School of Business Administration introduces an interactive video tour – soon to
be available on diskette
Professor Warren Bennis appeared confident and friendly as he extolled the merits
of the Graduate School of Business Administration.
“We’re trying to create a learning environment, and I think the benefit is that
students get an appetite for learning,” Bennis said.
It was an immediate crowd pleaser. The audience of students chatted happily for a
Then they decided they had had enough of Bennis, so they wiped him out.
Bennis’ face vanished from the SVGA monitor of the computer in a fourth-floor
office in Bridge Hall, replaced by an options menu and a USC logo superimposed on
a photo of the campus.
The excited chatter in the room continued, however. The multimedia tour of USC’s
business school was just beginning.
“Tour guide” Christian Wagner, assistant professor of information and operations
management, created the computer- based tour using ToolBook, a program
development kit marketed by Asymetrix. From a futuristic perspective, the
computer tour could revolutionize the way USC presents itself to prospective
students, faculty and administrators a few years from now. Imagine a day when
people across the country would be able to visit the business school or the
entire University Park Campus from a home personal computer.
Wagner, however, had a more immediate and practical goal in mind when, with the
help of student assistants Karen Phillips and Tom Choi, he spent four months
designing the framework for the program that could hold such masses of
information. A multimedia system, Wagner felt, would not only benefit the school
but also become a solid teaching tool.
The result of his efforts is a 75-megabyte program that combines audio, video,
photography and graphics. It presents them all in a Windows environment, allowing
users to access their choice of information Mac173; from admissions data to students
talking about different aspects of their classes.
“The most difficult part was to create something that could be easily
maintained,” Wagner said. Students and faculty come and go, he explained, so the
program must be continually updated.
“With what I’ve done, you can change things screen by screen. If somebody leaves,
you just delete the person. It’s very modular.”
But Wagner wanted more than just an information database. He wanted to create a
program shell with menu options that would allow program operators to select
topics they wanted to hear about specifically.
“This shows how you can use existing technology to build an interest,” Wagner
said. “It’s a system that has a videotape feel, but has added features that
videotape just does not bring.”
Interviews with at least a dozen students, 20 faculty members and several
business school alumni are included in the program. It can be installed on any
386-or-better, IBM-compatible computer, but because it consumes so much memory,
Wagner is in the process of producing a scaled-down version that could be stored
on four floppy disks for easy mailing.
What makes it so hard to condense the material is that each minute of sound
consumes a half-megabyte of disk space, and each minute of video requires at
least one megabyte. A floppy disk version, therefore, would probably be severely
limited compared to the original.
The existing framework has already proved valuable. Wagner had students use the
program’s shell to build small programs of their own. Recent variations included
a travel agent program featuring views of European cities and accommodations, and
a real estate database showing different homes for sale. Both programs used only
about four megabytes.
“Our goal was to have students think about how they could do things like this
with today’s technology,” Wagner said. “It’s a good tool for teaching.”
As for the original, Wagner said he will modify it this summer to work out some
minor bugs. Then he hopes to get it on the business school’s computer network,
Kecknet, by the end of July. The program is not yet “a living thing. We’re still
nurturing it,” he said.