Developing Computer-Based Instructional Courses

By Maul, Gary P.; Spotts, David S. | Industrial Management, November/December 1993 | Go to article overview

Developing Computer-Based Instructional Courses


Maul, Gary P., Spotts, David S., Industrial Management


One definition of computer-based training (CBT) is that it is a method of presenting educational material to a student by way of a computer program. This program provides the opportunity for individual interaction. Computer-based training is known by many names. These include computer-assisted learning, computer-based instruction and computer-aided instruction.

While it may appear that computer instruction is relatively new, its development can be traced to the 1920s when Pressey, a lecturer at a teachers' college, developed a teaching machine that could produce measurable amounts of learning in students. The machine was a simple multiple-choice testing device. A question and answer sheet was inserted into a simple wooden box with two levers. The question would appear in a window with the four choices for answers. Students would then select the lever that corresponded to their answer. If the students answered correctly, the next question appeared in the window. If they answered incorrectly, the question remained in the window and an error mark was tallied in a separate window on the box. In this manner, an accurate count of incorrect guesses could be tracked.

THE EVOLUTION OF CBT

Today, cognitive learning theories are concerned with the way individuals gain and use knowledge, and not simply with observable events. The cognitive learning theory is concerned with several key components. These are the effects of stimuli on subject's receptors, short-term memory storage, long-term memory storage, the encoding and decoding of information and the retrieval of stored information.

Robert Gagne has taken the principles of cognitive learning theory and derived several categories of learning outcomes from them. These categories include verbal information, intellectual skills, cognitive strategies, motor skills and attitudes. Of these five categories, the two that are most likely to be a target for CBT are verbal information and intellectual skills.

Verbal information refers to learned material such as names, labels, sentences or other information likely to be printed in text. A performance, demonstrating knowledge of this information, might be a recitation of Pascal's Law.

Intellectual skills can be subdivided into four categories that are applicable to CBT. These subcategories are concrete concept, defined concept, rule and problem solving.

Concrete concept can be stated as identifying objects or properties of objects and events. Demonstrated knowledge of this concept might be identifying a two-way pneumatic valve as normally open or normally closed.

A defined concept is one that must be identified by stating the rule that defines it. The force exerted by a pneumatic piston is a good example of this. To display an understanding of this concept, the student must know the air pressure in the cylinder, the area of the piston and the relationship between them.

A rule is defined as a relation between two or more concepts. Students demonstrate knowledge of a rule when they can apply it to new situations. Using another pneumatics example, if students are given a cylinder area and different air pressure, they should be able to calculate the new force. This would demonstrate the application of the "force" rule to a new situation.

Problem solving can be defined as the application of previously learned rules to an unfamiliar situation. Examples of this frequently deal with presenting the student with a "real-life" situation to which he or she must apply the appropriate learned rules.

Once the learning objectives of a lesson plan have been identified, a sequence of instructional events must be planned to elicit these objectives. The nine steps of the instructional process are:

* Gain student's attention;

* Inform student of lesson objective;

* Stimulate recall of prior learning;

* Present stimuli with distinctive features;

* Guide the student's learning;

* Elicit performance;

* Provide feedback;

* Assess performance; and

* Enhance retention and learning transfer. …

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