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Pedagogical Pros and Cons of Interactive Tutorials

Page history last edited by kaharris@... 9 years, 9 months ago


Pedagogical Pros and Cons of Interactive Tutorials


The proliferation of online tutorials for use in academic instruction is on the rise, but what needs to be asked is what is causing the surge of interest in online tutorials? The reasons vary from staffing shortages, a desire to provide point of need assistance, increases of distance learning, and growing awareness, specifically in public and private academic institution.  These reasons are considered to be the learning styles of the so-called “Millennial Learner”, who is said to prefer interactive, technology-based learning experiences (Lindsay, Cummings, Johnson, & Scales, 2006). However, one of the main reasons for this trend is that the interactive tutorial software available for tutorial construction has also grown increasingly capable and user-friendly for academic instruction.


Weighing Their Uses


Interactive tutorials provide some key advantages for instruction and their users. Specifically in courses where face-to-face instruction is not always feasible, online interactive tutorials can reach more students or visitors than a typical in-class course. These tutorials can provide 24/7 access to course information as well as instructional material for literacy skills, library resources, or a variety of instructional or research material. Instructional training for large student population, such as for popular general educational courses are well suited for delivery via an online tutorial. Interactive tutorials provide a focused demonstration that can be viewed at the learner’s convenience, repeatedly if necessary; users only need an Internet connection and a Web browser with a media viewer, such as Flash, QuickTime, or Windows Media Viewer (Moss, 2000).


Many will argue that face-to-face instruction cannot and should not be entirely replaced by interactive online tutorials, a research study has found that interactive tutorials generally proved effective instruction within the classroom, that students’ quiz scores and confidence levels were not statistically different depending on the type of instruction, and that the majority of students actually preferred online to classroom instruction (Gonzalez & Birch, 2000).


Despite the upswing in the uses online interactive tutorials should not suggest that academic institutions entirely abandon traditional face-to-face classroom instruction. Educational institutions should understand not only do students and their learning styles differ, but there are some instructional opportunities such as in-depth, course-integrated information literacy and research instruction that may not be replaced by any current form of online instruction (Donnelly & Gorman, 1999). For many skills and topics, a well-designed online interactive tutorial can effectively provide instruction and assistance to a wide range of academic course users.


According to a study entitled, Learning Styles and Student Perceptions of the Use of Interactive Online Tutorials, students performed lower on online tutorials if the design lacked association with their learning style.  According to VARK, a perceptual inventory mode developed by Fleming, students learn under one or more of the following four components: visual, aural, read/write, and kinaesthetic.  Visual learners prefer the use of charts, graphs, and pictures, while aural learners like to use discussion topics.  Students who fancy reading and writing favor essays, reports, and or manuals.  And last but not least, those who are kinaesthetic learners prefer field trips, trial and error, and hands on approaches.  The study suggests that if these four components are included within the study, the chances of student success is increased.  (Bolliger & Supanakorn, 2011).








Assessment and Evaluation for Software Effectiveness


During any time of academic instruction the assessment and evaluation of interactive tutorial programs is essential, especially do to the time and effort invested in the development of online interactive tutorials. Assessment and evaluation are critical elements of online instruction; interactive tutorials need to be evaluated for usability, and depending on the purpose for which they are designed, for their contribution to learning or skill development (Reeves, 2000).


Tutorials can be effectively evaluated by usability testing during development as well as by observation, student achievement, and interviews when the tutorial is completed to measure adherence to the original goals. Usability testing need not be elaborate or involve large numbers of users to be beneficial, small groups of users can provide useful feedback quickly and inexpensively. Usability experts suggest that observing and testing as few as five users will provide useful and constructive information by collecting the users’ success rates, verbal reactions, task performance, check-listed criteria, and subjective satisfaction; methods include pretesting to evaluate prior knowledge and post testing to determine student satisfaction, learning, and reactions to the course content, materials, and methods (Charney & Reder, 1986).




The collections of useful data from users through surveys, questionnaires, and reaction pieces that measure confidence in executing a specific skill, using a resource, or performing an activity, as well as suggestions for improvement, queries regarding what was learned, what was unclear, and what might be changed in the future, can assist a department or educator in increasing of the benefits of using interactive tutorials and hopefully avoid the pitfalls of using online interactive tutorials.


The following chart illustrates advantages and disadvantages for a variety of different interactive and non-interactive training methods (Holzberg, 2003).


 Training Method  Type of Training  Advantages  Disadvantages
 Instructor-Led Training  Classroom  Revised easily  Scheduling is difficult
     Developed quickly  Travel costs
     Face-to-face contact

Differences from class to class

   On-line Group Training  No travel costs  Requires computer equipment
     Developed quickly  No face-to-face contact
   Videoconferencing and Video/On-line  Supports large groups and multiple sites  High equipment costs
     No travel costs  Logistically challenging
   On-the Job Coaching  Effective knowledge transfer  Differences from instructor to instructor, session to session.
     Related to trainee's job  Costly in terms of instructor-to-trainee ratio
     Face-to-face contact  
 On-line Self-Directed Training  All On-line Training  Consistent training content  High development costs
     Convenient access to training  Lengthy development time
     Trainee sets own pace  Requires computer equipment
     Reuse does not require trainer participation  
   Web-Based Training  Easy to modify  Limited bandwidth causes slow download times.
   CD-ROM/DVD  Supports complex multimedia  Difficult to modify
 Off-line Self-Directed Training  Printed Material  Portable  Less Interesting
     Trainee sets own pace  Difficult to modify
     Developed quickly  

Video DVD or Audio CD

 Consistent training content  Requires playback equipment
     Can share copies  Can be costly to develop
     Trainee sets own pace  Difficult to modify
 Just-In-Time Training  Electronic Performance Support System (EPSS)  Available when needed at trainee's convenience  Costly to develop
     Related to trainee's job  Requires computer equipment
   Continuous Improvement  Promotes employee involvement  Requires training resources that are readily available on a continuous basis
     Promotes creative solutions  Differences from instructor to instructor
   Computer-Mediated Asynchronous Collaboration  Accessible at the trainee's convenience  Requires computer equipment
     Promotes creative solutions  Can require computer software
     Promotes employee involvement  




Link to interactive tutorials:


Medline Plus:  http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/tutorial.html


Jefferson County Schools: http://jc-schools.net/tutorials/interactive.htm


Science Direct: http://help.sciencedirect.com/robo/projects/sdhelp/tutorials/sd_menu.html


Clemson University - Virtual Environments Group: http://wwwtest.cs.clemson.edu/group/vegroup/research.html


VARK Learning Styles: http://www.vark-learn.com/english/index.asp



Following images from Clemson University showing their interactive tutorial:








     Bolliger, D., & Supanakorn, S. (2011) Learning styles and student perceptions of the use of interactive online tutorials. 42(3).

          retrieved fromhttp://0-    web.ebscohost.com.opac.library.csupomona.edu/ehost/detail?vid=15&hid=125&sid=b777a220-    



     Charney, D. H., & Reder, L. M. (1986). Designing Interactive Tutorials for Computer Users.

          Human-Computer Interaction, 2(4), 297.


     Donnelly, R. C. A. L., & Gorman, M. P. (1999). Planning and developing an interactive computerized

          tutorial for learning in higher education. Teaching in Higher Education, 4(3), 397.


     Gonzalez, G. M., & Birch, M. A. (2000). Evaluating the Instructional Efficacy of Computer

          Mediated Interactive Multimedia: Comparing Three Elementary Statistics Tutorial Modules. Journal

          of Educational Computing Research, 22(4), 411-36.


     Lindsay, E. B., Cummings, L., Johnson, C. M., & Scales, B. J. (2006). If You Build It, Will They

          Learn? Assessing Online Information Literacy Tutorials. College & Research Libraries67

          (5), 429-445.


     Moss, D. M. (2000). Bringing Together Technology and Students: Examining the use of  Technology

          in a Project-based Class. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 22(2), 155-69.



     Reeves, T. C. (2000). Alternative Assessment Approaches for Online Learning Environments in

          Higher Education. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 23(1), 101-11.



     “VARK -- A Guide to Learning Styles”, n.d., http://www.vark-learn.com/english/index.asp.

Comments (4)

Pio Ortega said

at 10:03 pm on Apr 27, 2011

Any comments from 1st and 2nd editors?

jesusm1@csupomona.edu said

at 12:56 pm on Apr 28, 2011

Hey guys, great job. I have added some information on the use of learning styles within online tutorials.

Pio Ortega said

at 3:08 pm on Apr 28, 2011

Hi Jesus,

Great addition, I actually saw an example just like the one you added and I wasn't sure if I should add it or not. I'm glad you did!!


kaharris@... said

at 10:30 pm on Apr 28, 2011

Three thumbs up! Good job Pio and Jesus, all of the information flows together well. Very informative.

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