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Instruction Via Television (1985)

Instruction Via Television (1985)

©1985, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Denny, Dallas. (1985). Television. Paper for Dr. Ted Hasselbring, Department of Special Education, George Peabody College of Vanderbilt University.





Intrucdtion Via Television

By Dallas Denny


In 1980 the National Institute of Mental Health initiated a review of relevant research on entertainment television. One conclusion in the resulting report (Milavsky, et. al., 1982) was viewing by children of violence on television leads to increased aggressive behavior; this had been reported ten years previously in the 1972 Report to the Surgeon General (Rubenstein, 1983). Although this conclusion was challenged by the television networks, “the convergence of evidence from many studies is overwhelming” that televised violence does lead to increased violence in children (Rubenstein, 1983). While the effects of television may be in doubt, few would claim television viewing has no effect at all.

Anandam and Kelly (1981) noted that in popularity in education, instructional or educational television is surpassed only by print media. They cited a 1980 report by the Station College Executive Project in Adult Learning, which indicated nearly two-thirds of the colleges in the United States used instructional television. Braun (1983) reported that the availability of broadcast and videotaped courses make continuing formal studies a possibility for many adults who would not be able to attend regular classes. He cited a number of successful college programs which utilize television. DeChenne (1982) reported the widespread use of television broadcasts to remote areas of Oklahoma.

Conclusions about the efficacy of instructional or educational television have been equivocal. This may be due in part to different conceptions of the subject material by different authors; obviously, a closed-circuit lecture and the NOVA or Sesame Street programs are dissimilar. Therefore, what seem to be differences of opinion may sometimes be differences of terminology.

We characterize instructional television (ITV) as locally produced closed-circuit, video-taped, or videodisk programs which are designed primarily to instruct rather than to entertain, and educational television (ETV) as programs which are designed with the dual purposes of instruction and entertainment.

Anandam and Kelly (1981) noted that educational television was nearly doomed by its early use to increase productivity of teachers. It seems unlikely these authors meant to include what we term educational television, but were referring instead to instructional television. Griffin (1983), who concluded “instructional television has been a disappointment in education,” seems to have been referring to both instructional and educational television. Braun (1983), on the other hand, in a report of a state-of-the-art conference at the New York Institute of Arts, was referring to what we term educational television when he reported that “when viewed correctly, TV can make significant contributions to the education of our children.”

Empirical evaluations of the effectiveness of either instructional or educational television are rare. Anandam and Kelly (1981) summarized reviews of instructional television. They reported the following:

Chu and Schramm (1967) reviewed 142 studies which compared ITV and traditional instruction (TI). At elementary, secondary, college, and adult levels, most studies showed no significant difference between ITV and TI.

Jamison, et. al. (1974) reviewed over 850 studies and concluded ITV which resembles IT seemed to be as effective as TI.

Lipson (1977) reported that correspondence courses which used ITV had an average completion rate 65 percent, whereas courses without ITV had an average completion rate of only 25 per cent. A second study by the same group yielded similar results.

Braun (1983) noted that properly prepared television course materials can be expensive to purchase or prepare, and to be cost-effective must be spread across a large number of students.


Computer Assisted Instruction (CAT)

Computer assisted instruction (CAI) has also been called computer based instruction (Kulik, 1983, Kulik & Bangert-Drowns, 1983, Kearsley, et. al., 1983), and computer assisted learning (Fisher, 1982). There are several types of CAI; however, these distinctions are often ignored in research literature. As a result, it is sometimes difficult to determine what the investigator meant by CAI. It is even more difficult to compare results of various studies, since research methodology varies widely (Kulik, 1983). There have been a sufficient number of studies, however, to allow some judgement of the efficacy of cal; Selden and Schultz (1982) found citations for more than 4500 CAI research articles.

CAI can be defined as either adjunct or primary. Adjunct CAI is used to supplement a learning situation, as opposed to primary CAI, which substitutes for other modes of instruction. A second distinction refers to the mode of instruction provided by the computer. There is general consensus that six modes of CAI exist. These are: drill-and-practice, tutorial dialog, simulation and model building, management of instruction, teaching computer-related information skills, and teaching computer programming (Becker, 1982).

In general, well-designed, tightly controlled evaluative studies of the effectiveness of CAI are rare. However, certain trends are being consistently reported across a large body of this literature. The findings reported here regarding the effectiveness of computer assisted instruction represent the conclusions drawn by a number of different investigators who have reviewed and synthesized the CAI literature (Becker, 1982; Bright, 1983; Burns & Bozeman, 1981; Chambers & Sprecher, 1980; Forman, 1982; Judd, 1981; Kulik, 1983; Kulik & Bangert-Drowns, 1983 Kulik, Bangert, & Williams, 1982; Kulik, Kulik, & Cohen, 1980; Jamison, Suppes, & Wells, 1974; Edwards, Norton, Taylor, Weiss, & Dusseldorp, 1975; Selden & Schultz (1982); Thomas, 1979; Vinsonhaler & Bass, 1972). [TED— Note: Selden and Schultz (1982) noted that the literature “is clearly weighted in favor of results that show CAI gains.” They reported that achievement gains for CAI ranged from about 10 per cent to 90 per cent over traditional instructional techniques, and that CAI trainees required less time to reach a level equal to non-CAI learners. Kulik, and Kulik & Bangert-Drowns, reviewed meta-analyses.]

Pagliaro (1983) traced the history of CAI to 1926, when Pressey published an article “A simple apparatus which gives tests and scores— and teaches.” Kulik and Bangert-Drowns(1983) dated the first attempt to apply scientific technology to instruction to 1954, when S.F. Skinner’s article “The Science of Learning and the Art of Teaching” was published. In the 1960s CAI was implemented on a number of types of mainframe computers; most notable were the IBM 1500 and PLATO (Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operations) systems (Pagliaro, 1983). IBM discontinued support of the 1500 in the 1970s, but PLATO programs remain available on mainframe systems, and some have been adapted for microcomputers (Pagliaro, 1983, Watson, 1983). It was not until the advent of inexpensive microcomputers in the late 1970s, however, that CAI became available to most school systems. Becker (1983) reported that by January, 1983, a majority of schools in the United States had obtained at least one microcomputer.


Costs of CAI

What are the costs of CAI? Cost estimates for CAI are highly variable and difficult to establish with any degree of accuracy, particularly as CAI can be delivered on a variety of timesharing or microcomputer systems. There exist a number of studies which have assessed the cost effectiveness of timeshare systems, but studies providing information regarding inexpensive microcomputers and commercially available courseware are rare.

In the recent ETS study which used a minicomputer supporting 32 remote terminals, the per-pupil cost estimate for CAI was $130 for one daily 10-minute session of CAI throughout the school year. At this rate, up to three 10-minute sessions of drill-and-practice could be provided daily for each disadvantaged child in the district and remain within the district’s per-pupil Title-I allocations.

Hofstetter (1983) compared the actual costs of operating a mainframe PLATO system at the University of Delaware to estimates made by Alpert and Bitzer (1970) and Kearsley (1977). He reported that the costs per student contact hour decreased steadily from 1975 to 1983, as cost of hardware decreased and the number of terminals increased. Actual cost per hour of student use at Delaware, with over 260 terminals in use, was $2.47, which was higher than the maximum predicted by Alpert and Bitzer, and lower than that predicted by Kearsley. Hofstetter noted that using microcomputer based PLATO software, costs would be much less expensive; with courseware and maintenance, and with hardware amortized over a seven year period, cost per hour of student use would be $1.15.

Selden and Schultz (1982) found CAI costs have dropped dramatically since 1975. They suggest that with a microcomputer system costing about $2000, use of the computer for 2000 hours per year of CAI results in a cost of 25 cents per hour.


CAI And Characteristics of Individuals

A survey by Johns Hopkins University revealed that computer usage is very different in schools which are predominantly white and those in which the pupils predominantly belong to minority groups (Becker, 1983). The use of drill-and-practice occurs much more frequently in minority schools, whereas there is more emphasis on programming in predominantly white schools.




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Kearsley, G.; Hunter, B.; & Seidel, R.J. (1983). Two decades of computer based instruction projects: What have we learned? T.H.E. Journal, 90-94.

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