useful control devices.

Problems of hardware incompatibility may seriously hinder training uses of IV equipment. Recent releases of multiformat players by all major manufacturers have gone some way towards a solution to this impasse. These players can automatically play eight or twelve inch NTSC or PAL videodiscs, video compact discs or audio compact discs. Multiformat optical disc players are half as expensive as previous laserdisc players and cost no more than an expensive CD player. Sales increases for multiformat optical disc players are expected to increase 40%, quadrupling to $4m by 1995 (The Australian, 17/10/89). Thus, economies of scale will begin to operate, further reducing the unit price of players. Overall familiarity with optical technology, especially to reproduce video, should significantly increase. The speed of innovation in videodisc hardware design makes compatibility an important issue. If wide usage of IV is to become a reality in training, a universal standard will be essential. Standardisation of format, when combined with the ability to rerecord, will lead to wide consumer acceptability. So rather than settling on one disc size and format, it seems that an interim solution for trainers wanting to avoid investing in equipment that may be rendered obsolete, will be to purchase competitively priced multiformat videodisc players. In the long term it is worth noting that all major manufacturers of optical discs have agreed to collaborate to develop common standards for interactive use of video and audio compact disc systems. Such cooperation is crucial to ensure information is standardised for translation to discs and the production of players (Screen Digest, March, 1986, p.57). In the interim IBM's InfoWindows has emerged as the de facto industry standard and looks like remaining so until a universal standard is developed.

As Geber (1989) accurately asserts, the next 5 to 10 years are adequate horizons for those interested in using IV in training. Despite hype by some manufacturers, it is highly unlikely that formats with superior credentials to Laservision will be fully developed and accepted within the next five years. Albeit even material that has been designed and developed for Laservision can be readily transformed onto emerging formats. Robust instructional design will be capable of being transported to other formats. Anyway the subject matter of most designs will be obsolete within this time frame. Perhaps the most prudent decision organisations wishing to invest in IV can make is to purchase equipment capable of being upgraded in the future, or lease wherever possible.

Which system?

Decisions about which hardware option to choose should be based on considerations of industry standards, compatibility, flexibility, service, cost and courseware availability. The Videodisc Monitor (Feb, 1987) identified no less than 25 videodisc systems with varying degrees of compatibility. Five IV systems capable of operating the Laservision standard are worth considering in Australia.

Personal computer Laservision interface cards

At present the least risk option for trainers wishing to introduce IV into organisations in Australia is to opt for InfoWindows, which is considered by CBT training leaders (Geber, 1989; Wolman, 1988) to be the de facto industry standard. Sony's VIEW system is also worth considering, and has the added advantage of being capable of running some InfoWindows titles. Despite this advantage VIEW currently still has less than half of the courseware available for InfoWindows. Hardware costs are comparable. At present VIEW hardware and software are marketed separately and lack local or national backup. For organisations considering developing their own courseware, a Macintosh driven system offers potential.


Despite the assertions of some authors (Kearsley and Frost, 1985), there remains a need for credible evidence that such a costly learning system is an effective method of instruction. Five years ago Hannafin (1985) considered there was a need for empirical research to clearly demonstrate the efficacy of using IV in training. To date evaluative evidence to support the use of IV in training remains equivocal, although tacit support is emerging. Much of the rationale for adopting IV is based on intuition. Earlier research is based on videotape based systems and although a number of findings can be translated to disc based systems, the effect of many important functions, such as rapid random access, cannot be generalised to IV.

Bosco (1986) claims to have undertaken the most comprehensive summary of empirical evaluations (29 evaluations) of IV application for instruction. Bosco's (1986) meta analysis reveals that there is not enough evidence to establish that IV is consistently superior to comparative traditional methods. However, positive results were found for user attitude and training time efficiency. Of the 29 evaluations considered, 11 concluded that IV led to increases in skill achievement but five showed no benefit with two reporting mixed results.

Evaluative methodology

The problem with evaluations of IV has more to do with the empirical approach adopted by researchers than the number of studies conducted. Qualitative research strategies (Guba and Lincoln, 1982) have the potential to provide more valuable information for instructional designers and policy makers. Bayard-White (1985) gives examples of how case studies can provide insight into creative applications of IV. All case studies described start with a detailed analysis of the training needs of the organisations concerned before proceeding with an IV solution. If such information had been available for Bosco to analyse it is likely that the reason for many of the null items recorded would be apparent.

Most IV evaluations essentially consist of a comparison between IV and traditional methods. Comparative studies can produce useful information but they also fail to attend to important factors, such as the long term impact of instruction provided by IV. Reeves (1988) is supported by Bosco and Wagner (1988) in criticising the comparative paradigm of research. Reeves (1988) proposes alternative approaches to evaluating IV which include consideration of instructional events, cognitive psychology, computer based instruction and systems models.

In contrast to this view Gersten (1987) considers that the same instructional variables affecting learner performance with traditional materials affect learning with IV, a view which appears only partially correct. Gersten (1987) ignores IVs unique pedagogical control characteristics, such as freeze frame, slow motion, search capabilities, addressability, etc. Evaluations of IV should begin to look beyond simple comparisons and to consider instructional design and goals of courseware and curriculum (Drake, 1987).

The failure to establish equivocal gains for IV may have more to do with the method of investigation and yardsticks imposed than inadequacies of the technology. When more appropriate and sophisticated methodologies are employed, such as Scriven's (1988) merit and marketability approach, which used the Key Evaluation Checklist (KEC) to evaluate the Ask the Workers videodisc, then more usable results are forthcoming. Scriven concluded that videodisc technology can compete with other training delivery methods in a cost effective manner. As Lyness (1987) suggests, future evaluations need to also consider what individual learning differences are best suited to IV.

User acceptance

Learners generally seem to like using IV for training. Reasons for this positive disposition relate to convenience, capacity for review, motivation and general feeling that people are in control of their learning environment.

Manning (1983) reports a high degree of student satisfaction in mastering complex, high stress tasks. Schroeder et al (1986) found that a majority of students indicated that a combination of videodisc and role playing is optimal for leadership training. Pieper et al (1984) notes favourable responses from students using an Interactive Graphics Simulator, while Rhodes and Cervany (1984) note an absence of frequently reported negative attitudes to using television for training.

Vada's (1989) reports that students find IV appealing to use but some resented taking courses alone, preferring small group learning situations. A significant consideration, which is given scant attention by the literature, is that many learners prefer some form of human interaction in learning tasks. Vadas (1989) also notes a significant percentage of students also prefer solitary learning circumstances. Accommodating these individual preferences is possible with learning involving IV and needs to be considered by instructional designers as well as those seeking to incorporate IV into learning programmes. Consideration of the context of using IV may well be as important as the content.

Bosco and Wagner (1988) report that 80 percent of workers preferred IV to videotape (a similar finding to Vada), 70% found it easier to concentrate using IV, and 78% believed they learned more from IV training, with 98% deciding it was easier to use than videotape. Workers consistently commented that one of the main advantages of IV was the opportunities it provided to review material.

Time saving

Of all the dimensions by which IV can be judged, the capacity to reduce the time spent on training is the most clearly quantifiable advantage for the technology. When used appropriately IV can reduce training time compared with traditional training methods. Time savings using IV are reported to be in the order of a minimum of 30% and a maximum of 60 % (Geber and Pribble, 1989).

Bosco (1986) reported that a reduction in training time was recorded in nine of eleven cases it was measured. Ebner et al's (1984b) results indicate that army personnel learning to administer intermuscular injections may not learn more using IV but they do learn faster (four hours to complete the training as opposed to six in normal classrooms). Manning's (1983) study indicates that reduced teaching time is needed to train army medics using IV. Drake (1987) reports a significant time reduction in training time (40-60%) for engineers and machine operators learning technical skills.

Drake (1987) does, however, warn that comparisons of time taken to complete training should not be given too much credence. Of more importance, Drake (1987) rightly argues, is the level of skills retained, mastered and transferred to the job. There are few studies celebrating the training savings possible with IV design which examine the long term effects of using IV. Of these Ebner et al (1984b) considers that army personnel completing IV training on intermuscular injections did result in longer retention of information. There are no strong indications (apart from Ebner's research) of whether the content of the information or style of presentation has any effect on long term retention. Hannafin and Colamaio's (1987) research indicates that for practised items, such as cardiopulmonary rescuscitation, significant advantages accrue for factual learning, and to a lesser extent procedural learning, especially when the learner is permitted to control the interactions. More investigation is needed to establish what content and methods of presentation are most suited to IV. An investigation of another evaluation of IV to teach cardiopulmonary rescuscitation by Lyness (1987) found no significant difference over traditional methods but superior performance for IV in teaching a specific procedure (obstructed airway in basic life support). IV is particularly effective for teaching mechanical and procedural skills (Priestman, 1984). Experience with programmed learning indicates that personalising instruction by allowing students to proceed at their own pace, and the provision of immediate feedback, are two of many instructional design tenets suited to IV. For some areas of training, a no significant difference result for IV is considered cause for optimism (Schroeder et al, 1986; Pieper et al, 1984).

Evaluations of more sophisticated training such as simulations, support the use of IV, albeit if only on a raw cost effectiveness basis. US military human resource laboratories have found that IV can provide sophisticated simulation training that is more cost effective than hands on training in many technical applications (Meyer, 1984). In consequence, the US Department of Defence has taken a leading role in the development of IV in an attempt to find more cost effective utilisation of learning resources. As a result IV has been elected by the US military as its future training delivery medium resulting in the installation of 50,000 fully interactive systems (IEDS) over five years (Screen Digest, February, 1986, p.38).

Netta and Staub (1988) consider that computer controlled laser disc results in faster learning and is being taken up by industry, who appear unconcerned about the need to equivocally establish the effectiveness of the technology. This may be because industry perceives obvious advantages of IV for training but this could also be a result of evaluations into IV which have not been published. Presumably the findings favoured the use of IV.

Learner effectiveness

The level of skills acquired is the most crucial measure of the success of IV. When compared with traditional techniques IV is able to equal, and in some cases exceed established practices.

Bosco and Wagner (1988) have conducted one of the few evaluations of IV which transcend the purely classroom based comparative research paradigm. A comparison of the same content (hazard communications training) was made using similar media. One group was given training involving videotapes with some classroom follow up and another was presented with the same material on IV. In contrast to many evaluations of IV, this study indicated a significant cohort group (209 workers), randomly assigned to groups at 15 General Motors plants. The preponderance of high achievers (87%) were trained on IV and contrasted with the low achievers (80%) using the videotape method. Final test scores averaged 83% compared with 62% for those using the videotape method. But Bosco and Wagner (1988) caution that "Care must be taken to introduce, maintain and support the use of [IV] in order for it to produce the intended training outcomes..."(p.11).

A study conducted by IBM (Vadas, 1987) compared group and individual training using IV with classroom methods. Statistically significant learning gains were reported on most aspects of final testing which contrasts with the bulk of findings. Most researchers either report a no significant difference result or slight gains in favour of IV with often significant gains being attributable to one aspect of the instruction. Vadas (1988) reported that a high percentage (80) of students reached mastery of the material, a result which is supported by Bosco and Wagner (1988) and, given the nature of the technology, one which should be repeatable. Curiously much of the literature assumes mastery learning, which is crucial for industrial training, will be greater using IV but usually fails to evaluate (or report) its incidence.

Drake (1987) reports that IV is on par with instructor led training at Goodyear Industrial Training Corporation. Slight improvements in favour of IV were noticed by the Digital Equipment Corporation's computer maintenance training programme.

Communications operators can be taught to operate complex pieces of equipment by IV simulation. Young and Tosti (1984) found that "A statistical comparison of learners certified using videodisc simulator equipment showed no difference in the actual ability to operate complicated communications equipment"(p.41). Ferrier (1982) described the use of IV for competency based training, judging it to be a cost effective adjunct in certain applications in training for leadership, management and organisational development.

Doulton (1984) reported on the use of IV in secondary school science lessons in the United States. A comparison of normal classroom experiments with IV simulated experiments was conducted. Results indicated that when IV is integrated effectively, improved standards of laboratory work are evident, as was a greater range of exploration by more talented students. An added bonus is the time saved in comparison with setting up normal experiments. This has important time over task management implications. Doulton's findings are supported by the research in industrial settings. Leonard (1989) found IV to be equivalent to conventional laboratory training for promoting the understanding of basic principles. IV has been found to be particularly useful for developing skills for diagnosing errors and mistakes in complex sequencing activities and with equipment which is expensive or dangerous to practice with, such as aircraft maintenance (Uhlig and Feldman, 1985). Teh and Perry (1984) reported the results of an Australian developmental project which designed and evaluated IV based instructional materials for teaching the concept of weather forecasting. IV materials were found to be an effective teaching medium in geography, with trial subjects (who were trainee teachers) achieving superior scores for content understanding. Manning (1983) considers IV to be particularly valuable for managing stressful task learning. There has been a positive response to the Teddy Bear Disc which has been produced by the Open University for use at residential summer schools. IVs are seen as a way of augmenting or even replacing summer school laboratory sessions as well as allowing students to participate in experiments otherwise unavailable to them (Williams, 1984). Even though the subject matter of these IVs is more applicable to education than training there are comparable benefits which can be transferred to a training environment.

The data available suggests that IV is an effective teaching and learning medium, especially in the area of training simulation. Removing the variability of human teaching is a major advantage of IV courseware. Learner acceptability of the medium is established. Comparison of IV and traditional methods of instruction must provide a detailed analysis of cost effectiveness and learner effectiveness. As Kearsly (1983) observes, computers have certain advantages in instructional settings, such as permitting "students to learn at their own pace, individual learning styles are considered, resulting in increased student satisfaction. Most importantly, there is more control over learning materials and learning processes"(p.14).

When to use IV

From the information presented by Bosco (1986) it would appear that the reason for indifferent response by learners to 50% of the IV projects considered, is that they were inappropriate applications of the technology and lacked engagement for the learner (ie poor design). A problem common for TML, particularly IV, concerns inappropriate applications. From an extensive review of the literature Brandt (1986) identified a number of situations where the use of IV should be considered for a training delivery system. These were Considerations of costs of development and hardware acquisition and readiness of the organisations to accept IV are also important.

Interactivity - the key

"Interactivity is CBT's raison d'etre" (Gery, 1987 p.42). Evidence suggests (Hartley, 1981) that "student control over learner strategy is the most efficient approach to CAL design. Encouraging individual routes through information will assist students to become more actively involved in the learning process". Learners should be given as much control as possible over the programmes, or at least opportunities for regaining control at some stage of the instructional sequence.

Bork (1984) believes computers are going to be an important factor in all human learning because they make learning truly interactive for large numbers of learners on a cost efficient basis. He also observes that, "... many of the videodisc plus computer modules produced so far by video people are extremely weak with regard to interaction"(p.3) He contends that students and teachers are content with very weak forms of interaction because these are such an improvement over non interactive learning media. Bork's observations seem well founded.

How IV technology can affect learner interaction requires examination. The University of Nebraska Group has defined four levels of interactivity for a videodisc (Hart, 1984; Priestman, 1984). The sophistication of these levels affects the kind of learning possible. Categories which are learner based, rather than technologically based, are being developed and should provide a more appropriate system of classification.

Level One is the most basic level. Information can be fragmented, suspended, repeated and integrated into new wholes, but specific sections cannot be called up quickly or accurately. The features of "freeze frame", and slow motion (in forward or reverse) are normally used via the keypad. At Level Two a small microprocessor built into the videodisc player allows accurate random access for video segments or single frames, allowing replay in any given order at a given pace. Programme information is recorded on the disc, and forms an integral, but unchangeable, part of the system.

Level Three involves linking an external microcomputer to control the videodisc player. An additional source of information is supplied from the microprocessor's memory system. Level Three interactivity is sought by most IV designers, but it is worth bearing in mind that many worthwhile training activities are possible at lower levels of interactive sophistication, which are relatively simple to design.

Level Four involves linking microcomputers to large databases for storing and running programmes. Problems with main frame time sharing delays and telephone line capacity will restrict large scale implementation of this level for some time, although videotex and ISDN could assist in overcoming this problem. Access charges have to be accounted for and, although competitive, will still prove a problem for many training institutions and organisations.

Rhodes and Azbell (1988) have proposed three forms of IV design - reactive, coactive and proactive - which relate to the degree of control that the user has over content of an IV. Proactive designs offer minimal user control over the content and structure of a programme. User reaction is predetermined by the designer, whereas coactive designs allow user control over both content and structure, permitting control over the pace of presentations and type of feedback. Rhodes and Azbell (1988) consider IV technology is now sufficiently advanced to permit "transactive design". Such design can, theoretically at least, permit users to communicate with a wide range of media to develop their own "problem definition and analytical procedures". While the technology required to achieve a transactive design does exist (such as remote computer databases, image catalogues, etc), in the authors' experience effectively integrating such a complex array of technologies is not feasible at present or in the foreseeable future. Rhodes and Azbell (1988) do provide a useful framework for considering IV design alerting designers to the reality that "Effective design requires a conscious choice of the form of interaction appropriate for a given application"(p.44).

Design considerations

Balance and control over learning strategy and content by the student is important. Videodiscs provide a vast information base which is quite different from that available from a computer. The more information available the greater the flexibility in combining sequences. Evidence suggests (Hartley, 1981), that student control over learner strategy is the most efficient approach to Computer Assisted Learning (CAL) design. Encouraging individual routes through information will assist students to become more actively involved in the learning process.

An unrealised potential exists for learners to control instructional presentations, without lessening the overall coherence of the courseware. Hedberg and Perry (1985) claim that IV has eliminated the requirement for materials to be structured for the learner. They assert that not only has IV improved interactivity with visual materials, which can be incorporated into an instructional sequence, but interactivity beyond the designers' original intention is also possible. While the flexibility of IV design is important the crucial problem lies in getting teachers to use such software effectively. Open ended designs are no value under the control of closed minded instructors! Hedberg and Perry (1984) also claim that the addition of "dynamic and static visual display enabled students to "see" events that were not previously possible as part of CAI lessons"(p.6)

Nievergelt (1982) agrees that programmes involving human to machine dialogues should avoid designs which are passive in format. Instead learners should be given as much control as possible over the programmes, or at least opportunities for regaining control at some stage of the instructional sequence. While the potential for learner control of well designed IVs is acknowledged and considered desirable, there is insufficient evidence to date to refute or deny these assertions.

Few trainers should need to be reminded that learning is not a passive process. Understanding and knowledge involve active processing rather than passive reception. A consistent claim made in favour of using IV is that "it changes the student from passive observer to active participant" (Anandam and Kelly, 1981, p.3). The ineffectiveness of modern media as a learning device (in comparison with the written text) is due to the lack of opportunity for interrogation. Allied to this observation is the criticism that the learner loses control over the pace of instruction (Clark, 1984). New theories of learning which will inform instructional design will have to be formulated to allow for these new ways of interacting with the subject matter. Such theories will need to be incorporated into IV designs. Hedberg (1985/86) has suggested a set of design heuristics for IV which encourages student involvement with the process of learning. If the claims made for IV are correct, then learners will benefit by a medium more amenable to individual learning styles.

Deshler and Gay (1986) isolate initial learning theory assumptions about videodisc technology which should be considered before proceeding. Videodisc systems are more likely to be effective if learning theories inform their design; application of videodisc systems should not be limited to lower levels of behaviour or cognitive functioning; the capabilities of interaction (control, feedback, pace) inherent in videodisc microcomputer technology can expand access and multiply the flexible use of visual materials.

Microcomputers can provide a more individualised learning experience. Computer assisted learning has largely been developed on the basis of learner interaction. Perhaps the greatest limitation of computer learning has been its delivery, which is predominantly in text or in diagrams, without the visual and aural attractiveness of television. Film and video do not always lend themselves to informing about higher order concepts and it is often difficult for a learner to conceive actions presented in text or diagrammatic form. Instructional television has not produced improvements in learning to the extent originally predicted. Perhaps this is largely due to the receptive mode of learning it encourages (Laurillard, 1982). Certainly the ongoing linear nature of training television does not adjust for the pace and learning style of individual students (Teh and Perry, 1984). Capitalising on the strengths of the two media, while limiting the disadvantages, should result in more active learner interaction.

Learner requirements

Learner requirements should be of primary concern when selecting and designing IV courseware. If organisational training needs are the primary criterion for selecting IV, then learner requirements must be pre-eminent. Every effort needs to be made to translate these requirements into the courseware. To do this, student preferences must first be established. After reviewing the research into computer assisted learning, Wilson (1987) reported that students prefer

Developing the innovation

How will IV translate into effective instructional applications? Cost considerations are, understandably, uppermost in most trainers' minds. Many training department budgets are just recovering from spending a considerable portion of available funds on microcomputers. Besides an inability to afford the hardware, there is a pressing need to retrain trainers to accept and use new technology. Instructor and management acceptance will be an important hurdle to overcome. Developing highly interactive IVs is a costly exercise. Training administrators will be keen not to exacerbate the problem by lack of consideration of design quality.

The cost of developing IV with even a reasonable amount of interactivity is great in terms of designer hours and technology. Media production, especially broadcast quality television, requires a large investment in equipment, and high labour costs. Competent planning is vital with this medium if costs are to be contained and a long shelf life for the courseware is to be assured.

IV will not become a reality in training initiatives and tertiary institutions unless economies of scale can be developed. How this is likely to occur is not clear. If the lack of mutual cooperation in the production of curricula and audiovisual resources in Australia to date is any indication, there is no cause for optimism (Hosie, 1985). Perhaps certain attributes of the technology may be exploited to overcome this problem. A compromise solution to the inevitable conflict of local curriculum idiosyncrasies and the need for economy of scale is needed. Generic discs (Jonassen, 1984) or a video databank (Cohen, 1984), containing material in a variety of forms related to subject areas, could be developed to form a visual database suitable for use in a variety of circumstances. Generic discs could provide video programming at reasonable cost for a wide audience, while allowing for local learning requirements. Alternatively, there are now a significant number of interactive videodiscs available commercially for lease or purchase, but these are concerned with specific subjects. Why IV has been slow to be accepted by trainers in Australia

Given the obvious capacity of IV to enhance learning it is worthwhile speculating why it has been so slow, to date, to be used for training in Australia. Lange (1985) isolated some of the reasons for the reluctance of tertiary educators to use telecommunications to deliver education. With modification, these reasons are applicable to failure of trainers to adopt IV, another new educational technology.

Lack of motivation

Excessive demands on training and extremely tight budgeting are relatively recent phenomena. The need to dramatically improve training productivity is fairly new. Increasing productivity must remain an important thrust for training and will, I believe, be responsible for more vigorous pursuit of the adoption of Technologically Mediated Learning (TML) methods, such as IV.

Trainer resistance

In the past innovators in educational technology have assumed trainers would alter their methods to accommodate technological advances. But the lack of software may not be as much of a problem as overcoming trainer reluctance to use IV. As Bosco (1984) has observed, the modular nature of industrial training is suited to utilising technologies like IV. Trainers will need to adopt a more managerial role, as opposed to an instructor role, if IV is going to be used extensively. IV designs could assist trainers in managing learning environments because test scores and record keeping are readily organised.

Technological lag

New information technology has only been recently adopted by business, and training is traditionally the "tail end Charlie" as regards innovation.

Lack of models

Although there are now a large number of institutions in both education and industry using IV (mainly in the USA and to a lesser extent in Canada and the UK), publication of information about large scale applications, as opposed to exortations just about the technology, have been available only relatively recently. The training community in Australia has adopted a wait and see attitude, evident in many approaches to innovation in this country.

Lack of encouragement

Until recently delving into the mysteries of new technology was considered the domain of science based enthusiasts and little recognition was given to the work by employers. In the last five years there has been a marked movement to encourage wide usage of information technology for end users in all spheres of work. IV is the marriage of a very familiar technology (television) and a technology rapidly acquiring the status of everyday familiarity (microcomputers). Wider usage of information technology in the workplace has paved the way for management to accept IV as a training delivery method.

System quality and capacity

Clearly, the marketplace has been confused and frustrated by a quagmire of standards. Fortunately this problem is abating with IV player standards (Laservision) settled and formats more apparent (IBM - InfoWindows, Sony - VIEW, Videologic and Macintosh). The NTSC/PAL video recording format debate still rages but it looks as though NTSC, by virtue of the sheer force of available software, is gaining ascendancy. Also, the advent of NTSC/PAL switcheable videodisc players and interface cards, when combined with the now extensive range of videodiscs available for these formats, has resulted in IV finally reaching a "critical mass" for training purposes. After years of unfulfilled promises and exaggerated claims of the benefit of the technology, IV is finally able to demonstrate ways it can effectively add value (Fitz-enz, 1988) to training.


Another reason could be added to this list. According to Large (1989) an elementary marketing mistake has slowed the acceptance of IV in Australia. Large (1989) considers that most Australian companies have been too concerned with marketing videodisc technology for its own sake, rather than the benefits it brings to the user.

Capacity to accept change

Spence (1986) has postulated global reasons for failing to adopt innovation, some of which are applicable to IV. The cost of IV hardware is significant in terms of up front investment. A cost also of significance is the threat in terms of professional security, since "an innovation may require an experienced practitioner to give up practices in which he felt secure and displayed high levels of competence and to adopt new practices in which he might possibly be less competent" (Spence, 1986, p.5).

Spence (1986) considers the reason television technology has been given almost universal acceptance stems from the ease of relating to the technology. Paradoxically, IV is almost as simple to use as a television receiver, and about as difficult to use as a personal computer. Later model hardware is essentially turnkey. Poor marketing and indecision over format standards have confused trainers who may otherwise have used IV. Relatively high cost (both financial and personal) and confusion over technical standards have combined with marked downturn in expenditure on training by organisations. In addition, IV is yet to be seen as a significant improvement over existing training methods, therefore retarding its acceptance.

Rogers (1960) has categorised people into classes on an extended continuum of innovativeness. This continuum has been refined by Spence (1986) to consist of innovators, early adapters, late majority and laggards. Collective inaction by trainers and educators towards the adoption of IV suggests grouping in the later categories late majority and laggards) is appropriate.

There are, however, some trainers who could be characterised as innovators and early adapters. These individuals have been involved in using and in some cases developing IV, but their efforts are scattered and largely unsupported by middle and top management. As opinion leaders, such people are likely to eventually inspire and legitimise the use of IV in the future.

Commonwealth Government Training Guarantee Scheme

Motivation for industry and government organisations to increase training has been stimulated by the introduction of the Federal Government's Training Guarantee Scheme. Enterprises with an annual payroll of over $200,000 per year will be required to spend a minimum of 1% of their payroll on employee training. Any shortfall between required and actual expenditure will be collected as Government revenue. Training delivered using IV, which adheres to basic instructional design principles (objectives, defined methodology, evaluation, etc) will satisfy the broad guidelines for what constitutes approved training. IV is a potentially cost effective method of providing skills training for industry and government.


With increasing productivity a major consideration in training, it is hard to comprehend why the exploration of innovative instructional techniques has not been given more attention. After reading and observing the lack of action emanating from the most recent government sponsored investigation into the use of technology in delivering education, An Apple for the teacher? Choice and technology in learning (House of Representatives Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training, 1989), it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Commonwealth education policy bureaucrats have failed to grasp the significance of how TML can demonstrably improve both the productivity and quality of education and training. Indeed many of the pronouncements and actions of Commonwealth funding bureaucrats demonstrate an appalling grasp of the urgency of the situation (see comments by the author in the conclusion of An Apple for the teacher?, 1989 and Dawkins, 1989).

Despite pronouncements to the contrary (Dawkins, 1989) it is clear that quality of training offering is definitely not foremost in funding bureaucrats' minds. Of paramount concern is an increase in the quantity of training. Such concerns emanate more from crass political motivations than any real concern for the delivery of effective training programmes. Hence, arguments pertaining to improving the quality of course delivery are unlikely to sway government authorities. Therefore the most effective approach for introducing IV will be to clearly demonstrate unit cost savings.

Well designed IV courses can result in consistently high quality course delivery, and more rapid learning by students (up to 60% faster than traditional methods). It is often preferred to traditional teaching methods and can be completed when it is convenient for students, not trainers.

Combining the visual stimulation of moving and still images with the interactive capabilities of computer technology has resulted in a potentially powerful learning medium. However, before IV can become widely accepted for training, some important issues must be resolved. A substantial amount of high quality courseware needs to be developed. For the cost of developing courseware to be justified, it needs to be relevant to the needs of a large and diverse learning population.

Poorly considered usage of IV will result in inappropriate adoption of the technology. There is an urgent need for effective evaluation to establish the type of learning best suited to the medium, and whether cost justification for large scale adoption can be established. Large scale adoption of IV will require a substantial commitment of funds and energy, if software of a high enough quality is to be developed. Trainer resistance and the need for retraining is a factor that should not be overlooked. Training budgets are always at risk, which means that for IV to be developed other areas of endeavour may suffer. Decisions on the degree of importance should be based on solid cost effectiveness analyses and training rationale.

Part 2: Interactive video design

The following is a case study on the planning and design of interactive learning materials designed for the State Energy Commission of Western Australia (SECWA). The learning package is entitled How to get the best from HF mobile radio.

Instructional design considerations


To provide information essential to enable SECWA workers to become effective users of high frequency (HF) radio.


A design philosophy that permits the learner to make decisions about what they learn is applied (Hedberg and Perry, 1984; Gery, 1989). This strategy is based partly on a design ideal but it is also an attempt to permit those users who are already familiar with some aspects of the material to fast track the training, thus not wasting productive work time. At all stages of the design there are opportunities for the learner to direct what is learnt and the pace of learning.

Target audience

The target audience ranges from tradesmen to professional engineers, all of whom are involved in SECWA field operations. The design and script assumes that users have little or no previous knowledge of high frequency (HF) radio, although many will have used very high frequency (VHF) radio. The target audience is based mainly in the country and remote areas of Western Australia in the Gas and Electricity Supply Branches.


There are over 300 users of HF mobile radio in SECWA. These users are located mainly in country areas serviced by SECWA. Many SECWA personnel have difficulty in using HF radio effectively, which is due in part to the vagaries of the technology, but mainly because most have received no training in its use. Most users are oblivious to established user procedures and unaware of the legal implications of the relevant Department of Transport and Communications regulations, with which SECWA users are obliged to comply.

This problem is exacerbated by the large turnover of staff in northern regions, especially Karratha. High staff turnover, variable and low levels of literacy, a geographically dispersed student population, and a critical shortage of willing and qualified training staff makes computer delivered training a logical choice. Previous IV initiatives in the area of communications technology have been well received. In an organisation that has considerable involvement in technology, delivering training via IV is considered to be a logical extension of this commitment.

Video is a major component of this project, largely because the basic literacy levels amongst the target audience mean that reading large amounts of text from a screen for information (which is a doubtful training practice anyway), could have a demotivating effect on these learners. Therefore it was decided to use actors to deliver the information via video.

There is a shortage of highly skilled engineering and technical staff to conduct courses for users of HF radio. In this context we are referring to training mainly for non technical users as opposed to purely technical training. Moreover, these staff are technical practitioners, not instructors. Hence, engineering and technical skills are a scarce commodity which cannot be spared for user training, although such staff were available to act as consultants for IV training initiatives.

Employees requiring training are geographically dispersed and have a wide range of training backgrounds and abilities. Travel costs in a state extending over 2.5 million square kilometres strongly mitigate against many worthwhile traditional training initiatives. As many staff are involved in critical operations, interruptions to their work schedules are not only disruptive but potentially disastrous for the organisation. Since few volunteers could be found with the requisite skills or inclination to travel the length and breadth of the state to conduct the training, there simply were few realistic alternatives to IV.

Training is required that has a technical user orientation, which is consistent, replicable, readily updateable and motivational. In short, taking the training to the client and making it available when it suited them to have it was clearly the way to proceed.

Instructional aims

The overall aims of the programme How to get the best from HF mobile radio for SECWA employees are

Processing capabilities of the interactive video computer

This design is intended to run on a National NV-K100 Interactive Computer. Essentially this is a dedicated IV system intended to control a videotape player. The system was an early IV system which has limited processing capacity and no graphics generation facility. However, it does have limited branching and looping facilities.

Unfortunately, the design and delivery system does restrict the kind of design possible. For example, slow search times mean that random access to other parts of the programme is not feasible. The design is constrained by IV delivery hardware and software. Of necessity, the instructional design is more "reactive" (Rhodes and Azbell, 1988) and "linear" than the author would prefer. Conceptually, the design is closer to the necessary, which is akin to the "tutor" design postulated by Taylor (1980), and as such contains aspects which permit some learner control of the design structure and content, i.e. "coactive" elements as conceives by Rhodes and Azbell (1988).

Screen design

The IV machine, developed in the 1970s, offers a display 16 x 32 lines with white characters on a blue background. Two principles will guide the screen design The book to accompany the IV covers the same content as the video as well as information for reference, such as fault finding and callsigns. The language in both was lively, informal, as simple as possible and addressing only issues of direct concern to the user in the field. To this end only the first section is required reading, with the second section being optional reading containing information of useful reference value.

A pamphlet containing a summary of essential information contained in the book was also issued to all users. The pamphlet is intended to be a discardable resource because it has to be re-issued every six months with updated base station schedules.

Both the book and pamphlet form the basis of the information presented in the IV and as such have strong reference value for the user. Also, for those users in remote areas, the print based materials are their only source of information.


The project followed the instructional design stages recommended by Gagne and Briggs (1981) and Romoszowski (1981) for structured instructional design projects.

Needs assessment

User needs were ascertained by interview, both telephone and interviews with users in the field (Geraldton Depot), communications systems design engineers, radio technicians, and various depot supervisors.

Analysis of the problems requiring attention

Analysis of those problems which were distinguished from those requiring attention by management and those which can be addressed by training was undertaken. This involved gaining a thorough acquaintance with the subject matter involved. Part of the problem proved to be managerial in origin.

Information collection

Information relevant to the topic was collected from a variety of sources because it was not available from one location. For example, the Royal Flying Doctor Service provided base schedules and instructions for making emergency calls which were edited to fit the overall format of the book.


Outputs included flowcharts, questions, answers, video script and accompanying materials (book and pamphlet).


All aspects of the information collected were proofed and altered by those involved in the needs assessment, including sending a draft of the book and script to potential users for comment.

Production of materials

An external television production house produced the video under the author's direction. Coding of the computer interactions was done by the author.


There was almost no chance to modify the video segments (apart from deleting them). This is a reality in most IV projects. However, there is a limited capacity to modify parts of the computer algorithms.


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Author: Peter Hosie completed BEd, BA Hons and MBus degrees. Currently he is Personnel Project Officer at the University of WA. Previously he has been an Executive Officer for the WA Government's Task Force on Telecommunications in Education and Training, a training programme designer for SECWA, an education officer with the Audio Visual Education Branch of the Education Department and a secondary school teacher. He has published over twenty five papers on technologically mediated learning and has been involved in design and production of educational TV programmes, some involving interactive techniques.

Please cite as: Hosie, P. (1990). Using interactive videodisc for training. In R. Atkinson and C. McBeath (Eds.), Open Learning and New Technology: Conference proceedings, 189-217. Perth: Australian Society for Educational Technology WA Chapter.

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