Computer assisted learning (CAL), once a novel concept, is a staple in numerous classrooms across the country, from the primary education to the university level. Computer assisted learning offers both students and teachers a daunting and near-limitless education supplement. However, this paper will examine examples where computer assisted learning is more or less effective and why. It will be revealed that computer assisted learning programs that are most effective are the ones which place precedence on interactivity. A particularly successful program, the Interaction Multimedia Computer Assisted Instruction Theory, will be examined carefully in regards to the strategy and concepts used in order to make such a learning program as successful as possible.
Educators and pedagogues have known for years the wealth of benefits that computer assisted learning can offer the student. Certain educational software programs equal a dissemination of difficult concepts and/or an illumination of intricate ideas. For example, instead of trying to rely on diagrams to showcase a complex process such as the double blood supply to the liver, a three dimensional digital displays can truly shed light on such matters (Azer, 2008). However, computer assisted learning is not the end all or be-all of education and should not be treated as an easy answer for improving education in schools. In fact, the study, "An Evaluation of the Effectiveness of Computer Assisted Learning Strategy and Expository Method of Teaching Biology: A Case Study of Lumen Christi International High School, Uromi, Niger" by E.O. Imhanlahimi and R.E. Imhanlahimi showcases the pitfalls and general lower performance of computer assisted learning, when in comparison with more dynamic methods of teaching.
For years, literature has suggested that computer assisted learning was the way forward to level the playing field in education, particularly in disadvantaged areas of the country. For example, in the study, "Computer Assisted Learning Project with Pratham in India" by Banjeree and colleagues, found that CAL related strategies was a legitimate way to get desirable results and improvement in education. For example, "Students who participated in the CAL program had higher math scores on average relative to the comparison group in the first year, math scores increased approximately 0.36 standard deviations, a substantial achievement when compared to other education interventions" (Banjeree et al., 2004). This clearly demonstrates that computer assisted learning can be an asset and bolster student comprehension and knowledge of general education subjects. However, computer assisted learning still has its limitations. Even though this study proved that computer assisted learning could be quite successful, "There was no measurable impact on language scores, suggesting that the introduction of computers did not have spillover effects on learning in other subjects" (Banjeree et al., 2004). This lucidly demonstrates that computer-assisted learning, as successful as it can potentially be, still has certain restrictions.
However, in the article "Computer assisted learning in undergraduate medical education" by Trisha Greenhalgh, the benefits and overall assets of CAL-based methods are lauded and focused upon. The article acknowledges that elements like a reduction in funding, an increase in student numbers, geographical sprawl, and a rise in a more competitive global market are all factors which have forced medical universities to be more aggressive in implementing computer assisted learning (Greenhalgh, 2001). However, Greenhalgh does acknowledge that in order for computer assisted learning to be effective, there needs to be effective and thorough support and training for staff and students, not to mention strategic planning, resource sharing, staff incentives and an active promotion of multidisciplinary working with efficient quality control (Greenhalgh, 2001). Thus, Greenhalgh makes a valid point: while CAL programs do have often mixed, but generally beneficial results, they will be expensive, disastrous mistakes if not given the proper infrastructure and educating students and teachers alike in how to use them (2001).
Similar findings emerged in the article, "The Advantages and Disadvantages of Computer Technology in Second Language Acquisition" by Lai and Kritsonis. The authors conclude that when it comes to learning a second language, computer assisted learning proves to be a massive benefit. It offers the student things like practice via experiential learning; offering the student more learning motivation, an enhancement of student achievement, an enlargement of materials to study, an emphasis of individual student needs, an enlargement of global understanding and an independence from a single source of information (Lai & Kritsonis, 2006). However, the authors unflinchingly state the disadvantages of CAL-centered programs. For example, as effective as they might be, they represent an intense added cost for schools and parents. Low income schools have a tough time affording computers as do low income students.
Technological training becomes a must for all, adding up to another drawback of computer assisted learning. Finally, ESL learning truly highlights one of the major drawbacks of computer assisted learning: namely, that computers cannot handle unexpected situations and scenarios (Lai & Kritsonis, 2006). "Second language learners' learning situations are various and ever changing. Due to the limitations of computer's artificial intelligence, computer technology is unable to deal with learners' unexpected learning problems and response to learners' question immediately as teachers do" (Lai & Kritsonis, 2006). This is no small problem and is an undeniable one related to computer assisted learning -- one which teachers must anticipate and prepare their students for.
All of these pieces of literature on the subject have showcased the exact same issue: that while computer assisted learning does have its benefits, making it affordable, attainable and accessible to all schools in a fair and equal fashion is definitely a challenge.
Analysis and Discussion
This situation is comparable to automobile research. For example, certain findings suggest that individuals are safer and enjoy smoother transport in certain vehicles that have reinforced doors and four wheel drive. Ideally, everyone would drive such vehicles, though clearly, not everyone can afford them. Computers in schools pose the exact same financial problem, even though the rewards might be great. Proper training in technology, a requirement for students and teachers is another necessity in order to enable computer assisted learning and one which requires both time and money. However, an even greater problem exists, one which E.O. Imhanlahimi and R.E. Imhanlahimi elucidate in their paper. Most computer assisted learning problems don't offer the users a great deal of dynamism and interactivity which makes learning truly effective and successful (2008). A single user staring in front of a computer, following the prompts and questions posed by the program can still be extremely valuable. However it lacks the interactivity that computer assisted learning programs with multiple simultaneous users, a teacher leading the lesson and a strong background in technology can offer students. The problem remains that students and teachers alike must focus upon working towards not simply settling for a single CAL program, but adopting one which requires a more communal and vigorous learning approach.
Evaluation of Study
The Interaction Multimedia Computer Assisted Instruction Theory (IMMCAI) was created by the School of Industrial Education and Technology of King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi and acts as a guide for being able to harness all the benefits of computer assisted learning, while keeping the curriculum and strategy of learning as educational as possible. According to IMMCAI, "…previously dumb, mute and passive computers have become smart, talkative and interactive. These are essential for feasible CAI applications, especially in respect of language teaching/learning that involve speaking, question-and-answer and other forms of idea communication interactivities" (Iskander, 2008). With these innovations students and teachers get the best of both worlds: computers that can do more than simply display or test, but work with the user, tailoring the content to the individual's needs and responding to questions that the user might have, with a host of dynamic resources.
This prototype merely warrants a basic level of training for teachers and before they know it, they're designing instructional materials, detailing them to respond to their own personal needs in a non-laborious way (Iskander, 2008). As the prototype details, this interactive computer assisted theory can reduce grading and examination packages (Iskander, 2008). When it comes to the implementation of a particular program of this prototype, a rigorous 16 step process is outlined in order to ensure the success of the program. For example, analysis is part of the process, consisting of brainstorm chart drafting, concept chart drafting and contextual network chart drafting (Iskander, 2008). These methods ensure a solid foundation and cognitive agility and comprehension before beginning the process. The next part of the process involves design; this revolves around a strategic presentation plan opposed with behavior objectives and course flow drafting (Iskander, 2008). These steps engage the teacher and students heavily with a great deal of focus on strategy and best approaches for explanation, spotlighting the best ways to set goals for the prototype and how to adapt it to the needs of a particular classroom. The next step involves the development and formation of coursework, a process that revolves heavily around the development of the structure and script for the program (Iskander, 2008). The implementation of this prototype…