Referring to computers as “modern-day teaching machines,” they pointed out that, while the computer is an instrument with the potential for delivering differential reinforcement in programmed instruction, software is developed for aesthetic and commercial appeal instead of tapping into the vast potential of these machines. Bostow et al. also suggested the use of computers as testing devices, to make test administration and scoring easier, and to improve the security of test information. Their conclusion was that the actual instruction itself could be accomplished by properly designed program of instruction. “Computers as teachers” can work if the programmer / teacher is not only well versed in the tenets of programmed instruction, but also possesses an understanding of a science of behavior. Programming the course content into effective programmed instruction allows the computer to “teach” and frees the instructor for direct student contact and mentoring.
To his credit, Slavin (2000) properly described the “learning units” mentioned above, identifying the reinforcement contingencies as “small subskills.” Slavin went on to illustrate the frequent and immediate feedback associated with programmed instruction “so that students can check the correctness of their work,” and conceded “similar approaches are quite common in computer-based instruction.”
The concept of “overt response” or “active student responding” was studied more closely by Tudor (1995) in an experiment that evaluated the effects of overt answer construction in computer-based programmed instruction. This study incorporated practical application in addition to the statistical analysis of the data. Tudor pointed out that previous research had not generated convincing support for the need to use overtly constructed responses, citing issues with consistency of instructional programs across studies. Testing methods were also referred to, as well as program quality, and prior familiarity with subject matter. Tudor proposed, “the rules that might guide the designer of better instructional software cannot be easily extracted from past research.” For this study, 75 students were placed into one of five groups to receive the programmed