Computer-Based Learning Essay

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Computers are tools for learning; and as such are not essentially different from the way dictionaries, calculators, and videos are teaching and learning tools. However, computers provide a wide range of learning experiences that do make them qualitatively and quantitatively different from other learning tools. Three ways that computers measurably benefit the learning experience include communication, information access and retrieval, and training. Computers facilitate communication between learner and teacher, or between learner and peers. With computers and their applications, the raw data of learning -- that is, information -- becomes accessible to both teacher and learners. Training manuals and tutorials can be digitalized in ways that are accessible to learners regardless of geography and time. In spite of these three benefits of computers as learning tools, there are three detriments to the use of information technology in the higher education classroom. One detriment is the digital divide, or income disparity issues preventing equal access to computers. This issue is as much related to institutional costs as it is to individual ability to afford personal computers. Another detriment of computers in the learning environment is the technical restraints they pose, which can make information retrieval more time consuming and complicated than it was before information technology was being used regularly. Finally, computers evolve rapidly and require a continual update of skills and services. This can be costly in terms of time, energy, and resources for learner and the educational institution. In spite of these drawbacks, the use of computers as a learning tool in higher education is entrenched, and the future of computers depends on developing ideal policies for their implementation and pedagogical use.

As Ward, Gordon, Field & Lehmann (2011) point out how computers in medical and health care learning has been particularly important for communication. "Campus-wide computer networks have transformed communications within medical schools. This infrastructure is increasingly being used for the provision of integrated learning and teaching environments, and e-mail is the medium of choice for communication between students and faculty," (p. 792). Communication is central to the learning experience, and is the backbone of instruction. When a teacher needs to communicate instructional material to a student, a computer has become a preferred method of lesson delivery. This is especially true in the online learning classroom. The online learning classroom is the natural extension of computer-based learning. Some universities have evolved as online-only learning environments such as the University of Phoenix. This has allowed students from around the world to engage in an academic environment, with academic discourse, without the restrictions that time, space, and money would otherwise present. A virtual classroom has become very bit as real as a brick-and-mortar classroom, in the way that an online store like Amazon.com has effectively replaced the need for brick-and-mortar establishments. In education, the revolution in the way students and instructors communicate can be attributed to computers.

A second core benefit of the use of computers as a learning tool is that they increase access to information. Information retrieval becomes nearly instantaneous via the use of online digital databases, whether those databases are located on the World Wide Web or on a private school network. Information has become more democratized, enabling students from all walks of life to access scholarly literature, thereby participating in the process of knowledge creation, analysis, and dissemination. The blogging phenomenon has revealed ways that information has become democratized, rather than remaining within the province of an elite few. Computers have fostered student empowerment as a result (Warschauer, Turbee & Roberts, 1996). Information retrieval using computers is one of the main benefits of their continued use in higher education settings of all types.

The third major benefit…

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References

Tam, M.D., Hart, A.R., Williams, S., Heylings, D. & Leinster, S. (2009). Is learning anatomy facilitated by computer-aided learning? A review of the literature. Informa 31(9): 393-396.

Ward, J.P.T., Gordon, J., Field, M.J. & Lehmann, H.P. (2001). Communication and information technology in medical education. The Lancet. Vol. 357: 792-796.

Warschauer, M., Turbee, L. & Roberts, B. (1996). Computer learning networks and student empowerment. System 24(1): 1-14.

Zickuhr, K. & Smith, A. (2012). Digital differences. Pew Internet.

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