by Theresa Benveniste

So here you are with access to computers, either in your classrooms or a lab, you have a class full of technology eager students, and you are wondering what to do? Why not look into using tutorials to enhance your students' performance and increase their motivation. The purpose of this research wiki is to define what a tutorial is, what the research has to say about tutorials including their benefits and limitations, and provide some examples and links to available tutorials.

Definition of Tutorial
Tutorials fall under a general heading the literature calls “Computer-based Instruction” or CBI and are used in both business and educational settings.

Alessi & Trollip (2001) define a computer tutorial as a program that “takes the role of the instructor by presenting information and guiding the learner in initial acquisition” (p. 11).

Kulik, Kulik, & Bangert-Drowns (1985) define tutorials as a program which “in tutorial mode, both presents the concepts and provides practice exercises” (p. 60).

Taylor (1980) defines tutorials as “a tutor, the computer presents material, evaluates student responses, determines what to present next, and keeps records of student progress.

For this research report, we will combine the definitions; here the word tutorial will mean “a program that presents information and guides the student by providing practice exercises and that may or may not keep records of student progress.” (Alessi & Trollip, Kulik, Kulike, & Bangert-Drowns, and Taylor)

education.jpg What the research has to say:
As teachers, you probably have noticed that any time technology is used, students become more engaged. Children today have grown up with a multitude of technology options including computers in the classroom. But does access to technology really mean an increase in student learning? The research regarding the use of tutorials examined for this report was generally positive. Studies which examined the use of computer-based instruction (CBI) predominately indicate gains in student achievement and motivation.

Mayfield, Glenn & Vollmer (2008) examined the use of a tutorial to increase spelling accuracy in fourth grade students and reported an average performance on sets of spelling words of 93% with accuracy for follow up at 79%; baseline accuracy for the participants was in the 20% range.

A case study by Hannafin & Foshay (2008) examined the impact of a mathematics tutoring program on the passing rate of a state mandated exit exam for high school students. With the use of the CBI program, passing rates rose from 40% in 1999 to 84% in 2001.

Finally, a meta-analysis of 32 studies by Kulik, Kulik, and Bangert-Drowns (1985) reported an increase in student achievement for elementary children. The studies differentiated between a CD-ROM based software and interactive programs found on the internet with a larger gain found in the interactive type programs.

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While the research is positive regarding the use of tutorials, there are some suggestions for achieving greater gains and keeping students motivated to use the tutorial. As a teacher, you know students like to work in cooperative groups and using a tutorial is no different. Pairing or grouping students can help with not only the content of the tutorial, but also with basic computer troubleshooting issues. Discussing the content after time spent on a program will help solidify and begin ownership of the material.

Hooper, Temiyakan, & Williams (1993) conducted an experiment with 162 fourth graders to determine the effect of cooperative grouping and the use of tutorials. Their study found that students had increased achievement and better attitudes toward the computer lesson with the use of cooperative groups.

Zavarella and Ignash (2008) investigated the reasons why student sign up for CBI classes and whether they completed the course. As can be expected, the reasons why students sign up for classes are varied but those individuals who began the course for personal reasons such as the course related to their major were more likely to complete the class. A significant reason students failed to finish a CBI program was their misguided belief that a CBI class would be easier than a lecture based class. The researchers stressed the importance of two way communication between student and instructor and student and others in the class to keep individuals motivated to finish.

In their study of adults at a paper mill, Petty, Lim, & Zulaf (2007) found that adults who used tutorials as part of their training self-reported greater understanding of material and greater satisfaction with the program when paired with a mentor as compared to the tutorial alone.

In summary, research supports the positive effect tutorials have on student achievement. Some research suggests that in order to keep achievement and motivation high, the use of student groups or pairs is desirable when using computer-based instruction.

Give me an example…
Many states have adopted technology standards. For example, in keeping with these standards, Fullerton School District has this as an expectation: sixth grade students will “type 10 words per minute with proper finger position”. Most teachers do not have access to a regular keyboarding class but you can easily incorporate keyboarding using a free online tutorial called BBC Typing.

Helpful links to explore…
BBC Typing
Basic Math

Math Tutorial (this is the main page, simply search for a subject you need help with)

Alessi, S. M., & Trollip, S. R. (2001). Multimedia for learning. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Hannafin, R. D., & Foshay, W. R. (2008). Computer-based instruction’s (CBI) rediscovered role in K-12 : An evaluation case study of one high school’s use of CBI to improve pass rates on high-stakes tests. Education, Technology, Research & Development, 56, 147-160.

Hooper, S., Temiyakam, C., & Williams, M. D. (1993). The effects of cooperative learning and learner control on high- and average-ability students. Educational Technology Research, 41(2), 5-18.

Kulik, J. A., Kulik C. C., & Bangert-Drowns, R. L. (1985). Effectiveness of computer-based education in elementary schools. Computers in Human Behavior, 1, 59-74.

Mayfield, K. H., Glenn, I. M., & Vollmer, T. R. (2008). Teaching spelling through prompting and review procedures using computer-based instruction. Journal of Behavioral Education, 17, 303-312.

Petty, G. C., Lim, D. H., & Zulauf, J. (2007). Training transfer between CD-ROM based instruction and traditional classroom instruction. The Journal of Technology Studies, 33(1), 48-56.

Taylor. R. P. (1980). The computer in the school: Tutor, tool, tutee. New York: The Teachers College Press.
Zavarella, C. A., & Ignash, J. M. (2008). Instructional delivery in developmental mathematics: Impacto n retention. Journal of Developmental Education, 32, 2-13.

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