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Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


Graduate School

First Advisor

John V. Schippers

First Committee Member

Roger L. Reimer

Second Committee Member

William T[?]

Third Committee Member

Robert R. Hopkins

Fourth Committee Member

R. Ann Finck


The use of computer assisted instruction as a viable educational technology in our nation's schools has presented educators with new dilemmas and decisions. To operate these devices in the manner in which they were intended, computer software or courseware, whose cost often rivals the original cost of the computers themselves, must be purchased before their potential benefit can be realized. The most widely used type of instructional design that is inherent in these programs can be categorized under the operant theory of learning comprising the styles such as tutorial, skills building, and drill and practice. These computer lessons can be described as question-response-reinforcement in organizational design. The purpose of this study was to determine the nature of the reinforcement and its effects upon certain learner behaviors. Four computer lessons of equal length, scope and difficulty were designed to teach symbolic number systems to high school students. The lessons were designed with four different types of reinforcement structures ranging from sound and color graphics animation to simple knowledge of correct response. The programs were coded so that the students could control the real times allowed to read instructional frames, compute their responses, or watch the rewards. It was clear from the study that reinforcement style had little to do with the effectiveness of the lesson. Students watched the reinforcements for a substantial time to begin with, but ultimately opted to continue the program with little attention to the rewards. Students spent significantly more time watching the frames that demonstrated the question and correct response when they answered incorrectly than they spent listening or watching an animation intended for their delight. The implications for software publishers and purchasers are threefold: 1) Effort needs to be given in examination and evaluation of educational software concerning its learning design. 2) Programs designed as instructional tutorials should be structured economically, without the extensive reinforcement frills. 3) Continued research should be aimed at identifying the most efficient reinforcement strategies in operant-style computer assisted instruction.



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