Programs are normally validated as part of the development process to ensure reliable, replicable learning results that is they are “automatic and guaranteed.” (Bullock 284) They are developed to meet specific needs since the process usually begins with a needs assessment. Programming provides for adaptation of instruction to the characteristics and capabilities of individual users.
Users can usually proceed at their own rate of learning. This avoids unfair comparisons with other users. Users are required to be active participants in the program, engaging in learning activities rather than passively receiving information. Programs can be sequenced to match the information processing requirements of the task to the structure of the content.
Different sequences or delivery strategies can be used to meet the same objectives allowing for further adaptation. The reinforcement resulting from the completion of a set of frames leaves the user with a sense of accomplishment or success, which in turn increases the motivation to learn. The surreal step size reduces the information processing requirements, thereby compensating for some deficiencies. All or parts of the program can be repeated or restudied as required. Learning may be accomplished at any convenient time or place in many formats. PI may be used for primary or (more effectively) for supplemental instruction for whole or partial courses. The difficulty and conceptual level can be adapted to the user. Programs can be used without supervision. Self-teaching guides are common and effective. Knowledge is usually gained more quickly than with traditional instruction. This is the most consistent research finding.
A wide variety of media or display devices can be employed to deliver the programs. PI materials provide flexibility in arranging the user’s work load, and they are logistically easy to administer. PI materials are well suited to many kinds of learning tasks and learning models. The feedback is continuous throughout the learning process. Slow learners do not become lost and discouraged as the material becomes more complex and detailed. Spelling generally improves, due to constant repetition.
The highly structured nature can help users move well beyond their normal level of progress. One of the major advantages frequently stated for PI is cost effectiveness. Based upon extensive use of PI in public service agencies, Corcoran and Leaner’s report the following cost effective advantages of PI (especially for training workers in high turnover situations):
Reduces need for large instructional staff
Reduces need for travel
Does not require special facilities or equipment
Content can be easily tailored to specific jobs or vocational needs.
The results of using PI, they report, are:
- Reduction in turnover
- Improved worker morale
- Cost reductions in training
- Improved service to clients
- Reduced fraud and error rates
- Improved worker performances
It should be obvious that all of the above factors contribute to the overall effectiveness of the operation not just to the specific task of training employees. These are the reasons that PI is still used frequently in business and industry.