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What is Computer-Based Learning?

By Jacob Queen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Computer-based learning is a term that can be used to describe virtually any kind of learning program using computers as a central staple. This approach to learning takes advantage of the interactive elements of computer software, along with the computer’s ability to present many different kinds of media. There are several potential advantages of computer-based learning programs, including the ability for people to learn from their homes and study without the assistance of an instructor.

Some people are opposed to computer-based learning because they feel it depersonalizes the classroom experience, and that it may lack the necessary flexibility to handle problems that students face during the learning process. This type of learning has been used as a tool in the midst of a more traditional classroom experience. It has also been used as a primary education method, especially in many online education programs.

The use of computers for learning has generally increased with the advancement of technology. The ability of computer hardware to process and present many different media types has allowed for more complex computer learning strategies. An example would be a training module that uses video along with text and audio files for lectures. Tests and exercises are often handled in an interactive manner, and sometimes they can almost be like games, depending on the style of the implementation.

Many people who favor computer-based learning believe that it creates more opportunity for individuals from disadvantaged environments. A very high-quality education experience can potentially be implemented in a computer-based environment and then distributed widely around the world to people of all economic backgrounds. Other people oppose computer learning because they believe those from disadvantaged backgrounds may not have computers available to learn with. Advocates argue that computers have become popular enough and affordable enough to offset this problem.

Some who favor this type of learning also suggest that it allows people to learn at a comfortable pace that works for them, while a traditional classroom experience can sometimes leave students behind. Many teachers tend to focus their pacing on the learning speed of the average student, so slower students who can’t keep up may eventually find themselves playing catch-up or being forced to enter tutoring programs. With computers, those students can potentially spend as much time as necessary to understand a given subject before moving on.

Another common complaint is that computer-based learning may not allow students to have the personal interaction they need. If the computer programmer did not anticipate a particular student’s question or difficulty, the student may be stuck and unable to learn, whereas if a student had an actual teacher, it may be possible to get some personal assistance. Those who favor this type of learning often bring up the fact that it is relatively common for a program to mix computer-based learning with traditional methods, including some level of classroom interaction.

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Discussion Comments

By MrMoody — On May 22, 2011

@SkyWhisperer - Yes, courses that use computer training are not a threat to the education profession. They’re tools in the hands of professional educators who know how to use them. In a sense, the computer has become the new whiteboard—a smart whiteboard, I should say, and kids are responding very well to these approaches.

On top of that, it gives the teachers needed stress relief, where they can take a break while the students are taking computer based lessons.

By SkyWhisperer — On May 20, 2011

Computer based education is here to stay. From what I’ve gathered most of the objections to this kind of instruction have to do with lack of social interaction. However computer based training is meant to be a supplement to, not a substitute for, traditional education.

It’s used in my community college, for example. Some courses are declared computer based or online learning courses. It’s not that there is no teacher in these courses; it’s just that most of the instruction takes place through online modules. The teacher still communicates to the students via email, online blackboards and so forth. I can ask questions if I need to. It's just that some courses lend themselves more easily to computer based training than others.

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