Videodidact Unites Classroom Computers

It is the first full day of class lecture. The students file into the computerized classroom and sit at their PCs. Dr. Brian Reithel, Associate Professor of MIS at the University of Mississippi, starts his hour and fifteen-minute lecture. About twenty minutes into the lecture, it is obvious that some students are no longer following his instructions to work on a practice assignment on their computers.

Deftly, Reithel reaches for the multi-keyed keypad located on the top of his podium and punches one button. Instantly a game of solitaire appears on his screen. He strikes another key and an e-mail message appears on the screen as it is being written. Next, Reithel hits a button that blanks the screen of every student in the room. This gets their attention immediately. Most students look confused. Some look surprised and embarrassed. Yet, Reithel has the attention of them all. As an observer in the class, I ask, “How did you do that?” Reithel responds, “Videodidact.” Video what?

Reithel knows, and the rest of us quickly learn, that Videodidact, along with the rest of this new high-tech business building, helps university faculty teach with greater efficiency and effectiveness in this nationally competitive MIS program.

Videodidact Select is a multi-featured hardware-based video network system that enables an instructor to monitor, assist, and control each student computer in the classroom. This can be done from a keypad that sits on the instructor’s podium. The keypad has one key for each student computer station and nine function keys. Using certain combinations of keys, the instructor can:


•           Monitor each student’s progress by viewing their screens through the instructor’s computer;


•           Share his/her screen with one student, a group, or all students;


•           Enable students to share screens among themselves;


•           Take control of any or all student computer screens and keyboards;


•           Blank any, a group, or all student computers to gain students’ attention; and


•           Project the teacher screen or any student screen through an LCD projector.


No More Walking Around

With Videodidact Select, an instructor can more effectively use class time and ensure that more students’ questions are being answered. Students can ask for help without raising their hands. A help button feature allows the student to get the instructor’s attention. Then, the instructor will look at the student’s screen, and if necessary, override his keyboard and mouse to give him the answer to his question. This ensures that even those timid students unwilling to ask that “stupid” question in front of the class can have their questions answered while maintaining their anonymity.

The system’s monitoring feature identifies slower students, class leaders, and slackers to the instructor. By viewing their work in progress, common problem areas will be identified. A particular student’s screen can be projected anonymously through an LCD projector onto a display screen so that a problem can be solved in front of the entire class. Sharing the problem screen with the other students on their personal screens is another way to accomplish this.

Additionally, the monitoring feature will identify unique problems. These can be remedied by enabling the student experiencing the problem to view the screen of a student who has solved that specific problem. The student with the problem can toggle back and forth between his or her computer and the other student’s screen. Once the instructor decides they have had enough time to get up to speed, he or she can remove that ability with the push of a button.

The features of Videodidact make it a powerful educational tool that takes classroom instruction to a higher qualitative level. Reithel has observed that his students appear to retain more class material than they did prior to the installation of the system, since students are more actively involved in the learning process.


Utilizing the System

Videodidact is simple to use. Most of the functions can be performed with just one or two keystrokes. With two keystrokes, instructors can adjust the system to receive a different student screen every three seconds, and can easily project any screen through a projector. Two keystrokes will send any screen to one or all students.

Videodidact can be used in a computer programming or a MIS class. In addition to college classroom use, Videodidact can be very effective in classrooms at any level of instruction. The academic classroom is not the only venue where the system is effective. Corporations have found using Videodidact in their training classrooms to be very effective. In Europe, seventy percent of all Videodidact systems are installed in corporate classrooms. Some European customers include SAP, BMW, Lufthansa, Siemens, and Mercedes Benz, just to name a few.

Another use for the Videodidact system is in testing centers. With more and more standardized tests being administered on computers, test proctors, like instructors, face the problems that come with having to walk from student to student to answer questions. With Videodidact, they can answer questions without holding up the entire testing process.


Comparing the Systems

Other video network systems for computer classrooms are on the market. Some are hardware systems and others are software packages. The hardware systems operate in much the same way as Videodidact. Videodidact, unlike other hardware systems, uses a star topology, while other hardware systems use a bus topology. The star topology provides consistent screen quality for every terminal on the system. In a bus system, if one computer g'es down, the reaction of the computers beyond that point is uncertain. Also, a star topology d'es not require electrical expanders or extenders, which can result in equipment damage in the event of a surge. Videodidact has no electricity running through its computer-to-computer lines.

While software alternatives require a considerably smaller initial investment, software requires extra memory in each computer. Also, compatibility is not a problem with Videodidact. It will work on any computer system, and d'es not require any extra memory or processing speed. For instance, Vid'edidact could easily link a classroom that had new 500 MHz computers along with some old 386s, and each would share screens in real-time.

Overall, Videodidact has been a very reliable system. Reithel states that Videodidact is “as steady as a rock.”



Contact Information
Educational & Business Systems, Inc.
Port Charlotte, FL
(941) 697-0780

This article originally appeared in the 04/01/2000 issue of THE Journal.