Hartley J. (1998) Learning and Studying: A Research Perspective. London: Routledge

Computer-aided Learning (CAL)(pp 100-106)

It is generally argued by supporters of new technology that CAL has several advantages over conventional classroom learning. These claimed virtues are that:

  • learning is individualised;

  • learning is self-paced;

  • there can be instant feedback upon responding;

  • the programs have been written by experts, and tried and tested before being published;

  • the whole procedure can be cost-effective


Each of these ‘advantages’ however, is open to discussion, if not dispute. Thus:

  • there is considerable evidence for the effectiveness of paired or groupwork in CAL;

  • the pacing of the learning may be controlled by other (social) factors;

  • the feedback is constrained by what is available in the program, and thus it cannot – unlike a teacher – take account of unforeseen responses;

  • some programs are not well written or properly evaluated; and

  • CAL is expensive.


[bottom of page 11 of handout]
Animal Learning, Human Learning and CAL — Conclusions

  1. Some aspects of human learning are more similar to animal learning that others, in particular ‘implicit learning’ which is automatic and takes place without awareness (Reber, 1992; Seger, 1994). [see p 12]

  2. Automatic responses which are the result of sustained practice are in fact characteristic of human experts in a wide variety of skills (Anderson, 1987a; Ericsson and Lehmann, 1996; Howe et al, 1998)

  3. Some authorities on CAL, in particular Anderson (1987a, 1987b, 1990; see also Ramberg and Karlgren, 1998) discuss learning in a way which is reminiscent of Skinnerian shaping (Glaser, 1990) — learning is a result of accumulated error-free individual practice.

  4. However many other practitioners of CAL, and many other educational psychologists, emphasise uniquely human use of language (e.g. Tomasello et al, 1993)

  5. These practitioners tend to emphasise self-monitoring, self-regulating, or self-organising skills, and “metacognitive strategies” (Tomasello et al, 1993; Tomasello, 1999; Glaser, 1990)

  6. The uniquely human aspects of learning within CAL include its use for collaborative and cultural learning (Rimmershaw, 1999; Hartley, 1998; Looi and Ang, 2000)