Examining the Presence of Computer-Assisted Instruction in Physical Therapy Education

By Erickson, Mia L. | Journal of Allied Health, Winter 2004 | Go to article overview

Examining the Presence of Computer-Assisted Instruction in Physical Therapy Education


Erickson, Mia L., Journal of Allied Health


The purpose of this study was to compare computer-assisted instruction (CAI) use in physical therapist (PT) and physical therapist assistant (PTA) education programs. Secondary purposes included examining faculty attitudes toward CAI, selection criteria, and evaluation criteria. Questionnaires were mailed to 389 PT and PTA programs. The total return rate was 52% (N = 201). Frequencies, percentages, and modes of responses were calculated for each questionnaire item. Eight percent of PT and 35% of PTA programs indicated that all faculty are using CAI, whereas 3% of PT and 6% of PTA reported that no faculty are using CAI. PT program respondents indicated using nine different types of CAI, whereas PTA programs indicated using eight different types. Fifty-seven percent of PT and 33% of PTA programs provide formal computer instruction. Forty-six percent of PT and 47% of PTA programs have a computer prerequisite. Nine percent of PT and 0% of PTA programs have mandatory computer ownership or lease policies. Positive aspects reported included improved knowledge of technology and independence with information gathering. Negative aspects reported included cost and time. Respondents were unsure whether different students benefit more from CAI (high or low aptitude, learning style) Results indicated that criteria for selecting CAI material are based on cost, ease of use, and compatibility with current systems rather than instructional design, and evaluation procedures included student outcomes and course evaluations. Contextual differences between PT and PTA probably account for differences in types and uses of CAI for PT and PTA programs. Instructor feedback is important when using CAI to teach psychomotor skills. More research is needed to determine if one type of student benefits more than others. Programs should consider the instructional design of CAI materials, in addition to practical aspects such as cost, and ease of use. We need to be aware of the instructional goals,content, and learners when selecting, designing, and using CAI. J Allied Health. 2004; 33:255-266.

MANY ALLIED HEALTH education programs have integrated computer-assisted instruction (CAI) into existing curricula. Decisions to integrate computers often are related to better technology, increasing access, and institutional demands. Additional decisions have evolved from society's demands for graduates to be computer literate and proficient in information access and computer-based communication. Although decisions to integrate computers are different today from 3 decades ago, problems remain the same. These include faculty training, time, cost, and rapid obsolescence of hardware and software. In addition, educators are not convinced this mode of instruction is superior to traditional methods.

Literature Review

Many authors have attempted to evaluate the efficacy of CAI with mixed results. Most authors indicate that CAI is at least as effective as traditional instruction.1"7 Napholz and McCanse8 indicated, however, that CAI is superior to traditional instruction, whereas Faux and Black-Hughes9 reported that CAI is less effective than traditional instruction. Using CAI as a supplement to lecture also has been evaluated with varying results. Gilbert and Kolacz10 indicated that CAI and traditional instruction (e.g., worksheets, small group work) are equally effective lecture supplements. Miller11 and Boling and Robinson12 reported that CAI is less effective, whereas Plack13 indicated that CAI is more effective than traditional instruction as a lecture supplement. Finally, Froman et al.14 and Cohen'5 indicated that CAI is more effective as a supplement when implemented after the traditional instruction.

Several problems with the literature exist. First, there is no research examining the effects of CAI in Associate degree programs, such as physical therapist assistant (PTA). second, authors have pointed out that students' learning styles3,4 and aptitude5,6'16"20 might affect their performance when using CAI. …

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