Computer assisted instruction


Any discussion of computer-assisted instruction (CAI) cannot proceed very far without first examining the issue of programmed instruction (PI). CAI is a relatively recent development in the area of education and training, whereas PI enjoys a somewhat longer history. Nonetheless, PI lies at the very heart of CAI and forms the base on which CAI exists. CAI then, may be viewed as a mode or type of PI. B. F. Skinner's work in the 1940's with the principles of operant conditioning laid the groundwork for the concept of PI (Garner, 1966). Operant conditioning is a type of conditioning whereby an emitted response is reinforced. The reinforcement should increase the strength of the response and presumably increase the chances that the response will occur again (Munn, Fernald, & Fernald, 1972). Operant conditioning, in which an individual is conditioned to behave in the direction of a predetermined goal, is achieved through the contingent reinforcement of a series of steps. These steps of action are linked together in a chain of successive approximations. Each link of the chain approximates the end goal slightly more than the previous link. This chain of successive approximations is followed until the end behavior is achieved (Garner, 1966). In this respect, PI makes use of the sequencing of small successive steps and contingent reinforcement to achieve some desired end goal, namely, achieving the lesson objective. This "Skinnerian" or linear form of PI requires the student to proceed through a forward moving chain in a step-by-step fashion until the end behavior is achieved. The step-by-step sequence, as it pertains to PI, refers to the individual segments or frames of a PI lesson. Each frame might be considered one step of the entire PI lesson. These frames, which should flow logically from one to the next, should build upon each other and approximate the lesson objective. Periodically, progress should be monitored in order to assure that the student is comprehending the lesson material (Wilson & Tosti, 1972). Typically, this is accomplished by incorporating multiple choice or true/false questions within the PI lesson itself. By so doing, student performances can be checked and appropriate actions taken within the concept of reinforcement. Deterline (1962) argues that all learned behavior is based on, reinforcement. Individuals learn by acting on their environment and, in turn, are influenced by the consequences of their actions (Deterline, 1962). Then consequences strengthen behavior, reinforcement is said to have taken place.


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Master of Science (M.S.)


College of Social Sciences

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Industrial Psychology




37 p.




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Masters Thesis (Open Access)




Computer assisted instruction

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Retrospective Theses and Dissertations

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