Chapter 4. The Teaching Process

Computer-Assisted Learning (CAL) Method

Computer-assisted learning (CAL) couples the personal computer (PC) with multimedia software to create a training device. For example, major aircraft manufacturers have developed CAL programs to teach aircraft systems and maintenance procedures to their employees, reducing the amount of manpower necessary to train aircrews and maintenance technicians on the new equipment. End users of the aircraft, such as the major airlines, can purchase the training materials with the aircraft in order to accomplish both initial and recurrent training of their personnel. Major advantages of CAL are that students can progress at a rate which is comfortable for them and are often able to access the CAL at their own convenience.

Another benefit of CAL is the test prep study guides, useful for preparation for the FAA knowledge tests. These programs typically allow the students to select a test, complete the questions, and find out how they did on the test. The student may then conduct a review of questions missed.

Some of the more advanced CAL applications allow students to progress through a series of interactive segments where the presentation varies as a result of their responses. If students wish to learn about a particular area, they do so by clicking the mouse on a particular portion of the screen. They can focus on the area they either need to study or want to study. For example, a maintenance student who wants to find information on the refueling of a specific aircraft could use a CAL program to access the refueling section, and study the entire procedure. If the student wishes to repeat a section or a portion of the section, it can be done at any time merely by clicking on the appropriate icon.

In teaching aviation students, CAL programs can be used by the instructor as another type of reference for students to study. Just as a student can reread a section in a text, a student can review portions of a CAL program until it is understood. The instructor must continue to monitor and evaluate the progress of the student as usual. This is necessary to be certain a student is on track with the training syllabus. At times, instructors may feel that they are doing more one-on-one instruction than in a normal classroom setting, but repetitive forms of teaching may be accomplished by computer. This actually gives the instructor more time for one-on-one teaching. Remember, the computer has no way of knowing when a student is having difficulty, and it will always be the responsibility of the instructor to provide monitoring and oversight of student progress and to intervene when necessary. [Figure 4-13]

Real interactivity with CAL means the student is fully engaged with the instruction by doing something meaningful which makes the subject of study come alive. For example, the student controls the pace of instruction, reviews previous material, jumps forward, and receives instant feedback. With advanced tracking features, CAL also can be used to test the studentís achievement, compare the results with past performance, and indicate the studentís weak or strong areas.

For most aviation training, the computer should be thought of as a valuable instructional aid and entrusting an entire aviation training program to a computer is not practical. Even airline simulator programs require tailoring and hands-on interaction with a human instructor. On the other hand, CAL is a useful tool for aviation instructors. For example, in teaching aircraft maintenance, CAL programs produced by various aircraft manufacturers can be used to expose students to equipment not normally found at a maintenance school. Another use of computers would allow students to review procedures at their own pace while the instructor is involved in hands-on training with other students. The major advantage of CAL is that it is interactiveóthe computer responds in different ways, depending on student input. When using CAL, the instructor should remain actively involved with the students by using close supervision, questions, examinations, quizzes, or guided discussions on the subject matter to constantly assess student progress.

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