The purpose of this paper is to establish the parameters that affect the learning process and how the computer based learning system can be used to make this learning process an enriching experience for the students. Computer Based Learning A Brief The conventional classroom is slowly giving way to the computer based training applications that is universally accessible via the Internet. The personalized learning environment that this method offers has great potentials and can influence the learning process to a considerable degree.
A successful prototype of this form of learning needs a high level of interactive media in tandem with an effective presentation of content that is simple to use and easy to relate. The market for this medium of learning has witnessed tremendous growth in the recent years with a wide variety of multimedia based learning tools available for the users. The use of multimedia and flash has not only made learning fun but has also facilitated retention and easy understanding of concepts. Many web based learning environments use innovative technologies that have revolutionized the learning process considerably over the past few years. Joyce A.
Overfield and Lesley Bryan Lluka(2003) in their research article on evaluation of factors affecting computer based learning observe that computer based learning can be a valuable learning and teaching resource providing consideration is given to the nature of the student group. Availability and accessibility of computers is essential and students are unhappy if the support is lacking. These are some of the views that can aptly explain the effectiveness of the computer based learning system. This learning tool has improved learning experiences to a considerable extent as it does away with tedious conventional system of learning.
The emergence of new technologies in this sector has collaborated to create a unique learning model for the students. This has not only set a new trend in learning but has revolutionized the way a student looks at his classroom project. Vikings The Package The Vikings package is meant for students of history. The objective of the package is to impart historical facts and milestones to the students in a fun filled learning environment that makes the learning process easy and memorable. History has been labeled as a boring subject for many students and it can be a little tricky remembering facts and figures that relate to the distant past.
The package uses maps and graphics to instill interest in the learner. The use of grid lines to mark specific study points and provide relevant information to the learner is a key feature of this package. The user needs to click on the relevant grid line to get details of the particular artefact related to the Vikings era. Terms used in the section are highlighted in red a click on the highlighted term gives the user an explanation of the same. The developers of The Vikings claim that the package is highly interactive and excellent learning tool for students of history.
The presentation of historical facts in a manner that facilitates learning is of prime importance in this application. The tool applies the concept of learning through activity and context based learning that ensures the involvement of the student throughout the learning process. This is in sharp contrast to the classroom learning process that is mostly abstract. A review of the two scenario presented below will make the contrast in both the learning modes clearer: Scenario 1: A teacher giving a lecture on the Vikings era and stating the facts verbally where the student has to be very attentive to relate the facts presented before him.
Scenario 2: A student going through the Vikings package where a click of the mouse will give him the relevant information pictorial description and maps on the screen relate to his cognitive senses and learning happens faster. The application uses the interactive instruction model that is designed to elicit some response in the user in the form of a mouse click. The programmed instruction with the aid of well-designed stimuli in the form of graphics acts as the user interface.
A few basic factors that set the scenario 2 apart from scenario 1 are learner control, interaction level, learner motivation, collaborative learning, and navigation system that are discussed below. Learner Control Vaughan (1998) has described Computer Based Learning interactivity as empowering the end user of the package by letting them have control of the content and flow of information. The learning tool, The Vikings, simulates an environment where the control over learning is not completely in the hands of the student. The student decides the pace of learning but the path of learning is guided.
In scenario 1 the student has to attend classes at the pre-defined timings and the teacher decides the topic of learning. In contrast the application allows the student the liberty to choose his topic of study and the sequence that he wants to follow at his own pace. It has been observed that by handing over the control of learning to the students enhances the learning experience. The advantages of learner control include greater individualization of instruction, increased sense of personal responsibility for learning, and the potential to optimize learning efficiency.
(Interactivity: What is it and What can it do for computer based instruction? Terry K Borsook and Nancy Higginbotham-Wheat Hannafin and Colamaio, 1987). A student who is a quick learner will have no problem going through the package and grasp the contents in one or two sittings. However, a slow learner will need time to grasp the information handed out but he has the advantage of taking things slow and pacing his learning to his comfort level. The control of the learner over the entire learning process is seen as a positive reinforcement. The application should allow the student to decide his path of learning.
An ideal learning application provides regulated control to the learner with the scope of browsing through the modules, set his learning objectives and pace of learning. Any additional related information or links to these should be provided to enable the student to look up on these extra bits of information. This not only enriches the learning experience but also boosts the confidence level of the learner. A systematic approach and relevant content packaged with attractive and compelling presentation will result in a satisfying learning experience.
One of the concerns that have been observed is that giving too much of control over the learning experience may not be good since the learner does not know what is best for him. Borsook and Higginbotham-Wheat (1991) state that too much of control in the hands of the learner can shift the locus of control from one party to another and that diminishes true interactivity. Regulated control with guided flow of information is a better option. The Vikings package gives very less control to the student the flow of information is directed by the package but this is one of the shortcomings of the tool.
Allowing more leverage to the learner will make the learning tool more effective as this results in positive attitude towards learning and motivates them towards their learning goals. Interaction level The most effective teaching method involves a high level of interaction between the teacher and the student. A dedicated teacher is one who understands the students learning capacity and his shortcomings and guides him through with effective feedback. A two-way communication between the teacher and the student is very effective in the learning process.
Computer based learning applications are continually striving to achieve the human to human interactivity level and have been quite successful in this venture with the aid of multimedia based technologies. The level of interactivity in the learning application tool is of prime importance for it to be effective. The representation of information through graphics and on screen presentation is the required stimuli that elicit some sort of response from the user, such as a mouse click. The application tool then responds to the user with relevant data. This process of interactivity in the application makes the learning process effective.
Feedback is an integral part of interactivity. Berlo (1960) states in his work feedback provides the source with information concerning his success in accomplishing his objective. A classroom lecture where the teacher gives lecture to the class without class participation is quite ineffective. It is difficult to gauge in such a situation if the learning process was successful. An understanding of the students perception of the contents is essential. This is one of the essential features that a learning application tool should incorporate for it to be a successful learning model.
The instructional design should take care that the learning model has scope to interact closely with the learner and guide him through the process for effective learning experience. The level of interactivity and feedback element present in The Vikings application is not substantial. A student going through the package is only following instructions that are being presented to him. Statements like Click here to begin and Choose your artefact and click on the square to travel back in time these are some of the instructions that are provided to the student.
This generates response from the student in the mode of mouse-click and the application narrates the relevant contents on the screen. The student needs to go through this text but this does not ensure learning. The application has no way of evaluating if the student has perceived the information presented to him correctly. There is no feedback mechanism that is applied in this model. This leaves the learning model incomplete. Proper feedback and evaluation gives the student a sense of his learning objectives and how much he has succeeded in this direction.
Constructive feedback gives the student a clear picture of how much he has learnt, where he went wrong and what he should do to correct his mistake. Modes of interaction between the learner and the learning application model can be identified at different levels. The basic form of interaction is one that presents the stimuli to the learner and elicits some kind of response in the form of a mouse click or key press. A higher level of interaction that ensures the effectiveness of the learning process involves evaluating activities presented to the learner at the end of a module to gauge his understanding and performance level.
This form of interaction gives a clear picture of the learners progress as feedback. The inclusion of this parameter in the instructional design of the learning application model is vital. Directing the learner to key learning points and providing links to related concepts enhances the quality of learning and promotes better understanding of the subject matter. Instances of such interactivity are problem-solving modules, puzzles, quiz, and brain twisters that ensure active participation from the learner.
Engaging the learner in different kinds of activities related to the context enhances the learning process. This not only ensures that the learner has successfully grasped the contents but also increases the effectiveness of the model. One of the benefits of such activities is the interest level that is created in this type of learning environment. Learning becomes a fun activity and not a dreaded cumbersome experience that one goes through reluctantly. Once the interest level is high the learner is ready for more.
He is willing to explore the unknown territories in pursuit of an in-depth understanding of the context. The learning process in such cases is unintentional and not deliberate and hence more effective. The multimedia and other high-end technology available have the potential to achieve this dream-learning model. Another key feature that determines the effectiveness of the learning application model is the quality of content. An application may provide all the features of good interactivity and presentation in terms of graphics and display, but a poor quality of content will negate all the rest.
A package rich relevant content with suitable links to additional related information will ensure learning effectiveness. This leaves the control of learning in the hands of the learner. An individual may wish to go beyond the realms of his subject matter and explore other related areas in this way. Simulated learning environment in computer-based interaction is another excellent tool for learning. Simulations use selected elements of some world, real or imaginary, which operate together according to rules (Greenblat 1988). In such cases the learner can experience an imaginary sequence in which he can interact and learn.
This kind of learning experience is a gradual process where the learner is allowed to make mistakes and learn. Teaching the history of Vikings era using this mechanism is not only an interesting option but also a powerful learning tool. It might be adventurous to move into the Vikings era and view the events of the past unfold in front of the student. The narration of the events in the background in synchronization with suitable graphics and animation will surely captivate the students attention and allow for greater learning experience.
But it must be kept in mind that simply viewing the events of the past as an audience is not enough the active participation of the learner is equally important to hold his interest level and retain the subject matter. Learner Motivation Kruse (2007) states that the success of any computer based learning package depends on learner motivation and even the most sophisticated package will fail if it does not motivate the students to learn. Computer games have managed to captivate the users attention to such an extent that everything else is forgotten.
This is a classic example of motivation and interest that this type of software generates in the user. Educational models too can apply this theory while designing the learning package. The essential ingredient that is required to hold the learners attention is the active role of the learner in the learning process. There are several ways of ensuring that the learner actively takes the control of learning in his own hands. The interactivity of the learning package is one of the deciding factors that motivate the learner to proceed.
The system should allow the learner to steer the path of learning. Enabling the student to browse the information and guiding him through the learning process will hold the students interest and motivate him to learn more. Structuring the learning content into a story telling format with compelling dramatic sequence will keep the student highly engrossed. The absorption of the learning material will be faster and effective. The Vikings package does not include this feature and the presentation of facts is in form of text that the student needs to go through.
The effect of presenting the same facts through narration in the background will hold the students attention and interest. The ARCS Model of Motivational Design by Keller provides the direction to successful instructional design in this context. The ARCS model identifies four strategic components for motivating instruction. One of the basic parameters for keeping the student interested and motivated in the subject matter is his attention. Computer based learning has an edge over other conventional tools of learning like books in this context.
The visibility and presentation of information through attention grabbing graphics and multimedia tool make this a more effective learning platform. Once the attention of the student is on the learning tool the application needs to stimulate the learners curiosity that in turn leads to search for answers and in-depth study of the learning module. The relevance of the content is another aspect that is important in learner motivation. This is a more goal centric strategy that appeals to the objective needs of the student. The objectivity of the study needs to be defined so that the student is aware of the purpose behind this learning activity.
This keeps the student focused on his goal and helps him in the learning process. The application needs to arrange the information in such a manner that the student finds it easy to approach and understand. The sequencing and relevance of the information presented to him is vital. Correlating the tasks and facts in the learning module need to be very precise. The next step in motivating students is confidence-building strategy. The goal of this mechanism is to instill confidence in the learner that he is on the right track and that his learning objectives are being met.
There are various technologies available that can be effectively used to evaluate the students understanding level of the module and based on this evaluation effective feedback is given to the student regarding his progress. Tasks for evaluating should range from simple to challenging levels that test the students perception. This challenges the student to go from one level to the other and enhances the learning process. The satisfaction of the learning experience is critical for measuring the effectiveness of the overall package.
The achievement of meeting the goals of learning forms the base for a satisfying learning experience. Positive reinforcement and constructive feedback mechanism are instrumental in achieving this strategy. The Vikings package will attract the attention of the user with its graphical and pictorial representation but that is not enough. It is difficult to hold the interest of the learner with only graphical presentation of information. The student will very easily get bored with the facts presented in this manner. The package needs to adopt novel strategies to hold the students attention for a longer period of time.
Use of storytelling mechanism, simulations and activity based learning modules as discussed earlier will motivate the student and enrich the learning experience. Collaborative Learning When students are able to participate in active learning activities, they find the learning more pleasurable and satisfying than non participative events (Fry and Coe,1980). The principle of collaborative learning provides many learning opportunities and enriches the learning experience considerably. A learning environment that allows interaction between the learners is highly conducive.
A classroom environment provides this kind of scope to the students where a group of students sharing the same learning goal coordinate with each other, communicate their ideas, and share their understanding of the subject matter. Jonassen (1988) has stated in his works that the effectiveness of any learning environment is based on the types and levels of cognitive and metacognitive activity engendered in the learners. It is widely accepted that learning is enhanced in instructional settings where students are engaged in processing personally relevant content and are reflective during the learning process.
Another feature of this learning principle as suggested by Slavin (1997) is that the reward structures inherent in collaborative environments have been found to have a positive effect on student motivation. Computers provide a stimulus for learning by increasing social interactions and cooperation (eg. Hoyles, Healy & Pozzi, 1992). The application of this mode of learning can be effectively used in computer based learning with the aid of various multimedia and authoring technologies available.
The Vikings uses one such strategy in its learning application the principle of situated learning or situated cognition. This is defined as the notion of learning knowledge and skills in contexts that reflect the way the knowledge will be useful in real life (Brown, Collins and Dugiud, 1989). The application is meant for two or more students at a time with the same learning objectives. The discussion of the facts and information between the groups of learners ensures the understanding of the subject matter. The collaboration between the students and the package offer an effective learning environment.
One of the discrepancies of this learning principle is that collaborative learning may not have the desired outcome if the learners do not share the learning goals. Exchange of views and ideas may not enrich the learning experience, as some of the learners may not be attentive to what is being discussed around him. History is a subject that explores the past and discovers the roots of civilization and the world. The Vikings application aims to present the facts from the Vikings era to enable the students an understanding of how things were in those times.
As such the application should aim at providing facts from the past that enables a better understanding of the world today. The Vikings package can implement some more principles of collaborative learning to create and effective learning environment. Use of interactive multimedia packages that enable the application to converse with the student and provide scope for evaluating the students knowledge and understanding of the subject matter is one method. Other methods involve the use of audio and visual depictions that is bound to impact the learners cognitive senses.