What is Computer Assisted Instruction?

Computer Assisted Instruction

“Computer Assisted Instruction has now taken on so many dimensions that it can no longer be considered a simple derivative of the teaching machine or of the kind of programmed learning that Skinner introduced.

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The teaching machine and the linear or branching programmers are to be sure, its immediate ancestors, but it has evolved rapidly.” (Hilgard and Bowar, “Theories of Learning” Prentice Hall of India, New Delhi, 1975.)


The impact of the computer on education will be in the area or clerical and accounting efficiency because the great advantage of computer over other kinds of educational technology lies in the nature of the device it computes.

Therefore the computer provides a flexible presentation of materials to the learner and also keeps track of the progress of the number of learners at the same time. In the earlier chapter a detailed description of C.B.T.M. is given. Evidently a C.B.T.M. has three capacities.

1. In a given subject area, it must have at its disposal a number of different programmes.

2. It must be able to change programmes during the course of instruction.


3. When specifying a programme for each student, it must make use of the student’s entering behaviour, general ability and personality characteristics.

Modes of CAI

1. The first mode is the tutorial drill and practice procedure which is an outgrowth of programme learning.

2. The systems developed by Atkinson and Suppers at Stanford are commonly used by teachers without the computer. The computer has the advantage of individualization the activities and of introducing greater learning efficiency through the management of the learning by the computer.


3. Another use is in connection with games that stimulate actual problems whereby complex decisions in relation to metropolitan problems of political control systems can be made and their consequences studied.

4. Another method has been used in the teaching of statistics at the University of California at Los Angeles. The student learns a computer language through which he can manipulate large bodies of data, and hence come out of the statistics course able to handle data.

Devices Used in CAI

Ronald Gentile describes some of the following devices used in CAI:

1. Type-writers ask a question under computer control and answer a question under student control.

2. Film projection devices, on the basis of student responses, select films, present auditory and visual materials and automatically score students responses.

3. With Cathode-ray tubes a pen can be used for drawing curves indicating answers on a screen. These answers can then be evaluated by a computer.

4. Display superimposed on films highlight certain excepts on the films.

5. Random-access slides and films are available. The area of auditory communication presents many unsolved problems. There are two devices developed for auditory communication. They are:

(i) Compiled Speech:

Here the computer has random access to pre-recorded phrases which can be arranged on the basis of student response. For example, the computer can tell the student a chemical formula.

(ii) Synthetic Speech:

Here the computer uses a set of rules to convert stored speech, sounds into meaningful speech patterns.

Theory of CAI

1. CAI

It was developed on some sound assumptions. Therefore, it is popular in the training for different levels and areas of education. This instruction can be arranged for a large number of students with scope for maintaining quality and quantitative education.

Computer based programmes provide the maximum amount of flexibility (flexible kind of branching including alternative parts and different examples for the students who may need them therefore the learner goes at his own pace, receives immediate personalized feedback and freely chooses the content, sequencing and degree of difficulty of instruction. CAI has completely individualized section.

2. Any lesson material in any subject can be programmed for CAI with explicitly defining the strategy to be used and the lesson material to be presented in the form of words, pictures and experiments. Because of the variety and veracity, CAI serves as an effective educational tool to meet the varied problems of students on a sound educational basis.

In advanced countries the introduction of CAI has created a fear in the minds of teachers that CAI will replicate the people of the teacher and to some extent eliminates teachers from the teaching scene.

From experiences it is found that the truth is otherwise, since CAI has become a powerful tool for the teacher in his instruction. The Teacher has a changing role or play in the new technological society and goes out of his conventional assignment of delivering lectures alone.

The teacher takes an active role. It is significant that CAI directly interacts with students individually and with the teacher.

3. In CAI the performance of the learner during the course of instruction and his performance on the test are automatically recorded. Therefore, his performance can be evaluated by the teacher enabling to evolve or design the appropriate teaching strategy for the learner in future.

Limitations of the Theory

Deceeco and Crawford (1977), observed: “considerably more progress has been made with the technical development of CAI than with the problem of writing instructional programmes. The chief unsolved technical problem is how to reduce the cost sufficiently to prevent bankruptcy of local school districts.

As in the case of the general development and use of the instructional media, the temptation has been to dazzle the student with an array of visual and auditory stimuli which serve more to impress him with the ‘capabilities of a computer than to provide him with the necessary instruction.”

1. How to provide for individual difference is not specified clearly. The individual differences are varied in nature depending on the individuals. Therefore, all the differences cannot be accommodated by allowing the computer to generate sequences on the basis of student response.

2. The expectation to eliminate the individual differences by any teaching method becomes unrealistic because of “prior differences in student verbal abilities and mental sets”.

3. We need a classification of individual difference variables especially in terms of learning variables.

4. Adaptation to individual differences most proves to be superior to teaching which is aimed at the group mean.

CAI and Evaluation

There are many appropriate approaches to the evaluation of educational endeavours, which are evolving in adding to the usual individual measurement approach, Scrivan (1967), states clearly that “As a matter of terminology, I think that novel terms are worthwhile here, to avoid in appropriate connotations, and I purpose to use the terms “formative” and “summative” to quality evaluation in these roles.

“These roles” refer to the role of evaluation in improving a course while it is still fluid-being developed and its role finding the worth of a completed product course, text, instructional package, and so forth. (Serivan J.C., the Methodology of Evaluation. Area Monograph Series on Curriculum Evaluation, Chicago, Rand Mc Nally Co 1967, No 1, pp 39-83).

Formative evaluation refers to a student’s learning during a course, when changes can be made in the transactions of subsequent instruction on the basis of current attainment.

Summative refers to evaluation of a student’s assessment at the end of a course or topic or unit, that is, when no subsequent changes in treatment for that learning will be made, therefore, in the former, the focus is upon the alteration of course or other unit during its development.

A text-book author, a teacher in the class-room or a team of curriculum developers is called the ‘developers’. Here CAI is an instrument for change. We know CAI is the result of the convergence of two technologies: programmed instruction technology and computer technology. The basic ingredients in CAI may be described briefly.

A lesson to be taught is analysed into the essential message to a student. This message may be delivered through words, graphs, pictures of any combination, some messages may be auditory.

As materials are presented the student reacts to them by answering questions, working problems identifying points on a graph or objects in a picture giving examples, requesting more information or a change to review messages presented previously, and so forth.

Depending upon the student’s response, the computer presents the next messages in the lesson, additional messages, ideas given earlier, and a review of earlier messages or additional ‘developing’ questions.

These operations can be part of any programmed instruction. However, these operations are controlled by a computer in CAI. Therein lays the special application of CAI to formative evaluation.

We know the computer can be used to analyze data very rapidly. Besides, the same computer which controls the instruction can be used to collect information concerning the following variables in the learner’s responses:

(a) Length of time between presentation of questions and student response.

(b) Requests by the learner for review and the material reviewed.

(c) Requests for additional information of examples.

(d) The computer can store in its memory any ‘legal’ move.

(e) The computer can be requested to summarize such veriables over students or sub-groups of students.

(f) Number of times the learner reviews an item or responds incorrectly after review.

Consider an example of the CAI-Lesson concerning the concept of their relation between volume and pressure in gases. Illustrations and definitions are presented.

The student is asked to respond to some questions. He applies the concept to a problem. The students are progressing at different rates in reading the message (words, pictures, graphs) and in responding to request.

The computer keeps track for each student of each of the kinds of variables list, above. Then the computer can summarize the number ‘incorrect’ responses across the students.

The teacher has sub-group the students, for example, by vocabulary level of achievement, marks in science in the previous class, the computer can be request^ to summarize each group separately.

There are at present some CAI system in which the author car change materials in a lesson-the messages, the questions, and forth,-through the use of one of the student stations with a specify control. The mere collection of the group data would allow a class room teacher or curriculum development team to revise lessons in much better way than is customary today.

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