6.1 Computer-Based Resources

License:  Creative Commons Attribution license (reuse allowed).  Attribution: University of Oklahoma Libraries Virtual Reality by OULibraries

Instructional designers are challenged almost daily to ensure that the skills taught using computer based resources transfer effectively into the real world. In order to accomplish this during the design phase, the instructional designer must always refer back to the learning outcomes as the basis of what learners actually need to master as their guide in selecting or designing appropriate interactive computer based learning activities.

Learning Objectives

  • Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of drill and practice programs, tutorials, simulations, educational games, intelligent tutoring systems, and virtual reality applications.
  • Develop and select instructional materials.

Computer-based Resources

The following computer-based resources for learning (drill and practice, tutorials, simulations, educational games, intelligent tutoring systems, and virtual reality) are sometimes needed to support learners when more common online strategies, described in other parts of this book, will not suffice. Some drill and practice activities can be effectively provided within learning management systems. However, depending on the learning domain, thinking level required, complexity of the problem presentation, and feedback that needs to be provided, some drill and practice activities will need to be created on tools such as Macromedia Flash. In general, all of the other resources described below need to be created on software that is not found within learning management system.

Drill and Practice Programs

Drill and practice is a common computer-based training strategy that provides repeated activity (drill) and opportunities (practice) to try skills or concepts learned elsewhere. The aim is often to achieve mastery.

Drill and practice:

  • Usually takes place after the content has been taught.
  • Does not teach new material.
  • Can, and often should, include extensive diagnostic feedback.
  • Can be used for many skills such as learning language, learning factual information, and solving problems in mathematics, physics, chemistry, electricity, nursing, etc.
  • Should usually have a varied difficulty level that is based on the student’s ability in order to enhance learning.
  • Can be boring.
    • You can counter boredom with competition, using visuals, providing variety, stating the progress made, or giving a reward if a target is met.

Tutorials

Tutorials are programs in which the computer imitates a human tutor. In tutorials, information or concepts are presented, questions are asked, responses are judged, and feedback is provided.

Tutorials:

  • Should include frequent questions and/or other activities that require the learner to think, as well as provide detailed feed back.
  • Can be used for many low- and high-level skills.
  • Can include drill and practice.
  • Can include solving problems.
  • Often include branching to remediation and enrichment.
  • Often include testing.

Simulations

Simulations present or model the essential elements of real or imaginary situations. Computer-based simulations (e.g., flight simulators) allow students to learn by manipulating the model in similar ways to real world situations. Simulations can immediately respond with consequences to learner decisions. However, some consequences may not initially be apparent, depending on when the effect is normally seen (e.g., the effects of changes in interest rates may be seen years later). Students can learn by observing results and relationships (this can be through a discovery-learning strategy) or receiving specific diagnostic feedback, especially when detailed feedback is provided for both right and wrong answers.

Ideally, simulations should approximate real systems as closely as possible. This helps facilitate transferring the knowledge learned to the real world and can make the simulation particularly meaningful to the learners. How closely a simulation must approach reality depends on the complexity of the real situation, how well the skills learned will transfer to the real situation, and the benefits and costs of making the simulation more realistic. Conduct a detailed analysis to determine all of the relevant skills needed and their importance. Simulations can be used for teaching many skills including.

  • Properties of physical objects such as a comet in its orbit
  • Rules and strategies such as in war games, making predictions about forest fire behavior or avalanche potential, or building a city
  • Processes such as laws of supply and demand
  • Procedures such as diagnosing illnesses
  • Situations such as teaching instructors how to deal with student behaviour and attitudes
  • Simulations are often used when real situation training is:
    • Dangerous (e.g., nuclear power plant procedures and police maneuvers)
    • Expensive (e.g., landing a space shuttle)
    • Unethical (e.g., when it is not appropriate to use humans)
    • Not easily repeatable (e.g., avoiding a run on a bank)
    • Unavailable (e.g., historical events such as the economics of the Great Depression, how to respond in a robbery, or operating a business)
    • Not conducive to learning (e.g., when learning is difficult because the learner must consider too many stimuli at once, such as in the cockpit of a modern airplane)
    • Affected by reality such as time (e.g., simulations can provide genetic data about successive generations
      immediately, where reality could take months or years)
    • Inconvenient (e.g., experiencing Arctic survival, undersea, and outer space conditions).

Simulations can be very effective, when

  • The knowledge gained tends to transfer well to real situations if students can apply their existing knowledge and experience. Active student participation is critical.
  • Effectiveness increases if the simulation is logical or comparable to real situations.
  • Effectiveness is enhanced if students are aware of the learning outcomes.
  • Effectiveness increases if students can gradually build their skills. For example, when first learning how to operate a nuclear power plant, the student should first learn each system independently, of dependent systems, and then the entire system.
  • Effectiveness can stem from students being very motivated to learn. Imaging your motivation if you are involved in a life and death situation, or investing your life savings.

Attaining excellent results requires more explanations of the goals, learning outcomes, and directions than tutorials or drill and practice methods. Some learners, such as young or immature students, will have trouble explaining what has happened in a simulation, or transferring the knowledge to real situations.

Note that students may not necessarily believe the results of a simulation. As an example, in a simulation, students may end up in a car accident if they chose to drink and drive. However, there is no guarantee that students believe that could happen to them in real life. Simulations can be very efficient for relatively quick learning. The efficiency increases if:

  • the model or simulation closely represents reality.
  • learners receive useful feedback with respect to the learner outcomes.
  • the model or simulation is aimed at the appropriate learning level.
    • Novices may learn best when only some of the variables can be manipulated, and experts when presented with the entire model.
  • the level of detail is appropriate.
    • If too much detail or too many parts of the system are shown, learning may be hindered since the learner may not be able to mentally process all of the information.
  • supplementary material is provided.
    • Text summaries and checklists can be very beneficial.

Effective, efficient simulations are usually expensive and time-consuming to create. Cost-justification is particularly important before creating a simulation.

Educational Games

Educational games are usually decision-making activities that include rules, a goal, conditions or constraints, competition, challenge, strategies, and feedback. Games can be as simple as answering questions to win Tic-TacToe or filling in crossword answers to more complex games that require interactions with other learners.

Educational games:

  • should encourage the development of specific skills
    • The skills can be in specific subject areas such as science and math or general skills like literacy, problem solving, critical thinking, and decision making.
    • Success should be based on whether the specific learning outcomes have been met, rather than on good hand-eye coordination.
  • can be used to teach many different skills
    • The example shown in figure 22.4 illustrates how a game can be used to teach keyboarding skills.
    • One difficulty is that games tend to require more explanations of the goals, learning outcomes, and directions than tutorials or drill and practice methods. Without guidance, learning is less effective.
  • can be an effective, motivational, and fun way to learn
    • To be effective, the game must be challenging, students must be actively involved, and students must be given feedback and guidance with respect to the learning outcomes.
    • Research has shown that many learners like to learn through educational games.
    • Some educational games are a part of simulations that involve competition and/or cooperation.
    • Both males and females can enjoy and learn from games suited to their interests.
  • are sometimes a waste of time
    • Some products are fancy but do not teach well.
    • Evaluate a game before purchasing it to ensure that the game teaches an important skill effectively. Some games may lead to violent and aggressive behaviors.
    • Some people erroneously believe that games cannot be effective teaching tools.

Intelligent Tutoring Systems

Intelligent tutoring systems attempt to mimic the “perfect instructor”. The basic requirements of an intelligent tutoring system include the ability to:

  • model the learner
  • track misunderstandings
  • generate appropriate responses.

None of these basic requirements have been perfectly resolved. Although it is possible to incorporate a model or two of student learning into a computer-based training application, a fixed model does not represent intelligence. How can a “typical” student be modeled when students and their learning preferences are so diverse? It is not sufficient to simply categorize students into one of two types and then create two ways for students to learn the material. This has been the premise in some “intelligent” tutoring systems. A compounding factor is that learner preferences vary depending on the situation and material being taught. It is impractical to create a different teaching strategy for every individual. Although intelligent tutoring systems should be adaptable, based on the learner’s previous successes and failures, it is a challenging goal. It is simple to record where students make mistakes, but a challenge to know when there is a misunderstanding, what caused it, and what to do about it. In a sense, the computer would have to be able to read each student’s mind. Generating the appropriate response would be difficult even if the first two needs were met. How can a designer determine all of the response possibilities? Every possibility must be based on a known rule. Intelligent tutoring systems can and should have responses for expected misunderstandings but this is, at best, limited to the finite expressed problems. There are some excellent intelligent tutoring systems available. However, these tend to be labor-intensive and expensive to develop. Although the potential of intelligent tutoring systems is exciting, the reality is that much research still needs to be done. In other words, instructors need not worry about being replaced by an intelligent tutoring system. Given the present state of the technology, it can be argued that well-designed instructional multimedia applications are essentially the same from a student’s perspective.

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality (VR) allows people to be totally immersed in an artificial or simulated environment, while experiencing the environment as real. This happens because the participant has a first-hand or personal experience of the events, distractions are minimized since only virtual images are seen, and the participant can interact naturally in real time, such as by pointing and looking, rather than by using a joystick, mouse, or keyboard. VR can feel so real that some people experience vertigo when sensory inputs to the brain are in conflict. VR systems can include a variety of media such as video, visuals, animation, and audio. In a sense, VR is an extension of simulations that can be created with readily available hardware and software. Commercial flight simulators are examples of this.

A distinctive feature of VR is that learners are an integral part of the synthetic VR world. Users can simultaneously interact with computers in complex ways. Computers can sense body movement and voice commands and respond almost naturally. For example, for teaching students about interior decoration, you could let students walk through a house and allow them to change colors of walls, rearrange furniture, change the lighting, and remove a painting and place it elsewhere. To interface with the virtual world, learners must wear specialized equipment such as body suits, goggles, and/or gloves.

Although most applications are found in the entertainment industry, numerous educational products have been and are being developed. Since VR allows participants to feel that they are in another place in which they can move and look around based on a prescribed set of rules, VR offers incredible educational potential. Imagine how much doctors, army field surgeons, soldiers, firefighters, and law officers, could safely learn in a virtual environment. Abstract ideas, such as the movement of electrons in an atom that cannot be physically presented, can be taught with VR. Since virtual objects can behave as their physical counterparts and be manipulated by the learner, students can experience natural laws such as the law of gravity. Alternatively, learners can experience unnatural laws created by developers. In a virtual world, energy could be created or destroyed. With the ability in VR to manipulate abstract information, the potential exists to improve a student’s understanding and memory of complex ideas.

Learning can be by discovery, experimentation, through guidance using a variety of instructional approaches, or by practice and feedback. The potential for testing in a virtual environment is exceptional. For example, students could virtually perform an operation, put out a fire, or apprehend a thief. For practical reasons, it can be risky to develop an educational VR system at this time:

  • There are few experts in VR design and programming.
  • The authoring software is mediocre but getting better.
  • Extra equipment is needed for developing and using these programs.

A key to effective VR design is to focus on the potential to teach and learn rather than on the hardware and software tools. Given the potential of multimedia technology, where is the boundary between computer-based simulations and virtual reality applications?

The instructional challenge is to ensure that the practical skills taught via the computer transfer to the real world. The foundation for the instructional design is the learning outcomes, which should be based on what the learner actually needs to do. Based on your learning outcomes, the design phase leads you to creating an instructional strategy that guarantees effective learning. To do this:

  • Consider simulation, discovery-learning techniques, and active experimentation.
  • Determine what level of skill you can achieve.
  • Organize the information into small enough chunks for the students to learn successfully.
  • Include some content on the potential for making mistakes.
  • Include media, as needed, to enhance learning as well as to test skills.
  • Determine whether testing is realistic enough and a true performance measure.
  • Make the program highly interactive throughout.

 

Key Terms

  • Computer-Based Resources for Learning (drill and practice, tutorials, simulations, educational games, intelligent tutoring systems, and virtual reality) support learners when more common online strategies will not suffice.
  • Drill and Practice is a common computer-based training strategy that provides repeated activity (drill) and opportunities (practice) to try skills or concepts learned elsewhere. The aim is often to achieve mastery.
  • Tutorials are programs in which the computer imitates a human tutor. In tutorials, information or concepts are presented, questions are asked, responses are judged, and feedback is provided.
  • Simulations present or model the essential elements of real or imaginary situations. Computer-based simulations (e.g., flight simulators) allow students to learn by manipulating the model in similar ways to real world situations.
  • Educational Games are usually decision-making activities that include rules, a goal, conditions or constraints, competition, challenge, strategies, and feedback.
  • Intelligent Tutoring Systems attempt to mimic the “perfect instructor”. The basic requirements of an intelligent tutoring system include the ability to: 1) model the learner, 2) track misunderstandings, and 3) generate appropriate responses.
  • Virtual Reality (VR) allows people to be totally immersed in an artificial or simulated environment, while experiencing the environment as real.

Key Takeaways

  • Drill and practice is a common computer-based training strategy that provides repeated activity (drill) and opportunities (practice) to try skills or concepts learned elsewhere.
  • Tutorials are programs in which the computer imitates a human tutor.
  • Simulations present or model the essential elements of real or imaginary situations.
  • Educational games are usually decision-making activities that include rules, a goal, conditions or constraints, competition, challenge, strategies, and feedback.
  • Intelligent tutoring systems attempt to mimic the “perfect instructor”.
  • Virtual reality (VR) allows people to be totally immersed in an artificial or simulated environment, while experiencing the environment as real.
  • The instructional challenge is to ensure that the practical skills taught via the computer transfer to the real world.

Exercises

  1. You are working as an instructional designer in a large K-12 school. The art department chair wants to take all the art students on a virtual field trip of the Louvre and the Smithsonian. Obviously there are no funds for a actual physical field trip to these locations, but there are funds to purchase some computer based resources that may assist this instructor and their students.  Discuss what computer based resource options you might suggest to this instructor and why?

 

OER Derivative Licenses and Attributions

CC LICENSED CONTENT, ORIGINAL

Experiential Learning in Instructional Design and Technology, Chapter 6.1 Computer-based Resources. Provided by: the authors under an Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license.

This chapter contains an adaptation of Teaching in a Digital Age  by Bates, A. W., and is used under a CC-BY-NC 4.0 International license.

This chapter also contains an adaptation of Education for a Digital World: Advice, Guidelines and Effective Practice from Around the Globe  by BCcampus and the Commonwealth of Learning, and is used under a CC-BY-SA 3.0 International license.

CC LICENSED CONTENT INCLUDED

License:  Creative Commons Attribution license (reuse allowed).  Attribution: University of Oklahoma Libraries Virtual Reality by OULibraries

 

 

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Experiential Learning in Instructional Design and Technology by Joshua Hill and Linda Jordan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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