What is Computer-Assisted Instruction? (with pictures)

Mary Elizabeth

Computers are a familiar sight in classrooms in the twenty-first century, and technology has been used to streamline many educational tasks. There are different types of educational computer use, and not every use of a computer in the classroom is considered computer-assisted instruction (CAI). The educational uses of computers that are considered to be CAI or computer-based instruction (CBI) are those cases in which either instruction is presented through a computer program to a passive student, or the computer is the platform for an interactive and personalized learning environment.

Computer assisted instruction is used by a variety of individuals on a multitude of subjects.
Computer assisted instruction is used by a variety of individuals on a multitude of subjects.

Within the broad definition, computer-assisted instruction may follow different paths to the same end. One example is how this instruction medium is used in relation to other teaching presentations. CAI can be used either in isolation, bearing the whole responsibility for conveying instruction to students, or in combination with conventional, i.e., face-to-face, teaching methods. Research has shown that the combination of conventional and CAI instruction has been most effective in raising student achievement scores.

Some education incorporates the use of computers.
Some education incorporates the use of computers.

Computer-assisted instruction is used through the entire range of education from preschool to professional school. It has been offered in a wide variety of fields, including all the main school subjects taught in elementary and secondary schools. At CALI, the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction, law students from across the United States and other countries such as Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Ireland, Kenya, Korea, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, and Taiwan have access to CAI law school lessons to supplement their instruction.

Computer-assisted instruction might be used as an additional resource in the classroom.
Computer-assisted instruction might be used as an additional resource in the classroom.

Computer-assisted instruction has also been growing in use in a wide number of employment areas. It has been used to teach novice nurses how to perform intravenous injections, to teach jet engine mechanics in the US Air Force maintenance tasks, and to provide safety instruction for food service workers in an urban hospital.

Computer-assisted instruction can help with employee training.
Computer-assisted instruction can help with employee training.

CAI can also focus on smaller segments of the population. Computer-assisted instruction has also been used to personalize learning for people with learning disabilities, language limitations, and physical limitations. In the latter case, screen-reading programs may cater to sight-impaired users, and a variety of specialized interactive devices, such as roller balls, joysticks, and oversized keyboards may be used by a person when a mouse or standard keyboard present a challenge.

Webinars are a popular part of computer-assisted instruction.
Webinars are a popular part of computer-assisted instruction.
Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth is passionate about reading, writing, and research, and has a penchant for correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to contributing articles to EasyTechJunkie about art, literature, and music, Mary Elizabeth is a teacher, composer, and author. She has a B.A. from the University of Chicago’s writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont, and she has written books, study guides, and teacher materials on language and literature, as well as music composition content for Sibelius Software.

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Discussion Comments


@BrickBack - I know what program you are talking about. I actually have some of the software at home and it is great. It allows you to think in the language because it offers pictures and then gives you a chance to learn the word and actually pronounce it.

There is a software microphone that comes with the course that measures how your voice sounds compared to a native speaker. I have to say that the program is really addicting. This form of language instruction is great if you have to learn a language quickly and need a comprehensive approach.

I also used a computer based reading instruction to teach both of my children to read. It was really easy. It was an embedded phonics program that got them reading after 120 lessons. I used this with my daughter when she was four and she was able to progress in her reading so much that in Kindergarten she won an achievement award because she had so many points in the accelerated reading program at school.

The lessons only took about twenty minutes every day. There was a follow up program to teach more advanced phonics which also contained a writing component. The writing portion was the only aspect that was a bit difficult, but that is because children at that age do not have the fine motor skills to write for any length of time.

So if you ignore the writing portion, the child can still learn to read. The course also offers a list of suggested titles to use after you compete the course that your child should be able to read. My son learned to read the same way and both of my kids are strong readers today.


@Subway11 - I agree. I know that a lot of private schools offer foreign language instruction in this method. My children’s private school offers afterschool electives on other foreign languages and some are really exotic but they are all computer based. This allows the school to offer more foreign language opportunities that goes beyond the scope of what the teachers may know.

The only downside is that it can give you the mechanics of a language as well as the grammar but in order to develop fluency you would really have to speak with a native speaker a few times a week to get some practice.

There is language learning software that does offer additional support which is part of the software package. It gives you an opportunity to speak with a native speaker online. My children’s school does not have this option but it would be ideal in order to develop a comfort level with the language.


@SauteePan - I know that many companies will automate some of their training with computer assisted instruction software in order to save money.

Here they can cut down on travel expenses by having the employee view the training materials on their computer at their desk or even from their home.

My sister was a trainer for a company that did this and she would get computer reports on who completed the training and what scores they received in each of the segments.

The company was able to train even more employees at the same time because a single trainer did not have to conduct all of the training because the training was self-paced. I really think that a lot of companies are going to go in this direction if they have not already done so, especially many international companies that have employees all over the world.

This is a good way to offer the same material to all employees and really offer quality training too.


I just wanted to add that a lot of companies are also using computer aided instruction for their workforce. I had a friend who was in a training class that offered computer aided instruction from his home.

He was being trained to offer customer service support for a company and since the job was home based so was the training. It was really convenient because he was able to work his regular full time job and then train for this second part time job without ever having to leave his home.

The company offered him a soft token so that he could get access to the network and train on the company’s actual system. It is really amazing how the company is able to contract people from all over the country because they are all using effective instruction that is computer based.

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