Integrated Curriculum

Guidelines for Tutorials

    

Tutorial software should be an entire instructional sequence on a topic of instruction and is usually expected to be a self-contained instructional unit rather than a supplement to other instruction. Students should be able to learn the topic without any other help or materials. Unlike other types of instructional software, tutorials are true teaching materials. Gagne et al. (1981) said that good tutorial software should address all nine instructional events.

     People may confuse tutorials and drill activities for two reasons. First, drill software may provide elaborate feedback that reviewers may mistake for tutorial explinations. Even software developers may claim that a package is a tutorial when it is actually a drill activity with detailed feedback. Second, a good tutorial should include one or more practice sequences to check students' comprehension.  Tutorials are often described as linear or branching.

(Roblyer, 2010)

  • Linear tutorial- A simple linear tutorial gives the same instructional sequence of explination, practice, and feedback to all learners regardless of differences in their performance.
  • Branching Tutorial-  A more sophisticated tutorial that directs learners along alternate paths depending on how they respond to questions.  Mastery of certain parts of material can determine whether they move on in complexity.  Teachers can place students at appropriate levels and monitor progress resports as they go through the instruction.

    (Roblyer, 2010)

Selecting Good Tutorial Software

Being a good teacher is a difficult assignment for any human, let alone a computer. However, software must accomplish this task to fulfill tutorial functions. In addition to meeting general criteria for good instructional software, well-designed tutorial programs should also meet the following standards.

  • Extensive interactivity-  ggood tutorials should require students to give frequent and thoughtful responses to questions and problems as well as provide appropriate practice and feedback.
  • Thorough user control- Studentsshould be able to control the rate at which text appears on the screen.  They should also be able to review explanations, examples, or sequences of instruction or to move ahead to other instruction. 
  • Appropriate pedagogy- fThe tutorial should provide a required sequence of instruction that builds on concepts and covers the content adequately.  Sufficient explanations and examples should be offered in both original and remedial versions.
  • Adequate answer-judging and feedback capabilities-  If possible, programs should allow students to answer in natural language and should accept all correct answers and possible variations of correct answers.
  • Appropriate graphics-  Graphics should be used sparingly and not interfere with the tutorial.  Additionally, graphics should only be used for aesthetic, instructional or supportive function.
  • Adequate recordkeeping- Tutorials should keep accurate records on student work.  Teachers need to be able to get progress summaries quickly and easily.

(Roblyer, 2010)

Benefits of Tutorials

Since a tutorial includes drill-and-practice activities, helpful features include the same ones as for drills (immediate feedback to learners, motivation, and time savings) plus the additional benefit of offering a self-contained, self-paced unit of instruction. Many successful uses of tutorials have been documented over the years.

 (Roblyer, 2010)

Limitations and Problems Related to Tutorials

Tutorials can fulfill many much-needed instructional functions, but like drill and practice, they also attract their share of criticism, including:

  • Criticism by constructivists- Tutorials are criticized for their direct instruction rather than allowing students to generate their own knowledge through hands-on projects.
  • Lack of good products- Software publishers describe fewer packages as tutorials than any other type of software due to the difficulty and expense of designing and developing tutorial software.
  • Reflect only one instructional approach- dTeachers frequently disagree about what should be taught for a given topic, how to teach a topic most effectively, and in what order to present the learning tasks.

(Roblyer, 2010)

Using Tutorials in Teaching

Self-instructional tutorials should in no way threaten teachers, since few conceivable situations make a computer preferable to an expert teacher. However, the tutorial's unique capability of presenting an entire interactive instructional sequence can assist in several class room situations.

  • Self-paced reviews of instruction
  • Alternative learning strategies
  • Instruction when teachers are unavailable
  • Individual assignments
  • Use learning stations or individual checkout

 

References

Roblyer, M.D.,Doering, A.H. (2010).  Integrating educational technology into teaching (5th ed.) Boston: Allyn & Bacon.