System Allows Firm to Achieve Better Control in the Classroom

Oracle Education had a vexing problem. The Atlanta, Ga.-division of the world's leading supplier of information management software needed a flexible, cost-effective solution for its computer training facilities. The Oracle product line had grown to include Windows-based client-server applications with a graphic user interface (GUI) front end. This made the traditional method of single-screen projection for classroom instruction insufficient. Projection Systems Fall Short There were also the inherent troubles often associated with projection systems: low-light level requirements and difficult viewing from the student workstation.For a solution, Oracle enlisted the help of Richard Derbyshire of Derbyshire Systems Design, Arlington, Va. Derbyshire needed to find a system that delivered certain necessary features and met Oracle's budget concerns. He turned to TECH Electronics of Norcross, Ga., which manufactures electronic media distribution and control systems that suit a variety of training settings. The firm's TECH Commander is a sophisticated control and display system that places all of a classroom's computers and monitors under the direction of the instructor. A single keystroke sends the instructor's screen to students: one, all or assignable groups. "After researching available systems, we found the TECH Commander to be the best solution, based on its price/performance ratio," says Derbyshire. "It was the fast, compatible and reliable answer to the question of display and control." Instructors can now route images and information to individual workstations. Other features include the ability to blank students' screens, lock-out their keyboards, call the instructor by an audible tone and send display output to a large screen. True One-to-One Interaction Because of direct instructor control, one-to-one interaction is a practical reality. And remote keyboard or mouse control allows for direct participation with a student. The bottom line is better productivity for the instructor and better training for the student. Several side benefits were realized as well. By placing all CPUs in a central location, security issues were addressed. Because students lacked physical access to the CPU, they couldn't spread viruses, copy software or damage hardware. Plus, from a facilities standpoint, the central location better served power, airflow and maintenance requirements of the Pentium-class machines. At Oracle, the trainer uses a simple Control Console with large, labeled pushbuttons. A backlit LCD provides textual menus and information on system status. An RS-232 port lets a linked computer control the system as well. In addition to its sophisticated control and display-routing capabilities, the TECH Commander was selected because of its nationwide dealership network for installation, service and support, according to Derbyshire. "TECH Electronics provided a complete package."

This article originally appeared in the 06/01/1995 issue of THE Journal.