A Qualitative Case Study of Programmed Computer-Assisted Instruction in a College Course Delivered Online
The Problem: Can online (computer-assisted) college instruction, using theoretically sound instructional design, provide rich instructional interaction without sacrificing time efficiency? What are some of the barriers and benefits encountered with online instruction? Procedures: A naturalistic inquiry, this case study focused on two sections of a course titled "Principles of Communication" at a Midwestern, private, liberal arts college. Participants were two professors and 39 undergraduate volunteers. The case study examined five weeks of online course activity, where students engaged in 14 online exercises, weekly assessments of activiw, two performance tests, and four group interactions online, while reading the assigned text. . The case study revealed that rich interaction could be achieved online, that performance standards were satisfied, and that the course could be time efficient (with a mean of 45 minutes less per week spent on course activity). Barriers encountered included: equipment failure, inadequate software, inadequate teacher preparation, inadequate resources, human error, time inefficiencies, and a lack of spontaneous interaction. Benefits encountered included: entertainment value, learning value, convenience, development of computer skills, development of Internet skills, and development of student responsibility. Conclusions: Beyond the findings, several conclusions could be drawn from this case study that might improve the theoretical framework used to create this online course. Those conclusions include: 1) provide adequate contingencies to encourage non-linear investigation where feasible; 2) distinguish relationships between interactive exercises and instructional objectives through sound instructional design; 3) provide adequate contingencies to require mastery of each unit before allowing a student to proceed; 4) require effective communication in student responses where feasible; 5) provide an adequate range of cognitive processing levels (low to high) to establish student performance at accepted standards; 6) provide adequate support technicians and resources (including thorough backup systems) from host institution; 7) empirically test interactivity to establish if practice provided will optimize time efficiency while remaining sufficient to achieve student performance at selected standards.
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