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Web-based instruction (WBI) is becoming much more common with the growth of the Internet and available computer networks (Harasim, Hiltz, Teles, & Turoff, 1995). With the rapid expansion of WBI there is a need to examine its effectiveness. This quasi-experimental study compared three delivery models: direct instruction, concept attainment, and small-group discussion. The study found no significant main effects. However, there was a significant interaction effect between delivery model and prior web experience. This indicates that for some learners, certain delivery models may be more effective for web-based environments.
As the United States moves from an industrial to an information economy, the need for technically literate employees is growing rapidly. Public education is under increased scrutiny and is being criticized by business and industry for being slow moving and overly conservative, particularly when implementing new technologies and innovations (Perelman, 1994).
The computer has been promoted as the primary vehicle to achieve this paradigm shift. Anytime and anyplace instruction has been widely viewed as a replacement for schools and teachers. Some pundits have even suggested that traditional classroom instruction will become unnecessary as computers become less expensive and more ubiquitous (Perelman, 1994). On the other hand, Fraser (1999) observed that the current use of computer technology is simply "translation and redistribution; new access to fundamentally old stuff... The Web merely changes access, not pedagogy" (p.1). Addressing the possible paradigm shift, Fraser asked, "Surely there is something more to this revolution" (p.1). Further, Ahern (1996) suggested that designers need to "choose the most appropriate technologies for a particular instructional task" (p.23). More research on nontraditional delivery methods is necessary to determine the best task-to-technology fit.
Web-based instruction (WBI) is becoming much more common with the growth of computer networks (Harasim, Hiltz, Teles, & Turoff, 1995). The rapid expansion of WBI necessitates examining its effectiveness because instruction is more than simply displaying information. Instruction requires an integrated fit that considers the content, the current state of the learner and the delivery model to achieve success.
Delivery models are approaches to instruction with an underlying theoretical framework designed to bring about a particular type of learning (Joyce & Weil, 2000). Joyce and Weil group the various models into "families" based on the learning theories from which the models were derived. In this study we were interested in three families: behavioral, information processing and social interaction. Personal models are not discussed as they are beyond the scope of this article.
BEHAVIORAL DELIVERY MODELS
Based on the work of Skinner (1938), behavioral models take advantage of the human ability to modify behavior in response to stimulus and feedback. This family of instructional models is used in a wide variety of applications, from teaching information to changing habits, decreasing phobias, and learning to control one's own behavior.
One important application of behavioral systems theory is in the development of instruction. Behavioral delivery systems enable learning tasks to be regulated according to the progress of the learners. This allows students to pace themselves for optimal performance. Often these systems organize material to be learned into small sequenced instructional modules that are presented to the students with assessments of learning embedded in them (Joyce & Weil, 2000). Some of these behavioral delivery models include mastery learning, direct instruction, contingency management, and self-training through simulation.
The direct instruction model can be traced back to the work of Thorndike (1913), and was systematically developed by Skinner (1958) as programmed instruction. The direct instruction model involves sequencing the content into small modules. The model first presents a portion of the content in sequence and then reinforces its acquisition through practice. The student must demonstrate adequate performance before moving onto the next …