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Master's Comprehensive Examination: Dr. Wager's Question

New designers of CAI always want to know how much learner interaction should be put into the program. Your task is to write a set of guidelines that will help them in deciding why, where, when and how learner interaction can be effectively used. In each case state the principle to be followed, give an explicit example of what the interaction would look like, and any special advice or cautions that you would like to make.

Why Use Interactivity?

Heinich, Molenda, and Russell (1989) describe instructional interactivity as a requirement for some level of physical activity from a user, which in some way alters the sequence of presentation. In computer-based instruction (CBI), the computer solicits input by visual and auditory cues and the learner responds by using an input device (keyboard, mouse, joystick, etc.). In response, the computer changes the sequence of the lesson. A simple example is the computer displaying, "What is your name?" on the screen, the student typing "John," and the computer replying "I'm glad to meet you, John!"

Justification for use of interactivity in CBI can be found in both behavioral learning and information-processing theories.

Hannafin and Peck (1988) describe four behavioral learning principles which apply to interactivity--contiguity, repetition, feedback & reinforcement, and prompting & fading. The principle of contiguity implies that the stimulus to which the learner is to respond must be presented in time with the desired response. In order for learning to occur, the response must immediately follow the stimulus. The shorter the period of time between a stimulus and a response, the more likely the two will be paired. For example, if the computer teaches the student how to divide two fractions, the student should be required to immediately demonstrate this skill.

In order to improve learning and retention, a stimulus and response must be practiced. This strengthens the bond between the stimulus and response. Using the example above, the student might be given several pairs of fractions to divide.

A learner should be given information on the appropriateness of a response. Feedback tells the learner if she was right or wrong. If, as a result of the feedback, the student's response is more or less likely to occur, then reinforcement has taken place. Again using the fractional division example, the computer might praise the student for answering correctly or the computer might remediate the student for answering incorrectly.

Shaping is the process of reinforcing successive approximations of a desired response. As part of this process, prompting is the provision of several stimulus cues to elicit a desired behavior. Once the desired behavior is learned under cued conditions, extraneous stimuli are faded until the response is elicited under the desired conditions. For example, to teach numbers, the computer might present a graphic that illustrates three apples and the numeral "3." The student would come to pair the number of apples with the appropriate numeral. After the student has demonstrated that she has learned the value of the number, the apple illustration is discontinued.

Gagné describes nine events of instruction that are based on information processing theory. Four of these--gaining attention, eliciting performance, providing feedback, and assessing performance--are directly related to interactivity.

Interactivity can gain attention. Learning cannot occur unless the attention of the learner is captured and maintained. Interactivity can elicit performance. Once new information has been provided to a learner, an opportunity must be given to use the new knowledge (practice). Interactivity can provide feedback. As a result of the student's practice behavior, feedback is given regarding the rightness or the wrongness of the response. Right responses are positively reinforced and wrong responses are remediated. Interactivity can assess performance. Once the leaner has had an opportunity to practice the new skill, some sort of test should be done to ensure that learning has occurred.

For example, let us suppose that the instructional goal is to teach safe sexual behavior. Attention can be gained by asking the user to select the gender and name for a computer character. After the learner is presented information on safe sexual behavior, Practice is provided by placing the character in a number of sexual situations and requiring the learner is to make decisions regarding the sexual behavior of the character. If the user makes unsafe decisions for the character, negative feedback and remediation are provided. If safe choice are made, positive feedback is given. At the conclusion of the practice session, the student is tested by being given ten multiple-choice questions regarding safe sexual behavior. After the test, the student is informed of the score, and provided praise or remediation.

Where Should Interactivity Be Used?

Alessi and Trollip (1985) describe several types of computer-assisted instruction where interactivity can be used--tutorials, drills, simulations, tests, teaching tools, expert systems, and computer-controlled media.

Tutorials teach by carrying on a dialogue with the student. They present information, ask the student questions, and make instructional decisions based on the student's responses. Questions should occur frequently. Lengthy information presentations are best divided into small amounts of information interspersed with embedded testing. This will help maintain attention and ensure student comprehension. Questions are generally of a true/false, multiple-choice, matching, or fill-in-the-blank type.

A drill is a selection of questions or problems presented repeatedly until the student answers or solves all of them at a predetermined level of proficiency. Practice is the primary purpose of drills. Teaching of new information is generally done prior to the drill session. Questions are generally of a multiple-choice, sentence-completion, or short-answer type. Paired association (e.g., English nouns and their Spanish equivalents) are frequently use.

Simulations are simplified representations of reality in order to teach key concepts. Instruction through simulation may also be safer and cheaper than real-world experience. Simulations can teach physical reality, procedures, or processes. Simulations can be completely textual, in which case the action takes place in the student's brain and the main forms of interactivity are reading and typing. Simulations may also be quite realistic (e.g., simulated aircraft cockpit) and require a number of complex actions by the user.

Games are familiar to all of us and, when used for instructional purposes, can be highly motivating. The user generally interacts with the computer through the keyboard, touchscreen, joystick, game-paddle, or (increasingly) by voice recognition. In this environment, fill-in-the-blank questions are harder than multiple-choice questions for the student to answer, but they are a better measure of student understanding. Touchscreens or joysticks are easier to use than keyboards, but not all computers are equipped with these devices.

Tests are an important component in the instructional process. Computerized testing can be a great improvement over traditional methods by increasing scoring accuracy and lesson enjoyment, as well as providing immediate feedback to the student. Record-keeping can also occur automatically for the instructor. A number of questioning formats are possible, all of which have been previously discussed.

Teaching tools are non-instructional computer programs used for instructional purposes. For example, word processing packages can be used to teach secretarial skills and language arts.

Expert systems are programs that contain detailed information on a particular topics, a set of logic that ties the information together, and a program that enables a user to converse with the computer in natural language. An example of an expert system would be a medical program that helps student physicians make clinical diagnoses.

Computer-controlled media are video and audio resources linked to computers. Computers can be linked to interactive videodisc players and interactive CD players. Apple's Hypercard and Asymetrix's Toolbook are software programs that allow for multimedia manipulation. Through digital video interactive and CD-ROM, the computer itself can be the host for a rich hypermedia environment. Hypermedia has the potential for fully integrating text, graphics, still video, full-motion video, and stereo into a single environment. IBM's InfoWindows and NCR's Digital Multimedia Interactive are software/hardware combinations that are utilizing this emerging technology. In all these media applications, a number of previously discussed input devices may be used. Novel input devices, such as bar-code scanners, laser pistols, and electronic gloves have also been used.

When Should Interactivity Be Used?

According to Hannafin and Peck (1988), one of the chief advantages of computer-based instruction over text-based instruction and other linear media is the potential for interactivity. Unfortunately, the computer is often reduced to an electronic page-turner. That is, it is used as an expensive, high-tech medium for presenting text. On the other extreme, some computer-based lessons require too much response. Many of the questions appear trivial and the answers too obvious. The challenge is to find a middle ground between these two extremes which will allow meaningful interaction between the student and the computer. Four of Gagné's events of instruction can serve as a good guideline for when to incorporate interactivity into CBI.

Use interactivity to gain and maintain attention. At the start of the lesson, Hannafin and Peck recommend soliciting the student's name and other bits of biographical information. This data can then be woven into the lesson so that it is more personal for each learner. Attentional and interest can also be gained by giving the student choices about the format and sequencing of lesson. For instance, at the start of an instructional game, the computer might ask, "What would you like to do? 1. Read the directions before playing. 2. Skip the directions and start playing now." By offering a choice, experienced players can bypass lengthy directions, thus enhancing willingness to play.

It is not enough to initially capture the learner's attention--it must be maintained throughout the lesson. Interactivity can help maintain attention. There is no clear-cut rule for how frequently to use interactivity to maintain attention. However, some sort of meaningful student response should probably be elicited every 2-3 frames or 1-2 minutes.

Use interactivity to elicit performance and provide feedback. After a chunk of information has been presented to the learner, the computer can ask a question or pose a problem to ensure that the learner has grasped the material. The computer can positively reinforce a correct response and remediate an incorrect response. For example, after the student has been given the definition of a triangle and shown examples and non-examples of triangle, a practice exercise might be, "Of the four figures below, which is not a triangle?" If the student responds correctly, the computer says, "That's right, John! It is not a triangle because it has four sides." If the student responds incorrectly, the computer says, "That's not right, John. The figure you picked is a triangle because it has three sides. Try again." This can be done until the correct response is made.

Once again, there is no definitive rule for how many practice items are required for each piece of information. A single practice item may be sufficient for verbal information (e.g., the name of the bone in the upper arm), whereas numerous practice items may be needed for learning intellectual skills (e.g., solving quadratic equations).

Use interactivity to assess performance. After information has been presented to the student, practice has been allowed, and feedback given, testing should be done. For example, after a lesson on calculating the fat content of packaged food products, the student is asked, "Using the package label below, determine the percentage of calories from fat. Type your answer in the space provided." Several similar test items may be given. After the test, if performance was acceptable, praise and enrichment may be provided to the learner. If performance was unacceptable, remediation and retesting may be provided.

As in all instructional development, formative evaluation of CBI materials is essential. One-on-one and small group evaluation of CBI lessons, conducted with trial students of variable abilities, will reveal when too much or too little interaction as been included in a lesson.

How Should Interactivity Be Used?

Hon (1982) describes three levels of CBI interactivity--1) directed/response, 2) exploratory, and 3) creativity. Most CBI is done at the first level, directed/response. This means that the user is asked to select, recall, or in some way perform for the computer. Multiple-choice, matching, fill-in-the-blank, and true/false questions are all examples of this first level.

Level 2 interactivity is exploratory. Exploratory interactivity is non-directed. The student is encouraged to scout through the learning environment on her own. The user has a large degree of freedom in selecting where to go and when. Examples of this include hypertext/hypermedia systems and surrogate travel programs. Even though exploratory interactivity is non-directed, it is not necessarily purposeless. In an instructional setting, the computer can pose problems to the student which must be solved by manipulating the learning environment. An example of this is SimCity, an instructional game designed to teach city planning concepts. The user is charged with building and maintaining a simulated city while dealing with a variety of factors (geography, migration, natural disasters, etc.)

Level 3 interactivity is creativity. This type of interactivity allows the user to manipulate the instructional materials to develop his own programs, reports, or artwork. For example, the AIDS interactive videodisc developed by ABC News can be repurposed by the student using Hypercard. Creativity has rarely been incorporated into CBI, but it is becoming more common as software and hardware advances.


Alessi, S.M. and Trollip, S.R. (1985). Computer-based instruction. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Hannafin, M.J. and Peck, K.L. (1988). The design and development of instructional software. New York: Macmillan.

Heinich, R., Molenda, M., and Russell, J.D. (1989). Instructional media and the new technologies of instruction. New York: Macmillan.

Hon, D. (1982). Future directions. Chapter in Handbook of Interactive Video. White Plain, NY: Knowledge Industry Publications.

Master's Comprehensive Examination: Dr. Keller's Question

The primary purpose of this examination is for you to analyze your experience in managing an instructional development project with respect to your application of principles of leadership, planning, organizing, directing, and controlling. To what extent did you apply principles or procedures from the material you have learned, and to what extent did you have to work on the basis of intuition or go to additional sources?

Please provide a brief description of the instructional development situation you will analyze and your management responsibilities with respect to people and processes. Then describe how you used principles of leadership and managing task-oriented meetings, how you used planning principles and procedures, how how managed the organizing and directing (motivating in Hersey and Blanchard's model) processes, and how you dealt with the controlling responsibilities (i.e., were there problems and how did you solve them). In each of these contexts, indicate areas where you were not sufficiently prepared and how you responded in those circumstances.

Given the limitation of your response (8 pages) you will have to be succinct and cover the most salient points.

During the summer of 1991, I engaged in a 200-hour instructional design internship. The preceptor for this experience was Susan Winter, a self-employed instructional systems and human performance consultant. My sole project during this period was the development of a pre-service training program for Parents Anonymous (PA) of Florida group facilitators.

Parents Anonymous or Florida, Inc., is a non-profit agency that provides confidential group support and education to parents who are at high risk for abusive behavior toward their children. Local Parents Anonymous groups are led by volunteer facilitators, most of whom are social work or counseling professionals. New facilitators are required to receive pre-service training. Parents Anonymous headquarters staff felt that the existing pre-service training curriculum lacked standardization and was not comprehensive.

My task was to revise the pre-service training curriculum according to systematic instructional design principles. The project proceeded in four phases: 1) instructional analysis, 2) development of an instructional strategy, 3) development and formative evaluation of instructional materials, and 4) final revision of instructional materials. An eight-hour training program was developed. The final products of this project were an instructor's guide, a participant's guide, printed supplemental instructional materials, and a post-test.

My main subject-matter experts for this project were two staff members of Parent's Anonymous of Florida--Stephanie Farque, the executive director, and Tracey Kennedy, the training coordinator. Ms. Kennedy is subordinate to Ms. Farque, but they tended to interact in a a collegial fashion. I had day-to-day contact Ms. Kennedy and less frequent contact with Ms. Farque. In addition to being a subject-matter expert, Ms. Kennedy was also the anticipated primary instructor for the course. As such, the trial students (all candidate facilitators) were supordinate to her. I interacted with both Ms. Farque and Ms. Kennedy as my peers. I did not have any direct interaction with the trial students.

I had weekly contact with Susan Winter--primarily by telephone. Ms. Winter reviewed reports and products after each phase of the project. She was also available for technical assistance. Ms. Winter was in a superordinate position to me, but our interactions were generally collegial in tone.

I also gained additional subject-matter expertise from a current PA group facilitator, Lisa Dixon, and a PA parent, Shannon. I interacted with both of these individuals as my peers.

Figure 1 illustrates the relationships discussed above in Hon's (1980) terms for organizational hierarchies.

Figure 1

Figure 1

Use of Principles of Leadership

Hersey and Blanchard (1988) define leadership as the attempt to influence the behavior of an organization or group. Management is the exercising of leadership to achieve organizational goals.

Situational Leadership is Hersey and Blanchard's model for effectively leading and managing. According to this model, there is not one best way to influence people. There are four basic styles in which a leader can engage--telling (S1), selling (S2), participating (S3), and delegating (S4). Similarly, there are four readiness level for followers--unable and unwilling (R1) unable but willing (R2), able but unwilling (R3), and able and willing (R4). Which style a leader should use depends on the readiness level of the people that are to being influenced. For example, if followers are able and willing to do a task (R4), the manager can operate by delegating responsibility to the followers (S4).

During most of this project, the staff of Parents Anonymous were willing to help with the design process but were unable to do so without direction (R2). Consequently, it was necessary for me to exercise an S2 style of leadership. This means I had to give direction on what to do and explain why it needed to be done. The followers were encouraged to ask questions and get clarification.

Apart from Situational Leadership, Hersey and Blanchard describe four interrelated managerial functions: planning, organizing, motivating (a.k.a., directing), and controlling. Let us discuss my application of management principles in each of these areas during the project.

Use of Planning Principles and Procedures

Harrison (1986) describes a number of tools for planning projects. The two that I utilized during this internship were the PERT chart and the Gantt chart. PERT stands for Program Evaluation and Review Technique and was developed in 1958 by the U.S. Navy Special Projects Office. PERT charts represent significant project events as circles (nodes) and project activities as arrows (vectors). PERT charts clearly show the interrelationships between numerous project events and activities. At a glance, a PERT charts reveal the essential sequencing of a project.

Gantt charts were developed by Henry L. Gantt in 1917. They visually display the scheduled start and stop dates for project activities. Each activity is represented as a bar on the y-axis plotted against units of time on the x-axis. The time units can be small (hours) or large (months) depending on the project.

Both PERT and Gantt charts are cumbersome to construct by hand. Fortunately, a number of software packages are commercially available for this purpose. The one I utilized for this project was Microsoft Project for Windows. Working from the start of the project until the end, I entered key activities and the estimated number of days need to complete each activity. I also indicated the sequencing of activities. Microsoft Project automatically calculated the start and stop date of each activity. I was able to modify the length of individual activities until the total allotted project length was achieved. Using a single data table, I was able to switch from Gantt to PERT views with a single command. A hardcopy of the Gantt chart was provided to Parents Anonymous. I retained a hardcopy of the PERT chart for my own use. Use of these charts allowed me to keep the project on track and to finish within the designate time period.

After constructing the initial charts, I failed to use the software to track project progress. Due to the complexity of the software and the inadequate RAM of my hardware, it seemed to be too much trouble to delete tasks, add new tasks, modify time frames, and reprint the charts. However, I did constantly refer to and modify the original hardcopy charts.

Management of the Organizing Process

Hersey and Blanchard describe organizing as the integration of resources. During my internship, it was necessary for me to coordinate my own design activities, those of the subject-matter experts, and those of the internship supervisor. The Gantt and PERT charts assisted greatly with this process. Occasionally there was a delay in task completion from one of these resources. In such cases, gentle reminders were made. Sometimes time constraints made it necessary to proceed with project activities in spite of uncompleted tasks.

Because of my supervisory and health project planning experience, I felt adequately prepared for this function. However, interns who do not have experience in team leading might have difficulty managing the activities of several individuals.

Management of the Motivating (Directing) Process

Hersey and Blanchard describe motives as the "whys" of behavior. They are the needs, wants, and drives within an individual. Maslow classifies needs into five major categories: physiologic, safety, social, esteem, and self-actualization. Goals are the "hoped for" rewards toward which motives are directed. Followers are more likely to pursue objectives that are beneficial to an organization when they perceive that their own goals are likely to be met as a result.

All of the individuals with whom I interacted appeared to be highly motivated to participate in this project. This is perhaps due to the social or affiliation needs that are met by the Parents Anonymous organization. Because of the serious problem dealt with by Parents Anonymous, and the caring approach that is taken to deal with the problem, a "family" atmosphere is discernable at both the local and state level. State and volunteers have a genuine concern for the organization and the people served by it. They saw the project as good for the organization, and thus congruent with their personal goals for affiliation.

Since Susan Winter is not involved with Parents Anonymous, esteem needs may have motived her to serve as my internship supervisor. Preceptorship bestows a certain amount of prestige and power. I attempted to reinforce Ms. Winter's prestige by thanking her in public on several occasions.

Since I am a task-oriented individual, I have a tendency to neglect the emotional and relational needs of others in the workplace. Other instructional designers with similar tendencies should be reminded not to forget important human relation skills such as making small-talk and showing appreciation.

Controlling Responsibilities

Hersey and Blanchard describe controlling as the monitoring of a project to compare actual outcomes with expected ones, and then making necessary adjustments to achieve the desired goal.

As discussed earlier, I engaged in overall control of this project by using the PERT and Gantt charts. Since most tasks in the instructional design process tended to take longer than planned, it sometimes become necessary to collapse or delete less important tasks. I consulted Ms. Winters for advice on which activities this could be done. Using her advice and my own intuition, I was able complete the project within the allotted time period.

Managing Task-Oriented Meetings

Another vital managerial activity not addressed by Hersey and Blanchard is leading meetings. According to Hon (1980), task-oriented meetings (TOMs) are designed to use a group process to solve problems in a minimum amount of time. During this internship, I engaged in a number of task-oriented meetings--usually with a one person at a time. Most of the meetings were with peers. Hon's general guidelines for peer TOMs include a perceived mandate from superiors, the right people at the meeting, a working agenda, and time allotments. I had a perceived mandate from the executive director of Parents Anonymous, which translated into enthusiastic cooperation from important subject-matter experts. When scheduling a meeting with an individual, I stated the primary purpose of the meeting. Often, questionnaires, reports or draft materials were distributed to the individual in advance of the meeting so that they could be reviewed. I approached each meeting with an unwritten agenda, which I usually shared with the other person at the start of the meeting. A time allotment was made for each meeting, but not generally for each item on the agenda.

Hon also recommends six activities through which all task-oriented meetings should proceed: goal setting, information gathering, problem solving, decision making, action pathing, and coordinating. How these steps are conducted depends on the meeting leader's relationship to the meeting participants (superordinate, peer, or subordinate). As stated above, I came to each meeting with a specific goal in mind. I shared information with the other individual and solicited information from them. When a problem presented itself, potential solutions were discussed and a decision made regarding the best solution. A verbal plan was developed for implementing the solution. After the meeting I ensured that the actions steps were completed.

I should point out that I was not consciously following Hon's principles when conducting these meetings. However, the basic concepts seem to have become part of my operating style.

A problem that arose from task-oriented meetings was difficulty in clearly communicating pre-meeting instructions and decisions made during meetings. There were several occasions when I thought Ms. Kennedy and I left a meeting with a mutual understanding of what I needed from her--only later to discover that she had a completely different understanding of the conversation. I attempted to solve this problem by using more written communication. However, this did not seem to alleviate the miscommunication. In the future, perhaps I should engage in more paraphrasing and feedback with meeting participants in order to verify understanding.


Harrison (1986). Project management principles.

Hersey, P., and Blanchard, K.H. (1988). Management of organizational behavior. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Hon, D. (1980). Meetings that matter. John Wiley & Sons.