ERIC Identifier: ED270103
Publication Date: 1985-12-00
Author: McLean, Lois
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Information Resources Syracuse NY.

Videodiscs in Education. ERIC Digest.

Videodiscs could have a revolutionary impact on the use of audiovisual media in education. What makes the videodisc so attractive? Videodisc systems can combine the best features of instructional television and computer assisted instruction. They can provide individualized, self-paced instruction with feedback and remediation, while incorporating all traditional audiovisual media into one easy-to-use, durable format.

The real revolution, however, is that videodisc allows the creation of interactive video programming. Traditional video programs play linearly, in a pre-planned beginning-to-end sequence. With the videodisc, learners, instructors, and lesson designers have an opportunity for input and control over the sequence of the program. The sequence is dynamic, changing in response to overall objectives, as well as the style and level of instruction.


The most promising format for educational applications is the reflective optical laser videodisc. These discs resemble shiny, silver audio records. They are prepared from a master video tape transferred to disc through "mastering," which imprints the disc with microscopic pits to be "read" by a laser beam during disc play. Slides, film, video, and print can all be transferred to videodisc.

A standard size videodisc can hold up to 30 minutes of high quality, motion video, or up to 54,000 still frames on each side. Modulation of the laser beam allows rapid, random access to any single frame on a disc side, without wear on the disc surface.

Additional features include dual audio tracks or stereo sound, variable-speed motion and single frame advance in forward or reverse modes, and the capacity for branching to specific frames or segments in response to viewer input.


System hardware configurations usually include a videodisc player, video monitor, microcomputer, computer screen, and an interface to connect the computer and the video player. Videodisc systems are categorized according to their level of interactivity.

--A Level 1 videodisc system is a stand-alone videodisc player, which may allow dual audio and random access of still frames, freeze-frames, auto-stop, and chapter search, but has no memory or processing power. A keypad is used to input data, and output may include audio from one of the two available channels together with standard motion and still frame graphics. The user can select what is to be viewed next and which audio channel will be heard.

--Level 2 systems use a stand-alone, educational/industrial player allowing disc control through an internal programmable microprocessor. The keypad at this level can be used for numeric entries and some special options. While the format of the output is essentially the same as it is for the Level 1 player, the microprocessor has enough memory to receive multiple programs and provide a more sophisticated level of interaction for the user.

--Level 3 disc systems add the power of an external computer to a videodisc player by connecting them with an interface device, usually a computer card. In addition to the videodisc for audio and motion graphics and still frame graphics, media for such systems include floppy diskettes for the computer programs. An audiocassette can also be used to provide random access sound over still frames and over computer graphics. Authoring packages are available to assist Level 3 program designers.

--More sophisticated systems are being developed which have capabilities far beyond those of the original Level 3 system. For example, a graphic overlay capability has been developed that allows the display to contain graphics generated by a computer, visuals from a videodisc, or a combination of the two, without the user being aware that the material comes from different sources; availability of more powerful (and less expensive) microcomputers has made possible an expansion of system control; and digital recording of audio can be used to greatly extend the amount of stereo sound that can be provided over still graphics on a single videodisc.

Compared to videotape, videodiscs have the advantage of increased durability, rapid access time, and, in large quantities, lower replication costs. Unlike videotape, however, once a videodisc is pressed, it is not possible to record over it, although very expensive recordable disc formats are available.


In addition to being useful in such traditional computer assisted instruction (CAI) formats as tutorials and drill and practice, videodisc technology holds special promise for a range of applications, including:

--Simulating expensive or dangerous procedures, as in physics or chemistry experiments, or teaching the operation of mechanical equipment

--Simulating human interactions to provide realistic practice in interpersonal situations, such as between salespersons and clients, teachers and students, medical personnel and patients, counselors and their clients, and teachers and parents

--Teaching standarized procedures that must be performed in a specific way, such as first aid training

--Storing audiovisual databases, such as collections of still photographs or illustrations

--Showing visual details and reviewing and comparing visual material, as in art education, health education, and technical training

--Using the two audio tracks to store different information about the same visual images for foreign language instruction, or for adapting materials for varied ability levels


Videodisc is still a new technology. Few commercial educational videodiscs are yet available. The situation is improving, with electronic publishing attracting increased interest from instructional materials producers. The first videodiscs have been primarily the product of research and development projects, although some of these are available for purchase or loan. Several projects are experimenting with the principles of interactive video by creating interactive videotape programs.

--The pioneering Nebraska Videodisc Design/Production Group has produced videodiscs on many topics, including whales, metrics, basic tumbling, Spanish pronunciation, and decision-making for the hearing/impaired, and has shared information through workshops, seminars, and publications.

--Utah State University has been actively involved with disc technology, producing discs for special education and other applications. The federally-funded Videodisc Interactive Microcomputer (VIM) Institute enabled elementary schools and other educational institutions to experiment with videodiscs in the classroom.

--Additional institutions with disc projects include the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium (MECC), the University of Washington (health sciences), the University of Iowa Weeg Computing Center (art history, medical education), the University of Delaware (music), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Lehigh University, Simon Fraser University, Brigham Young University, and the Pennsylvania State University.

Commercially available discs have addressed topics related to computer literacy and new electronic technologies, astronomy and space exploration, social studies, biology, music, art history, and physics. Major educational publishers are moving into the field. For example, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., is developing a program for K-12 to accompany a text book series.

Although research is still limited, early findings indicate that "interactive videodisc instruction, which is thoughtfully and systematically developed, and shows creative new instructional strategies, is beginning to demonstrate consistent positive results" (DeBloois, Maki, & Hall, 1984, p. 53). Studies have found that students learn more efficiently and enjoy learning more than with traditional approaches.


Although educators are often anxious to try interactive video in their classrooms, information to help them get started has been difficult to find. Phil Kessinger, a secondary school history teacher in Eugene, Oregon, was an early advocate of the medium and received a grant to provide inservice education about videodiscs to teachers in his district. He is helping to organize the Special Interest Group for Videodisc Interactive Microcomputers (SIGVIM) for educators who wish to share information about videodiscs. For further information, contact Phil Kessinger, SIGVIM, International Council for Computers in Education (ICCE), University of Oregon, 1787 Agate Street, Eugene, Oregon 97403 (503-686-4414).

The following additional resources should be helpful for anyone who would like to know more about this exciting technology.


International Interactive Communications Society (IICS). Local chapters in major cities, newsletter. Contact IICS National Office, 2120 Steiner Street, San Francisco, CA 94115 (415-922-0214).

Nebraska Video Design/Production Group. Newsletter, workshops, seminars. Contact the Videodisc Design/Production Group, KUON-TV, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, P.O. Box 83111, Lincoln, NE 68501 (402-472-3611).

Society of Applied Learning Technology (SALT). Annual conferences, publications. Contact SALT, 50 Culpeper Street, Warrenton, VA 22186 (703-347-0555).

Daynes, R. & Butler, B. (1984). THE VIDEODISK BOOK. A GUIDE AND DIRECTORY. New York: John Wiley and Sons.

Floyd, S., & Floyd, B. (1982). THE HANDBOOK OF INTERACTIVE VIDEO. White Plains, NY: Knowledge Industry Publications.

Schneider, E., & Bennion, J. (1980). VIDEODISCS. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.


rk, D. Joseph (1984, September/October). How do interactive videodiscs rate against other media? INSTRUCTIONAL INNOVATOR, 29(6), 12-16.

Currier, Richard L. (1983, November). Interactive videodisc learning system. HIGH TECHNOLOGY, 3(11), 51-59.

DeBloois, M., Maki, K.C., & Hall, A.F. (1984). EFFECTIVENESS OF INTERACTIVE VIDEODISC TRAINING: A COMPREHENSIVE REVIEW. Future Systems Incorpotared/The Videodisc Monitor.

Faust, J. (1985, July/August). A discography of available education discs. THE IICS JOURNAL, 3,7,9,10,12.

Reinhold, F. (1984, April). How they are using interactive videodiscs. ELECTRONIC LEARNING, 3(7), 56-57.

Withrow, F. (1985, Fall). Videodiscs: The thinking person's audiovisual. AMERICAN EDUCATOR, 22-25, 40-41.

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