Distance Learning      


“Computer-assisted instruction has been shown in a range of studies to facilitate learning in a variety of ways. Computers can be used to aide in teaching English Language Learners in core academic subjects, such as reading and writing. Computers can aide in vocabulary development as well as verbal language development. Ultimately, however, it is important to recognize that computers are not a substitute for effective teaching. Computers are a tool--they are simply one type of supplement to the regular curriculum in teaching English Language Learners as they develop their English language skills."

From: Using Technology to Help ESL/EFL Students Develop Language Skills by Renee Ybarra, C.C. Lambert Elementary (Tustin, California, USA) & Tim Green, California State University (Fullerton, California, USA) published in The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. IX, No. 3, March 2003


Seven Learning Enhancement Techniques As suggested By MacLachlan


 "Sometimes relatively small differences in the way information is presented can lead to substantially improved learning. For example, cognitive psychologists have found that when material to be learned is preceded by questions, recall of facts is increased by as much as 100 %."

1) Attention as a pre-requisite to learning:

Although it is difficult to say exactly what 'attention' is, it is well known that when people pay attention  they remember more (James, 1890).

2) Curiosity and learning:

In general, researchers have reported about twice as much learning when subjects were first asked questions or shown curiosity-provoking ambiguous information (cf. David Berlyne, 1971).


 - Partial presentation of information

 - Questions first ("pre-questions")

3) Thematic organization:

People tend to have poor memory for isolated facts. When new information is introduced it is important to first connect it to material that has already been learned (cf. Bower and Clark, 1969).

4) High information flow:

When a person tells you something that you already know, there is very little information flow because there is no element of "surprise". McPherson-Turner (1979) recommends, "the lesson should be structured so that a learner may interact with all or part of the lesson as appropriate for his/her abilities."

Strategies for CALL (Computer Assessed Language Learning):

 - Subordinate category words:

The use of more specific words can be considered an example of "chunking" of information. The amount of information which the mind can retain in short term memory is limited to seven items plus or minus two (Miller, 1956).

 - The effect of faster computer display rate:

In addition to the influence of language, the rate of information flow within a computerized tutorial may be restricted by hardware variables. Experiments conducted by Dennis (1979) demonstrate the desirability of fast response times.

5) Mnemonic devices:

It is not always possible to link information using narratives. In that case a mnemonic device, e.g. a rhyme or the method of loci, helps the learner to retain material more rapidly and recall it more accurately.

Strategies for CALL:

 - Use of rhythm and rhyme:

The implication for computerized tutorials is that rhythm and rhyme can lead to enduring learning, but where possible the most important material should be placed at the beginning of the rhyme so that it will be readily accessible in memory.

 - The method of loci:

One peculiar mnemonic method, but a surprisingly powerful one, is to imagine that various items to be learned are located in different physical locations (loci). Recall is accomplished by visualizing each location and thereby, discovering the object (Mitchell, 1910; Yates, 1966).

CALL: Within a computerized tutorial you can accomplish recall by an image familiar to everyone which you put on the screen. Then you attach new information to it in a way which would make a memorable pattern.

6) Concrete rather than abstract representations:

Standing (1973), in a paper titled "Learning 10,000 Pictures", demonstrated that picture memory is consistently superior to verbal memory. ... Standing also demonstrates that vivid pictures are better remembered than ordinary pictures... Perhaps the vivid pictures are better remembered because people tend to remember exceptions in preference to every day occurrences.

Strategies for CALL:

 - Art and animation

 - Parables and high imagery language

7) The Zeigarnik effect:

Zeigarnik (1927) demonstrated that when people were asked to complete a jigsaw type puzzle, the remembrance of the details of the puzzle was best if they were interrupted just before they had all the pieces together.

Within a computerized tutorial, it may be possible, through including certain information in a story, to enable the reader to amplify the story through drawing inferences and conclusions. This kind of involvement would represent a substantial depth of processing as characterized by Craik and Tulving (1975). They found that the greater depth of processing required by a task the greater the remembrance.

Implications for CALL

Considerable evidence suggests that each of the seven techniques could make possible meaningful improvements in learning. The techniques are easy to apply, and in some instances it would be possible to use all of these techniques within a single computerized tutorial. Specific research is needed to demonstrate whether these techniques are as powerful within computerized tutorials as they are in other contexts.

From: Psychologically Based Techniques For Improving Learning Within Computerized Tutorials by James MacLachlan, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, published in Journal of Computer-Based Instruction, Summer 1986, Vol. 13, No. 3, 65-70, page 65-70.