Computer-based training (CBT) instruction is a very diverse and rapidly expanding spectrum of computer technologies that can assist anyone from a child to a doctor in teaching and learning a particular skill or process. This paper will describe the types of CBT and the disadvantages and advantages of using CBT.
Examples of CBT applications include guided drill and practice exercises on learning a science such as physics or mathematics; the computerized visualization of complex objects such as the human body or the inner workings of an rocket engine, and the interactive communication between students and teachers in learning a foreign language. Computers over the past five years have changed dramatically from the simple paperless typewriter with only a floppy disk to the multimedia system capable of playing back movies, music, and access to the Internet.
There are several types of CBT instruction programs. Information that helps teach or encourages interaction can be presented on computers in the form of text or in multimedia formats, which include photographs, videos, animation, speech, and music. The guided drill is a computer program that poses questions to students, returns feedback, and selects additional questions based on the students’ responses. Today’s guided drill systems incorporate the use of multimedia with the addition of an instructor lecturing the student on the proper methodologies.
Computers also can help students visualize objects that are difficult or impossible to view. For example, computers can be used to display human anatomy, molecular structures, or complex geometrical objects. Exploration and manipulation of simulated environments can be accomplished with CBTranging from virtual laboratory experiments that may be too difficult, expensive, or dangerous to perform in a school environment to the complex virtual worlds like those used in airplane flight simulators or movies such as Dante’s Peak or Jurassic Park.
CBT programs can also facilitate communication among students, between students and instructors, and beyond the classroom to distant students, instructors, and experts. CBT programs can be categorized based on who controls the progression of the lesson. Early systems were sequential presentations of information and the author of the software directed control of the program. Today, especially with visualization systems and simulated environments, control of the program often rests with the student or with the instructor.
This permits the information to be reviewed or examined out of sequence. The advantages of CBT are numerous. CBT can dramatically increase a student’s access to information. The program can adapt to the abilities and preferences of the individual student and increase the amount of personalized instruction a student receives. Many students can benefit from the immediate responsiveness of computer interactions and appreciate the self-paced and private learning environment.
Moreover, computer-learning experiences often engage the interest of students, motivating them to learn and increasing independence and personal responsibility for education. Although it is difficult to assess the effectiveness of any educational system, numerous studies have reported that CBT is successful in raising examination scores, improving student attitudes, and lowering the amount of time required to master certain material.
While study results vary greatly, there is substantial evidence that CBT can enhance learning at all educational levels However, there have been studies showing some CBT programs, especially those involving abstract reasoning and problem-solving processes, to be not very effective. Critics claim that poorly designed CBT systems can dehumanize or regiment the educational experience and thereby diminish student interest and motivation.
Other disadvantages of CBT stem from the difficulty and expense of implementing and maintaining the necessary computer systems. Some student failures can be traced to inadequate teacher training in CBT systems. Student training in the computer technology may be required as well, and this process can distract from the core educational process. Although much effort has been directed at developing CBT systems that are easy to use and incorporate expert knowledge of teaching and learning, such systems are still far from achieving their full potential.