Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Effects of Practice in a Linear and Non-Linear Web-Based Learning Environment

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Effects of Practice in a Linear and Non-Linear Web-Based Learning Environment

Article excerpt

Introduction

Instructional elements

Forty years ago, Robert Gagne published the first edition of his book The Conditions of Learning (1965) in which he proposed nine events of instruction that provide a sequence for organizing a lesson. These events remain the foundation of current instructional design practice (Reiser, 2002; Richey, 2000). They represent desirable conditions in an instructional program and increase the probability of successful learner achievement (Gagne, 1965, 1985, 1988; Gagne, Briggs & Wager, 1992). Other authors cite similar elements of instruction that promote student learning from an instructional program (Dick, Carey, & Carey, 2005; Sullivan & Higgins, 1983).

According to Forcier & Descy (2002), "every learning environment has an implied method of information presentation" (p. 104). Information is necessary to perform the task stated in an objective and is presented in a straightforward manner (Sullivan & Higgins, 1983). Apart from the information which is the basic instructional element that is needed in any instructional program, other instructional elements such as objectives, examples, practice with feedback and review are provided in addition. Some of the instructional elements that have been suggested by Gagne (1985) and Dick et al. (2005) to promote learning are objectives, practice with feedback, examples and review.

According to Clark & Mayer (2007) instructional methods are "the elements included in instruction for the purpose of supporting the achievement of the learning objective ... instructional methods are intended to encourage learners to use appropriate cognitive processing during instruction" (p. 314). These authors indicate that multimedia will promote learning to the extent that it supports human cognitive processes. Each of these instructional elements is described in the following paragraphs.

An instructional objective is a statement that describes an intended outcome of instruction (Dick et al., 2005; Mager, 1997). Objectives facilitate cognitive processing by focusing student attention, directing selective perception of specific lesson content, communicating expectations, and organizing new information into an existing structure (Foshay, Silber, & Stelnicki, 2003; Gagne, 1985; Gagne, Wager, Golas, & Keller, 2005, Smith & Ragan, 2005). According to Reiser & Dick (1996), "At a fairly early stage, learners should be informed of what it is that they are going to be able to do when they finish the instructional process. By knowing what will be expected of them, learners may be better able to guide themselves through that process" (p.48). Morrison, Ross, & Kemp (2006), indicate that although the general trend continues to be the use of objectives as a pre-instructional strategy, research results suggest providing learners with objectives is not as effective as once thought.

Practice involves eliciting performance from learners (Gagne, 1985; Gagne et al., 2005). It is often provided after learners have been given information required to master an objective. Practice provides an opportunity for learners to strengthen new knowledge by internalizing it so they can recall and use it (Foshay et al., 2003). It helps to confirm correct understanding and repeated practice increases the likelihood of retention (Klein, Spector, Grabowski & de la Teja, 2004; Kruse & Kevin, 1999). Practice is effective when it is aligned with assessment and with the skills, knowledge and attitudes reflected in the objectives (Merrill, 2002; Reiser & Dick, 1996).

Feedback can be defined as "knowledge of one's performance provided" (Delgado & Prieto, 2003, p. 73). Practice provides an opportunity for feedback that confirms the student's answer as being correct or indicates that it is incorrect. Feedback strengthens the probability of correct responses and reduces the probability of subsequent incorrect responses (Philips, Hannafin & Tripp, 1988). …

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