What are the Disadvantages of Programmed Instruction?

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In linear programming, all users follow the same path. This uniformity prevents adaptation of content to users’ needs. Pushing a button or filling in a blank does not necessarily represent active participation.

Many poorer programs require only copying tasks which actually can inhibit learning. Programmed materials tend to depend too extensively on verbalization to convey content thereby placing heavy reliance on the reading ability of the user. This is not necessary, and is often changed by the programming of other media, such as video, slides, and filmstrips.

PI, especially linear materials, are often said to be boring. In a way, this is true. Many are tedious, especially if you diligently work through hundreds or even thousands of linear frames. However, this claim is based on the common misconception that learning is necessarily fun. Writing and validating PI is time consuming and may be more expensive to produce than other print materials. It usually consumes more paper. It is difficult to use programmed materials for reference.

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They are not well structured for access. Branching texts can be awkward to use, especially if you lose your place in the sequence. Linear texts can be frustrating for users who already know much of the material. Good programs provide a diagnostic option for moving such users ahead. The highly structured organization of the material can discourage independent inquiry and creative thought.

Machine-based programs are usually unique to one machine; they cannot be displayed on another type of teaching machine. Efforts to standardize on a common format have failed. Program questions usually emphasize only content knowledge and do not accommodate emotions or feelings. (This may or may not be a disadvantage.) Good programs are difficult to prepare on a local basis.

Many programs overemphasize short-answer questions that do not require understanding of the information. Little interaction among users usually occurs while working on PI because of the self-pacing characteristic. However, PI can be used successfully in small groups. There is not as wide a selection of high-quality programmed materials available today as in the 1960’s. Cheating is possible with virtually all programs especially linear ones.

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