Web-based tutorials offer an opportunity to provide automated individualized feedback to help students develop, for example, the ability to identify independent and dependent variables and the ability to discriminate between experimental and predictor variables. Doing so enables them to distinguish between the relatively clear-cut causal conclusions from true experiments and the more in depth analysis required to judge causality from correlational studies. Evaluation data shows the Web tutorial (http://cas.bellarmine.edu/Osborn/hypertut_piv) improved student performance compared to a print tutorial. The strongest effect size (Cohen's d = .50) was obtained when comparing print problem solving only classes to print problem solving plus Web tutorial-available classes' performance. Also, using Blackboard to add class points as a direct incentive for using the tutorial material may lead to increased performance (Cohen's d = 30) over simply making the Web tutorial available.
Differentiating between antecedent or independent variables (IV) and consequent or dependent variables (DV) is essential for understanding psychological research. Understanding the difference between correlational findings and experimentally based causal findings is necessary for the critical thinking skill of the evaluation and specification of evidence. These higher level cognitive skills are difficult to teach and the rapid and accurate feedback available through computerized tutorials has the potential to develop these skills in the most time effective way for both students and instructors. Many instructors use publisher provided course supplements that seem to teach these distinctions but, unfortunately, there are no published evaluations of proprietary course supplements so their instructional value is uncertain.
However, there are some evaluations of instructor developed electronic materials. Koch and Gobell (1999) found online tutorials led to improved accuracy in decisions about design issues and the correct choice of statistics in an advanced course on research methods and statistics. Similarly, in advanced research methods and cognitive classes, Washburn and Flemming (2004) showed their complicated computerized drills helped students develop the critical thinking skill of discriminating facts from interpretations, a basic building block of critical thinking. However, other studies have found lower student performance from computer-assisted instruction (CAI). For example, Cracolice and Abraham (1996) concluded that as the difficulty of the problems in a …