Computer Assisted Instruction (CAI) refers to an educational system of instruction performed almost entirely by computer. The term, Computer Based Learning (CBL) refers to the use of computers as a key component of the educational environment. While CAI and CBL can refer to the use of computers in a classroom, they more broadly refer to a structured environment in which computers are used for teaching purposes. Computer programs allow students to work at their own pace along with direct and individualized feedback. Misconceptions can be corrected as they appear and the students’ records and scores are made available to the instructor. The use of computers in the teaching and learning process is an important advance in making the highest quality of education universally available, and thus allowing each person to most fully develop their potential.
Computer assisted instruction (CAI) includes a variety of computer-based packages that provide interactive instruction. Some are sophisticated and expensive commercial packages while other applications are simple solutions developed by individuals for a local situation. Since work done in one subject area is difficult to transfer to other subject areas, much time and money needs to be invested toward its development. However, once an application has been set up, the cost per additional student is relatively small. Since fewer face to face lectures and seminars are required, this also places fewer geographical and temporal constraints on staff and students.
Computer assisted instruction can be Internet-based or run on a personal computer from a CD or DVD. Presentations on computers are particularly suited to subjects that are visually intensive, detail oriented, and difficult to conceptualize. Upper level science courses can benefit the most using the “virtual” cases to illustrate the complex biochemical processes or microscopic images as well as reducing the need to use animal or human tissue. Since the 1970s, CAI packages have become more advanced, interactive, and attractive multimedia learning experiences.
Computer educational systems typically incorporate functions such as:
- Assessing student capabilities with a pre-test
- Presenting educational materials in a navigable form
- Providing repetitive drills to improve the student’s command of knowledge
- Providing game-based drills to increase learning enjoyment
- Assessing student progress with a post-test
- Routing students through a series of courseware instructional programs.
- Recording student scores and progress for later inspection by a courseware instructor
With some systems, feedback can be geared towards a student’s specific mistakes, or the computer can navigate the student through a series of questions adapting to what the student appears to have learned or not learned. This kind of feedback is especially useful when learning a language, and numerous computer-assisted language learning (CALL) programs have been developed. A typical CALL program presents a stimulus to which the learner must respond. The stimulus may be presented in any combination of text, still images, sound, and motion video. The learner responds by typing at the keyboard, pointing and clicking with the mouse, or speaking into a microphone. The computer offers feedback, indicating whether the learner’s response is right or wrong and, in the more sophisticated programs, attempting to analyze the learner’s response and to pinpoint errors.
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