Impacts of CAI on Rural Students


The credibility of any computer-assisted pedagogical approach is grounded in the rationale behind its creation, research support for the content, and duplication of sequence and scope of instruction in programming. This, according to Soe Koki and Chang (2000), whose meta-analysis of 17 studies found a positive effect on reading achievement of the above three characteristics.

One of the most important early studies in support of a CAI approach occurred in Los Angeles in 1983 (Ragosta). The three-year study, utilizing the program, "Success Maker," provided consistent programming to four elementary schools and two control schools. Students were pre-tested and post-tested each spring using the California Test of Basic Skills. An average effect size of +.025(p<0.1) on Vocabulary and +0.23(p<01) for Comprehension were found. The three-year cohort had a mean effect size of +0.17. This study was a firm early report of positive gains with CAI.

The sub-headings described in the above paragraph will focus on the following: The debate on whether CAI can help to improve student's reading ability has led to numerous studies in order to find the underlying cause of this. This literature review will establish research supports of best practices of reading the credibility of individualized approaches to learning, and the valid underpinnings of response-to-intervention for reading success. The review will conclude with a discussion of computer-assisted instruction. It provides substantiation of the utilization of the program that will be described in the methods and procedures section of this study.

Research consistently correlates reading proficiency and academic success (Pretorius, 2000). Reading is the most important skill in academic learning contexts (Fasheh, 1995). Reading can be dissected to segments for effective instruction and assessment. Individualized or differentiated instruction has its basis that learning is individual and each learner brings a unique perspective of abilities and experiences to any learning task (Gardner, 2000). There are best practices, researched, that can allow differentiated instruction to be successful (Mazzoni & Gambrell, 2003). Response-to-Intervention (RTI) provides high quality instruction matched to student needs to reach all populations (Brown-Chidsey, 2005). Computer-Assisted Instruction leads to a more individualized strategy to meet the needs of many learning styles (Singhal, 1998). A balanced approach to reading improvement will result in the most significant gains (Coles, 2000).   

Reading and Academic Success

One of the most significant studies linking reading to academic success was done by Pretorious (2002). In his book, he focused on low socioeconomic groups and those groups's penchant for high school graduation and further education. He found  that "applied linguistics and reading research consistently show a strong correlation between reading proficiency and academic success at all ages, from the primary school right through to university level: students who read a lot and who understand what they read usually attain good grades. " (pp. 189). The Handbook of Reading Research (2006), the most respected, complete and contemporary compilation of reading ramifications, divulges many tested connections of academic success related to reading. In this study, most significantly, the development of cognitive-information processing (thinking) is promoted by the construction of meaning during the reading process (Carpenter, 1986).

The majority of cognitive processing skills of inferring, integrating, evaluating, and synthesizing are honed within the scope of reading. Reading is "meaning-making" and the abilities and skills required to achieve this meaning making are necessary for success in an information age (Spingies, 1993). Reading differences can cause the "Matthew Effect," whereby students with reading difficulties read less than good readers, thus their processing skills develop more slowly and less effectively. Those students lose motivation and frustration rises so even less reading practice occurs. Teachers and parents have lower expectations of them. This only exacerbates the problem and the cycle continues, leaving these students further and further behind normal academic progress (Stanovich, 1986).

Readers with advanced skill levels have the advantage of increased cognitive processing. The result is improved academic performance (Spear-Sterling, 1996). These differences in achievement related to reading become even larger and more pronounced as students mature (Carpenter, 1986). At the end of first grade, the difference between readers may be a year or less, but at grade 12, it is uncommon for the reading gap to be five years (Chall, 1990). There is little doubt that effective readers are significantly better information processors and thus have the capacity of becoming independent learners with potential for high levels of academic success.

Compartmentalizing reading for effective instruction and assessment

Several empirical studies (National Reading Panel, 2000; Swanson, 1999; Vaughn, Gersten, & Chard, 2000) have identified research-based practices that when sequenced correctly are effective in the improvement of reading skill.

Phonology is the building block for reading acumen. Children who enter school with little phonological awareness have trouble acquiring alphabetic coding skill and thus have difficulty recognizing words (Stanovich, 2000). Several peer-reviewed experimental studies reveal significant positive benefits from explicit instruction in phonemic awareness (National Reading Panel, 2000). Phonemic awareness can be developed through instruction with clear benefits to subsequent acquisition of reading skills (Pressley, 1998). Training is most beneficial when combined with connecting sounds to letters (Share, 1995). Oral blending and segmenting then must be connected to letters to establish the correspondence of the phoneme with the written symbol (Goswami, 2000).

Second in the sequence of reading, development is letter-sound relationship that will then allow word recognition. All students must know the letters of the alphabet have phonemic awareness and learn the logic and conventions governing their use (Adams, 2001). Phonics and the subsequent study of words, teaching the systematic relationships between letters and sounds, knowing written words are composed of letter patterns representing the sounds of spoken words, recognizing words quickly and accurately as a way of obtaining meaning from them, should be the goal of fundamental reading instruction (Chard & Osborn, 1999). Gough and Tumner (1986) offer that there are two processes integral for learning to read,  learning to convert letters into recognizable words, and comprehending the meaning of print. Students may use the knowledge of patterns and structural analysis to determine word meaning (Henry, 1997).

Fluency, the rapid naming and accurate identification of meaning is a giant step to adult literacy. Students who do not acquire fluency will be cut off from the rich knowledge sources available in print, leading to weaknesses in general verbal knowledge and ability (Torgesen, 2000). A high number of words read correctly in finite time indicate efficient word-level processing, robust vocabulary and knowledge base and a meaningful comprehension of text (Kame'enui & Simmons, 2001). Fluency bridges the gap between word recognition and comprehension but must be implemented with direct instructional intention through independent-level, instructional-level, and frustration-level materials to maximize fluency improvement (Allington & Cunningham, 2002). To become fluent, students shall learn to decode words rapidly and accurately, in isolation as well as in connected text and to increase reading speed with increased accuracy (Blevins, 2001).

Vocabulary instruction is the next integral element in progressing to maximal reading success as the understanding of word meanings and how words are used in text are significant to reading comprehension. This skill unlocks the meaning of text (Hayes & Ahrens, 1988). Good vocabulary instruction helps children gain ownership of words instead of just learning them well enough to pass a test. Good vocabulary instruction provides multiple exposures through rich and varied activities to meaningful information about the word (Stahl & Kapinus, 2001). There is evidence that language is substantially affected by experiences in which students are exposed to a wider range of meaningful vocabulary (Biemiller, 1999). Effective vocabulary instruction helps students understand what they must do and know in order to learn new words on their own (Stahl & Kapinus, 2001). Teachers, using indirect or explicit means, who actively engage their students in vocabulary activities, realize measurable gains in student understanding of words and texts (Blachowicz & Ogle, 2001). 

Finally, understanding and appreciating the written word, comprehension, is the ultimate goal of all reading instruction. Explicit comprehension instruction must be provided for readers to take this last and most important step (Schumm, Moody, & Vaughn, 2000). Good readers read words rapidly and accurately, set goals for reading, note the structure and organization of text, monitor their own understanding while reading, create mental notes and summaries, anticipate what will happen next in the text, and revise and evaluate their thinking as they read (Swanson, 1999). Whenever students are taught to use the above strategies, it results in greater reading comprehension (Gersten, Fuchs, Williams, & Baker, 2001). Teaching strategies must be direct and explicit to create understanding and comprehending in readers (Graves, Juel, & Graves, 2001).

In summary, for students to reach reading potential, they must apply the methods of letter-sound correspondence, must turn this activity into word recognition with speed and accuracy, and utilize vocabulary and comprehension strategies for final meaning. The computer-assisted program used in this study is in concert with the scope and sequence described above.

Individualized or Differentiated Instruction and the impact on reading improvement

According to Csikszentmihalyi (1990), a learner reaches his or her fullest capacity when a task is at an optimal level - neither too difficult nor too simple. Differentiated instruction (DI) is a method of continually raising the bar to just the right height. Critical support is connected to brain research. The right amount of challenge is a critical element in learning - too much leads to frustration, too little leads to boredom (Jensen, 2000). To accomplish this feat, a teacher must use an interactive approach of assessment-to-instruction.

Assessment must be comprehensive and focus on skills, concepts, and processes to be developed. A teacher must have a myriad of sources to "cross-check" the assessment, which could include an observation, evaluation of written or constructed tangible work, authentic assessments, portfolios, and standardized tools.

Once a starting point has been surmised, distance from a learning goal should be easily perceived. Acknowledging the individual's proximity to the learning goal provides insight to the teacher about the most effective selection of tasks and procedures. Learners engage in types of thinking that range from a simple, literal level to a more complex abstract level (Bloom, 1984). Although these levels are not distinct, and tend to overlap, they are an excellent key in providing challenging curriculum that moves students along a learning pathway with the greatest speed.

Following assessment, a teacher selects a method of instruction. DI takes into account multiple intelligences, learning modalities, students' background experience, and personal interests to create lessons that expand on students' strengths and scaffold to previous knowledge (Skowron, 2001). Inherent in matching instruction to students' interests are relevant experiences. Activities that enable students' real-life situations and application to new situational learning create optimal opportunities for transfer of authentic learning (Fogarty, 1997). 

DI uses a matrix to open opportunities for every type of learner at every grade level. The matrix is grounded in Bloom's Taxonomy (1984) and Gardner's multiple intelligences (2000) to match tasks to diversity of the learners potential. Once a thorough investigation of the matrix for a learning goal has been constructed, managing the ongoing assessment and pace of learning is paramount to effective instruction. A teacher must think as a facilitator and collaborator (Heaton, 2003), providing a range of activities (Pettig, 2000), varying the ways students are engaged by the teacher and peers (Tomlinson, 2000), encourage self-initiative and intrinsic esteem (Danielson, 1996) and allow students choice and ownership of tasks related to products and processes (Cummings, 1996).

There are eight implications for DI as a prime pedagogical element in reading instructions (Mazoni and Gambrell, 2003). First, that learning is the connection of meaning to sensory input. DI allows the best opportunity for students to show learning growth (Tomlinson, 2000). Second, that prior knowledge guides instruction. DI must flow from a level of actual assessment, (Winebrenner, 1996). Third, the gradual release of responsibility in DI facilitates more lasting and accelerated learning. Differentiated instruction requires students to work harder and become more responsible for their own learning (Pettig, 2000). Lipson and Wixon (2003) propose that DI scaffolding involves structuring of tasks through modeling, explaining, questioning and feedback until the learner can operate independently. This is essential to the social view of reading. Fourth, that social collaboration enhances learning. DI utilizes flexible grouping taking into account student strengths (Renzulli & Reis, 1991). All learners should be challenged and the context in which that challenge takes place should be negotiable and is with adjustable construction of groups (Reis, Kaplan, Tomlinson, Westberg, Callahan & Cooper, 1998). Flexible grouping is a hallmark of DI (Tomlinson, 1999).

Fifth, that learner is engaged most when interested and involved. DI accommodates learner characteristics with tasks tiered in complexity and meaningfully providing lifetime skills (Archambault, Westberg, Brown, Hallmark, Zhang & Emmons, 1993). DI perpetuates learning environments that capitalize on student interests for complete engagement (Diamond and Hopson, 1998). Sixth, that DI is a best practice in developing to high-level, strategic readers. DI utilizes an eclectic approach that uses contextualized situations, experimentalism, problem solving, and mastery, transforming students into the highest possible level of reader (Marlow, 2000).

Seventh, that the best reading instruction is a result of intentionally balanced selection of strategy. The planning matrix necessitates a mixture of strategic implementation with a focus of Bloom (1984) and Gardner (2000). Finally, the very best instructional direction is a constant of informed decision-making. DI, as Tomlinson (2000) points out, is extremely attentive to students' varied needs, and leads educators to reflect constantly on the quality of what is being differentiated, and to buy into a way of thinking about teaching and learning that values the individual and can be translated into classroom practice.

The use of DI's organizational structures creates classroom environments propelling students to independent reading status. The program utilized in this study is completely individualized. Each assessment process associated with the program refers a student to a unique and differentiated practice segment.

Response-to-Intervention (RtI)

Very simply, if a learning method can identify the needs or gaps of a learner and produce closely associated practice events that lead to reading skill growth, accelerated retention will result. The RtI model is exactly that ideation.

According to the National Center of Response to Intervention (2009), "The purpose of RTI is to provide students with the best opportunities to succeed in school and ensure they receive appropriate instruction and related supports...where all students receive high-quality instruction." The model contains screening, progress-monitoring, and evidence-based interventions with adjusted intensity dependent on students' responsiveness.

RtI has been specific to reading difficulties as the majority of academic failure is directly related to reading difficulty (Vaughn & Fuchs, 2003). Although RtI is heavily connected to identification for early intervention, the influence has been significant in addressing dynamic assessment at all levels (Speece, Case, & Molloy, 2003). Progress-monitoring measures such as word-identification, oral fluency, nonsense-word fluency, and phoneme-segmentation with the accompanying attachment to instructional guidance will motivate, accelerate, and solidify reading success (Gersten, Keating & Irvin, 1995).

RtI uses a regressive-discontinuity design, whereby, students reaching a proficiency cut-off move to a higher level of expectation (Shadish, Cook, & Campbell, 2002).

Although RtI is obviously a sound method of assisting reading instruction, classroom teachers have neither the facility nor the training to match assessment exactly with instruction in reading. Teachers will use the strategy for only those with learning problems when confronted with the necessity of prioritizing (Gersten & Domino, 2002). The teacher may attempt to provide the best interventions for all, but without support and relief of time constraint, will be unable to utilize the strategy successfully (Denton, Vaughn, & Fletcher, 2002). Thus, the likelihood of all students benefitting is very low. Students will require differing degrees of phonemic awareness, sound-symbol correspondence, and fluency and comprehension cues. A teacher may have skills and experience necessary to address these needs but it is unlikely to have the capacity to effect change simultaneously (Scarborough, 2005).

Hence, as RtI has credible evidentiary support, a classroom teachers' possible implementation class wide is improbably. A computer-assisted program may be the best possible method of executing RtI to all students. The program employed in this study has RtI as its basis, employing an efficient mechanism of data-gathering and immediate assignment of leveled instruction.

Computer-Assisted Instruction

As indicated above, RtI is very time-intensive, but must be implemented for students to maximize developmental potential. Technology offers relief of the burden of time with accuracy and efficiency.

Computer-assisted resources are generally very interactive with conceptual exposure through motivation animation, sound, and demonstration (Block, 2002). Students can progress at individual and developmentally appropriate pace (Hall, Hughes & Filbert, 2000). The immediacy of feedback and displays of processes to correct faulty responses or lead to further practice is particularly poignant (Fletcher-Flinn & Gravatt). The simple difference in approach from traditional instructional methodology can be captivating (National Center for Education Statistics, 1999). Computers encapsulate students' attention with interactive engagement sometimes connected to their competitive nature (Christmann, 1997). CAI instigates differentiation for all level of participants (Astleitner & Keller, 1995).

CAI has had varying degrees of positive impact on student achievement. Christmann and Badgett (1999) found significant improvement in achievement with greatest gains of students in urban areas, followed by suburban and rural. Christmann, Badgett and Lucking (1997) discovered increased academic achievement across several disciplines if CAI was supplemental to traditional instruction.   

Students using software for word recognition improved reading achievement (Englert, 2007). Student scores of those using CAI of phonological awareness and word recognition had greater improvement in a comparative study by Barker and Torgesen (1995). Students stayed on-task for longer periods of engaged reading according to Van Daal and Reitsma (2002). Clarifield and Stoner improved fluency in a 2005 study. Tillman (1995) showed comprehension gains of elementary students. According to Davidson, Elcock & Toyes (1996), CAI can promote effective reading practice. Great promise for reading instruction and improvement was found in a meta-analysis of 17 studies by (Soe, Koki & Chang, 2000). 

It was difficult to find any studies showing no improvement of reading skill when students participated in computer-assisted reading instruction. Limitations cited motivational factors and teacher training for best utilization. However, even those studies showed positive results. In a world where most children have much interest in watching movies and television, reading has become a vital thing in the modern society unlike in the old times. Children who have reading problems end up transferring this into significant areas such as in mathematics, sciences, and social studies. Whenever a child learns how to read, the skills assist the child in future economic and social advancement. According to Christmann and Badgett (1999), there is strong evidence that most children from rural areas drop out of school because they have problems of reading. This is quite unfortunate because their lifetime success is put at stake. In the United States, a research carried out by National Center for Educational Statistics revealed that 40% of children below the age of nine years are way below the expected average reading ability (Tomlinson, 2000). In order to improve the situation on the ground, American schools have maximized computer technologies in their classrooms. However, the introduction of computer-assisted instruction (CAI) has sparked many debates, with the opponents questioning whether it is an effective method of improving children reading ability (Englert, 2007).

In the last two decades, studies indicate that there is a relationship between improvements in some subjects like mathematics and CAI (Soe, Koki & Chang, 2000), and sciences. In most rural schools, technology is very expensive because they are no sponsors of the same. For this reason, many stakeholders end up doubting whether the improvement results are worth the cost. According to Kamil (2002), most rural schools prefer to spend money conducting research on education techniques and very little amount is channeled towards computer assisted instruction. Hallworth & Brebner (1980) reveals that CAI is among the best approaches that help to deal with illiteracy in most rural schools. However, for the simple fact that there are diverse conflicts on the impacts of CAI on the reading improvement, the problem on educators is to try to deal with the effects on students. Although there exists a lot of work concerning CAI, very little research focuses on the effects of CAI on reading of instructions (Geoffrion & Geoffrion, 1983).

Many researchers have echoed similar sentiments that the idea of introducing computer technology in rural schools would enhance learning and teaching. According to Fisher (2008), there are claims that use of CAI improves learning owing to the positive motivation factors related to the integration of computer in learning. The proponents of CAI are for the idea that it enhances achievement via maximized motivation. In their extensive research, Block (2002), in an extensive study reveal that, CAI enhances student's attitude towards academics. In the same vein, following a meta-analysis of close to 400 studies, Englert (2007) observed that CAI maximized the attitude of children in rural schools, which led to increased learning. Other researchers have also associated CAI with school attendance in rural areas (Kamil, 2002). Apart from a few studies by Doyle (1982), and Hallworth & Brebner (1980), that tend to conflict with the idea that CAI increases motivation in rural schools, the rest associate CAI with motivation. It is evident that more studies will tend to support CAI maximizes student motivation. However, the question that most opponents of CAI in rural schools ask is, Does this improvement in motivation towards teaching and learning actually noted in reading habits among children in rural schools? However, according to Bloom (1984) and Gardner (2000), they echo similar sentiments that motivation plays a major role in the academic life of a student.

There are numerous trends evident in research concerning CAI. Most common findings that are related to CAI include age of the student, population, region, and time. It is important to remember that some of these factors have effects on CAI usage in rural schools thus need for investigation. Firstly, Kamil (2002) asserts that the benefit accrued to a student is closely related to age. A study by National Center for Education Statistics (1999) revealed significant impacts in nearly all levels of age, although the most affected are the college students. Numerous studies (Soe, Koki & Chang, 2000; Hall, Hughes & Filbert, 2000) revealed that CAI positive impacts are many on learners in rural elementary schools. However, it should be noted that a portion of these researches failed to report some negative impacts.   

Another recent trend witnessed in research is whether application of CAI technology in rural schools would help to reduce the period taken by students to understand time and material for curriculum objectives (Van Daal & Reitsma, 2002). According to a literature review by Denton, Vaughn & Fletcher (2002), CAI helps to save time in many rural schools to a tune of 36%. However, Chang's (2000) review of 60 study reports exhibits mixed results about saving of time. Basing on the review, Chang observes that most learners in rural schools take an equivalent amount of time to understand the material even with the usage of CAI. In one of the studies reviewed by Chang, he revealed that learners are faster by 40% when CIA is applied, considering that CAI increases amount of time spent on a given task. Hallworth & Brebner (1980) supported the research on time saving claiming that CAI is capable of saving time to a tune of 30% allocated instruction time.

Concerning population, most studies tend to concentrate more on the student's gender, socio-economic status, and disabled students. However, CAI effectiveness according to Astleitner & Keller (1995) is not closely connected to student's gender. When it comes to socio-economic status, Pettig (2000) asserts that students in rural areas are the most affected, owing to their environment. According to Scarborough (2005), CAI can assist most students in rural areas to learn English because it is not their first language because they have to use it while printing. However, a different view by Tillman (1995) is that CAI does not seem to benefit all students especially Hispanic. A consensus by all scholars is that most disabled students in rural areas seem to reap benefits from CAI. Basing on the report from National Reading Panel (2000), over 300 review studies and original researches were analyzed. The national reading panel echoes positive improvement impacts of CAI in connection to people with special needs. Additionally, Scarborough (2005) observes that when most students in rural areas gain access to computer, there is a high chance of learning more information. Correspondingly, a study of over one decade on CAI by Christmann, Badgett & Lucking (1997) supported the idea that CAI assists in improving phonological awareness and skills of decoding. Furthermore, wide ranges of researches tend to support that CAI assist students with moderate disability in the reading of instructions.

Numerous scholars have also researched the relationship between phonological awareness and computerized instruction on students in rural areas for quite sometime now. This term is especially used while exploring the building blocks as found in reading development stages (Kamil, 2002). Both education and scientific researchers agree that this form of awareness is needed while a student is learning how to read. Training on phonological awareness enhances the relationship between written language and oral language (Denton, Vaughn, & Fletcher, 2002). Researchers also tend to echo similar sentiments that well planned instructions bring success in future reading skills. Usually defined by scholars as the ability of manipulating and identifying language sounds, phonological awareness comprises understanding that sounds can be manipulated easily after breaking them down into smaller parts (Hall, Hughes & Filbert, 2000).

Although there are mixed opinions when it comes to motivational advantages and other factors associated with CAI, there is a looming debate on the impacts of CAI on rural student's ability of reading. Over the past years, researches that have attempted to reveal the positive association between reading improvement and CAI are given an upper hand more than the neutral or negative relationships. According to Geoffrion & Geoffrion (1983), some studies attempt to make a comparison between computer-assisted instructions with the traditional way of reading instructions. A report by Kamil (2002) has both negative and positive studies on the impacts technology has on rural institutions of learning in terms of achievement.

The previous literature reviews in the field of CAI and instruction reading have numerous landmark researches that associate reading ability with the CAI usage in rural schools. According to Soe, Koki & Chang (2002), there was reading improvements of K-12 learners in rural schools between 1982 and 1997. The three authors arrived at a conclusion that CAI portrayed positive effects on reading improvements. Scarborough (2005) agrees with the fact that CAI capable of providing consistent feedback on the learner's improvement maximizes the learner's academic performance, but the performance of the student deteriorates when there is no feedback. Kamil (2002) explores an independent research of learners in an elementary school in rural schools where CAI method of reading instructions is compared with traditional method of reading instructions for one academic year. CAI records high scores on basic skills while compared with those scores of learners in control groups. According to Denton, Vaughn & Fletcher (2002), there is improvement recorded in reading of instructions through CAI system in such areas like spelling, reading comprehension, reading vocabulary, and phonological awareness among rural students. Some personal researches concerning the effectiveness concerning a certain software system about reading instruction exhibits favorable results.

Many scholars who have conducted research on impacts of CAI among rural students report negative or mixed effects. According to one well-known scholar, Kamil (2002), fond of using the meta-analysis method in his research to summarize and examine data form study, with diverse results on the impacts of CAI on improvements of reading. In line with a literature meta-analysis by National Reading Panel (2000), CAI tends to have much impact on mathematics as opposed to reading. However, other researchers tend to conform that a neutral or negative relationship is evident between reading improvements and CAI (Hall, Hughes & Filbert, 2000; Astleitner & Keller, 1995; Geoffrion & Geoffrion, 1983; Hall, Hughes & Filbert, 2000).

According to Castellani & Jeffs (2001), the potential advantages that come alongside computer-assisted instruction (CAI) are not easy to undermine in most rural schools. While looking at the findings on the value of computer technology in giving instructions, the trend is impressive especially in developed countries (Graham et al. 2003). In most rural schools, CAI has numerous packages on each subject. It is with no reasonable doubt that all researchers across the globe are focusing on the computer technology in enhancing reading instructions (MacArthur, 2000). According to MacArthur, et al. (2001); MacArthur & Graham (1987); Vaughn, Schumm & Gordon, 1993), it is possible to access from the internet, the traditional methods of reading instructions. Additionally, these authors revealed that learning could be enhanced through interactive approaches. In rural schools, students' master instructional materials faster when CAI is used compared to when instructions are administered in a conventional manner. According to Wong (2001), learning through CAI is cost effective while compared with other methods of offering instructions such as tutoring. Furthermore, the counselor education is well taught using CAI in rural schools than when taught using conventional methods (Goldberg & Sherwood, 2003). However, Glass (2006) findings supported that CAI in rural schools was best used in classroom to teach concepts based on facts, but was ineffective for subjects that needs calculations or critical thinking.

Additionally, Cooper & Hedges (2004) revealed that students in rural areas required more time while CAI is used when compared with the conventional method of instructions. While students are taught using CAI combined with the traditional methods, they tend to portray improve performance than while only one method is used (Fisher, 2008). Similarly, rural students obtain high grades in the final and mid-term exams when CAI is used than when the traditional method is used (Rosenthal, 2001). Basing on the literature review of several researches and limitations on researches comparing traditional methods with CAI, CAI is identified as more beneficial. However, the methods used in CAI can have an impact on its effectiveness thus need studies to clarify its impact on the learner's environment (Singhal, 1998). For this reason, the empirical findings concerning CAI usage are mixed. The issues of genders, according to Goldberg & Sherwood (2003) have been associated with the performance of learners in rural schools in numerous studies although no definite conclusions have been made. Snow, Burns & Griffin (1998) reveal that evidence is there on the general imbalance on attitude, computer use, career, and access. This could be the reason why Williams (2003) review asserted that gender imbalance in the use of computer in rural schools should be the concern of practitioners in future.

According to MacArthur, et al. (2001), some studies have indicated that male students, in rural schools exhibit better performance in sciences when CAI is used than female students. However, there are still several studies, which do not exhibit any better performance of sciences by either of the gender (Fisher, 2008). MacArthur & Graham (1987) did not find any significant influence on student's performance about gender on subjects such as mathematics in rural schools. However, most female students did not prefer the use of CAI while compared with the male students who supported CAI. In a study review of use, access, and attitude with CAI, Castellani & Jeffs (2001) arrived at a conclusion that all students had equivalent experiences on technology. The setting of learning whether individualized or cooperative is likely to be a considerable factor in the learning process. Cooperative learning is employed to enhance and develop the social skills of students such as communication, decision-making, and managing conflicts (Wong, 2001). Cooperative learning equips learners with methods of sharing ideas and this assists them to work as a team, and exhibit responsibility for one another's education besides their own education (MacArthur, et al. 2001). While compared to other types of learning such as small groups, cooperative learning appears more carefully delineated and structured (Williams, 2003). Cooperative learning has numerous key elements namely individual accountability, group training, positive interdependence, and group rewards (Cooper & Hedges, 2004; MacArthur & Graham, 1987). There is close links and affinity between technology and cooperative learning. This is mainly because technology use requires individual's dimensions of commitment, community, and caring. Additionally, when technology is used to improve sequential learning among groups, it can lead to good retention of learnt information, and deeper processing of the content (Castellani & Jeffs, 2001).

In rural schools, delivering of mathematical skills and concepts shapes the understanding of students, their confidence, and their ability to handle various problems (MacArthur , 2000). In the world, mathematics contributes a lot to the live of a student because it serves as a bridge to technology, science, and other kind of subjects found in any system of education (Snow, Burns & Griffin, 1998). However, there are challenges facing the learning and teaching of mathematics. These are caused mainly by the increase in enrolment and the large number of students implies a wide range in preference and ability among students. Another challenge is on creating a mathematic classroom where all students enjoy, and the emphasis that requires a teacher to act as the facilitator and manager of the environment of learning as opposed to being a disseminator of mathematical skills, and knowledge (MacArthur et al, 2001).

Several reports and studies by Wong (2001); Goldberg & Sherwood (2003); and Rosenthal (2001) indicate that owing to poor performance in mathematics, most schools in rural areas have decided to use CAI to improve their performance. The major concern is to introduce approaches, which would improve the deplorable condition of performance in mathematics. According to Cooper & Hedges (2004), the two topics that are poorly done are transformations, and matrices. There is need for educators in rural schools to ensure all students are given an opportunity of participating in CAI mathematics group. The researchers are very categorical that not all topics in mathematics can be studied using CAI approach; however, educators in the field of mathematics are encouraged to identify the benefits and effectiveness of CAI and to establish more lessons on CAI in their classes (Glass, 2006; Fisher, 2008). It has been revealed that when students learn with CAI in cooperative teams, they tend to perform better while compared with individuals, and those placed in control groups (Williams, 2003; Vaughn, Schumm & Gordon, 1993; Castellani & Jeffs, 2001). However, there are reports revealed by other researches that non-computer based approaches are as effective as CAI or they exhibit negative effects especially on basic skills of teaching (MacArthur, 2000; MacArthur & Graham, 1987; Cooper & Hedges, 2004).

According to Singhal (1998), the most possible way of explaining CAI effectiveness in learning of students in rural areas is through their active participation in the process of learning through student-machine involvement. However, given that there exists differences due to gender; further research is required to ascertain if the differences are genuine or coincidental (Vaughn, Schumm & Gordon, 1993). With few studies having been done in most rural schools on CAI, a major assertion of this review is that use of CAI is better than the traditional approach for ensuring attitude and achievement gains in rural schools (Goldberg & Sherwood, 2003). In an attempt to ensure all the needs of rural students are met owing to their diversity, CAI proves to most educators as an effective instructional method for brokering the success of learners (Goldberg & Sherwood, 2003).

Glass (2006) asserts that CAI is closely connected to numerous issues in rural school learning. Some of these learning issues involve strategies, styles of learning, factors affecting the learning process efficiency, and student autonomy (Glass, 2006). In a rather appropriate manner, Glass (2006) is categorical that reference is evident while a comparison is conducted between the knowledge of CAI and EL environment. As earlier mentioned, CAI has a benefit of self-paced learning, thus the student can learn quickly or slowly as they wish through the computer. If they wish to repeat a certain concept or review a certain task, they have the freedom of doing it repeatedly (MacArthur, 2000). According to Rosenthal (2001), with self-directed instructions, students can devise the best method of learning. This is because students have different strategies and styles of learning. Numerous studies (Fisher, 2008; MacArthur & Graham, 1987; Snow, Burns & Griffin, 1998) indicate that whenever students learn in a method that suit their needs, improvements are exhibited in the entire learning process. Considering that human beings are multi-sensory in nature, if there are more senses of receiving information, it becomes easier for one to remember. According to Williams (2003), individuals are capable of remembering 40% of what they see and hear, 20% of what they hear, and 75% of what they do, hear, and see respectively. For the simple fact that computers are capable of exhibiting various senses and present details in diverse media, they can enhance learning in rural places.

Castellani and Jeffs (2001) assert that use of computers in rural schools encourage students to learn due to provision of enthusiasm, and stimulating environment. Computers can assist the reticent students that are afraid of making mistakes in the learning process (Graham, Harris, Fink-Chorzempa & MacArthur, 2003; MacArthur & Graham, 1987). Computer technology offers a wide range of references, which are applicable in a situation of learning language (Wong, 2001), and can accommodate students with different disabilities. Additionally, CAI has an added advantage of providing a quick feedback to students in rural schools (Wong, 2001). On the other hand, it is important to remember that CAI is not problem-free. For instance, through self-access approach, students may be left for long on their own and the resources and information available may overwhelm them. Additionally, the computer can offer numerous directions in a situation where the classroom approach is transferred to CAI (MacArthur et al, 2001).

Cooper and Hedges (2004) assert that forming a tendency of using multimedia 'gimmicks' is a bad idea and attention should be paid to language acquisition and current theories. However, this should not be interpreted to mean that multimedia is inappropriate (Cooper & Hedges, 2004). Some scholars in the field of research (Snow, Burns & Griffin, 1998; Williams, 2003; Fisher, 2008) hold that meaningful practices of multimedia are possible and they can improve learning. However, according to Singhal (1998), malfunctioning device can lead to loss of time and development of negative attitudes towards the use of CAI in rural schools (Graham et al, 2003). While following links in a computer-based system of learning can be an advantage, students can consume much time when navigating (Graham et al, 2003). According to Goldberg & Sherwood (2003), CAI is a field that is yet to mature. Although various models of CAI exist, not all programs of CAI come with benefits (Goldberg & Sherwood, 2003). In some cases, it is impossible to implement theories into practicals probably because of technological unfeasibility or limited knowledge (Goldberg & Sherwood, 2003). Furthermore, the good or effective practices are difficult to identify. Fisher (2008) observes that continuing research would bring advancement to CAI in rural schools. He identifies Web-Based Adaptive Educational Systems (WAES) as an interesting area of conducting research because the system accommodates a student, offering different information levels, feedback and help (Fisher, 2008).

According to Mevarch (2003), CAI systems are classified into two types namely tool or tutor, although CAI terminology is used to refer to computer instructors. Apart from rural schools, CAI enhances the process of teaching in all institutions of learning, especially by focusing on a specific learning task and striving to improve it (Mevarch, 2003). According to Novak and Mosunda (2001), the tutor category has four modes namely simulation and games, drill and practice, and tutorials. Drill and practice suits behaviorist model the best, especially with repeated practices on skills of lower level cognitive. However, it can be applied in other contexts. The tutorial type is commonly used with CAI (Phillips & Moss, 2003). In this type, the computer system offers the details, offers guidance to the student through the process, allow the student to practice, and then the student is assessed. On the other hand, the simulation mode exposes the student to real world things (Phillips & Moss, 2003). Simulation is usually applied in cases where it is impossible to offer learning realistically. In games type, there is usually a competitive characteristic. According to Fisher (2008), the idea behind this is enhancing the knowledge that the student has. Although it is difficult to establish CAI programs in games mode, and simulation, it is evident that most students find them challenging and entertaining (Mevarch, 2003). 

According to Cooper and Hedges (2004), it is not clear the exact type of instruction suitable in a given case. However, most scholars accept numerous findings concerning CAI (Castellani & Jeffs, 2001; Goldberg & Sherwood, 2003; Novak & Mosunda, 2001). CAI students in rural areas have exhibited improved learning attitude. Those students who have used CAI in rural schools have performed relatively better while compared with the control groups (Udousoro, 2000). They generally reduce the amount of performing a certain task by 30%. Cooper & Hedges (2004) report that non-computer based programs are as effective as CAI. However, Xin (1999) summarizes the evident benefits of CAI in rural schools. In his own observation, CAI is an effective education technology for basic skills for practice and drill (Xin, 1999). Students in rural schools learn many concepts rapidly through CAI. Through the availability of the technologies of multimedia, students tend to have control over the process of learning (Xin, 1999). Furthermore, students feel more successful and motivated to learn new ideas, and they have self-esteem and self-confidence (Xin, 1999). Lastly, the administrators and teachers can use information technologies and computers to improve their responsibilities in the process of education (Xin, 1999).

MacArthur & Graham (1987) deduce that psychometric tradition is usually used to test whether CAI is effective. In most rural schools, standard tests are used to measure the impacts of instructional methods on the student outcomes in learning, and comparison of results (Goldberg & Sherwood, 2003). While a psychometric tradition method is used, the researcher sets two groups of learners. One of the groups is placed in a traditional classroom, and the other one is placed in CAI program (Mevarch, 2003). A pretest is then performed and each group is tested on knowledge prior to taking part in the process of learning (Mevarch, 2003). Towards the end of the learning session, the two groups are supposed to par-take a test that determines the concepts learnt. This form of CAI evaluation process is probably commonplace because it applies the traditional methods, it is easy, and it does not require much labor (MacArthur, 2000). However, in the case of rural schools, Rosenthal (2001) assert that psychometric tradition on its own cannot analyze the effectiveness of CAI owing to its simplicity. While using interaction analysis (Novak & Mosunda, 2001), an interaction is seen between the CAI program and the student. Phillips & Moss (2003) assert that interaction analysis is likely to be either psycho-linguistically motivated or pedagogically motivated. The former aims at finding out the strategies of learning used by the learner. 

Fisher (2008), however, observes that not all improvements in learning should be ambiguously related with computer use. He argues that it is impossible to separate other variables such as reinforcement and practice that impacts the process of learning, from the computer. However, due to general comments that traditional methods are effective as CAI systems, an assumption will be made that they are indeed beneficial, especially in a situation where traditional methods are unavailable (Snow, Burns & Griffin, 1998). 

In a rural setting, the most important thing to consider is the factors that affect the student such as background knowledge, attitude, stress management, and motivation. It is assumed that when a student has positive attitudes, the motivation is high and there is a likelihood of achieving positive outcomes (Goldberg & Sherwood, 2003). In rural schools, there is a relative amount of stress when it comes to introduction of CAI but if the students are able to control it, the learning outcome is not affected in any way (Novak & Mosunda, 2001). If a rural is EL, the motivation is likely to differ with that from a non-EL setting and this may need fostering. Considering that EL society members may lack background exposure on linguistics and language, they are likely to acquire hidden EL knowledge through plants and animal words (Phillips & Moss, 2003). It is assumed that individuals have different strategies of processing information and different styles of learning. In most cases, different situations are unlikely to employ different strategies. In rural schools, if learning is conducted in their language, there is a high possibility of understanding. According to Cooper & Hedges (2004), mismatching between styles of learning and teaching can exhibit significant impacts on the learning outcomes. For this reason, it is important to employ different styles of learning to accommodate all students. Since CAI cannot employ the different teaching styles effectively, it should therefore adapt dissimilar styles. There is need for more research to determine why learners exhibit different styles of learning and the measures that would help support diverse styles of adaptation (Novak & Mosunda, 2001).


The literature shows a clear connection between reading and academic success. There is a consistency of study in those factors that lead to reading success, which include individualization of the process. However, time and resources limit the reality of utilizing a differentiation model for reading. Computer-assisted instruction can alleviate this limiting factor as students can engage with minimal assistance by the teacher. CAI has a positive effect on instruction. CAI that employs proper reading sequence in a response-to-intervention method has the best chance of success for improved reading. The following chapter, outlining the methods and procedures of this study will describe a CAI program that matches the literature's description of best practice for reading improvement. The results section will indicate if this program was indeed as effective as the literature would predict.

Apart from students in rural schools, teachers also tend to benefit from CAI, especially when it comes to updating materials of offering instructions. Additionally, this review has revealed that teachers find it easy to put in records the progress of each student. Because the use of computer technology is used in most rural schools, the majority have accepted CAI as a reliable method of issuing instructions to a large group of students. Learning through computers entails CAI approaches where computers are used as transmission means in reading and other areas. Information usually flows to the student from the computer. In this setting, the computer is the learning material, thus offering response to the student. In most rural schools where the students' progresses are unkempt, CAI makes it possible to retain reports on their progress.

Following the introduction of CAI, researchers in the education field embarked on developing studies of evaluation to know its effectiveness in rural schools. Although most of these studies of evaluation have produced important information on CAI impacts, some of the information is surrounded by ambiguity. In the above literature review, this is evident due to diverse information on some areas as researched by different education scholars in various rural schools. Another serious problem facing the different researches is lack of replications. Most of these researches differed in execution, settings, experimental design, and the investigated computer application. To complicate it even more, the results, and findings appeared different from one research to the next. Findings as exhibited form different studies were different from each other, while some researches provided controversial results. Additionally, a wide range of reviews appear discursive and typical in presentation, while this is added to their multiple findings, it becomes difficult for a reader to understand them. When a review lacks a quantitative method, the reader questions the authenticity of the work in addition to its reliability.

Owing to the problems associated with the traditional method of reviewing studies and researches, there several attempts to establish reliable methods of conducting research evaluation and investigation, have surfaced. The first comprehensive method is meta-analysis. It allows a researcher to make average estimations of treatment impacts on outcome of variables in several studies. Different forms of secondary and primary analysis, the meta-analysis focuses mainly on summarized statistics of various studies without revisiting the original information. Meta-analysis aims at integrating a wide range of results, with the target on the impacts. Hartley (1977) became the first person to employ meta-analysis to CAI findings.

However, meta-analysis is equally faced with challenges especially because of the different computer programs used in rural schools. However, this literature review is mainly focused on CAI. The major challenge is mainly because of the rapid growth in computer technology. From the reliance of computers to establish programs able to individualize instruction reading for  kindergarten students, computer technology has continued to experience growth thus becoming complicated. In fact, the witnessed growth in computer technology is so swift thus making it difficult for one to predict what will be new about CAI. While looking at the above review, the reader is likely to lose touch on what is being reviewed.

On the other hand, the use of technology in offering instructions has some negative outcomes although the variations occur in different studies. Currently, there exists very little information on whether technology supports academic instructions. Although there are studies that have exhibited positive impacts of computer usage in academic activities, a section of the studies have reported detrimental or neutral results. For instance, in most rural schools, students find it easy to read a text from the paper than on a computer screen. Additionally, because most students in rural schools have limited knowledge of using a computer, they tend to experience limited control. Accordingly, while most students in rural schools are allowed to choose, they prefer a conventional text to electronic text.

Whenever CAI is introduced in most rural schools, numerous vital considerations need to be observed for it to succeed. Most students in rural schools may be lacking the basic computer knowledge such as searching for data, and opening files and programs in a computer among others. There are more challenges associated with CAI apart from mastering the basic skills of a computer. The most important skill that most students should know is to integrate verbal and visual information in a complex way. It is expected that when text or speech is presented alongside video, pictures, and diagrams, a reader who is efficient should be able understand the details. Researches previously done reveal that children in kindergarten schools may lack skills of assisting them to acquire important details a complex presentation of visual and text information. 

In most rural schools, CAI enhances teacher and student instruction in numerous ways. Due to their interactive nature, computer programs can assist a learner to understand concepts through demonstration, sound, and attractive animation. When instructions are administered through CAI, students are given a chance of working as a team, and make progress at a gradual pace. Through CAI, students are provided with an immediate feedback, thus they are able to know whether they are on the right track. If they are not arriving at the desired answer, CAI can direct them how to arrive at the right answer. Computer technology offer students with different activities and a different pace from group instruction. For learners with disabilities, CAI assists them to get the correct feedback thus; they do not continue doing the wrong thing. CAI usually captures the attention of the student because apart from being interactive, computer programs enhance the competitive spirit thus students maximize their scores. Furthermore, CAI goes hand in hand with the learner's pace and they cannot proceed until they have acquired the required skills. The program is capable of offering different lessons that pose challenges to average, risk, or gifted learners.   

In order to ensure the right CAI program is installed in rural schools, instructors are expected to review the programs available and determine the one that caters for the needs of their students. It is advisable for instructors to cross check all the links and websites often before allowing students to access them. Students may get frustrated because some links and websites become inactive if they remain unattended for a while. Programs of reading are useful in reading of instructions because students can interact, get immediate feedback, besides learning at their own controlled pace. Some computer programs contain stories that most like. It is possible to use a computer schedule remedial or instructional lessons. Unlike the traditional method, CAI may contain a positive behavior reward.


It is evident that students in rural schools are in dire need of the CAI technology in order to improve the reading of instructions. Technology, especially CAI, has been in the forefront in the provision of improvements in different subjects in rural schools. More individuals who have conducted research on CAI tend to agree in unison that there is a positive motivation concerning learning as opposed to negative or neutral result. According to researchers, CAI maximizes motivation although motivation is not still connected to increased improvement. The recent researches on CAI in rural schools mostly focuses on timesaving, gender, age, disabled students, and socio-economic level among others. Although there lacks concrete conclusions from the literature reviews that were conducted previously, this literature review however provides persuasive evidence concerning CAI in enhancing reading instruction in rural schools. In other words, there are recorded improvements in rural schools, mostly associated with CAI.

Concerning the above literature review, there are numerous implications. Chang (2000), cautions readers to pay heed to researches that are mainly biased, because the stakeholders of the technology conduct most of these studies that exhibit improvement of students in specific areas. For instance, the information provided by the software and information industry association (2000) is likely to be biased considering the fact that the authors area stakeholders of the CAI program. In their report, there are no negative findings on the application of the education software. The author tends to agree that CAI has a remarkable improvement in nearly all areas of application.

Although there are numerous authors cited in the above review such as (Kamil, 2002; Scarborough, 2005; Hall, Hughes & Filbert, 2000; Soe, Koki & Chang, 2000), they tend to echo similar sentiments that more research is required. This should be done especially in specific areas such as rural areas, specific subjects, and styles of teaching. It is clear that different things motivate students in rural areas although the available literature review does not show the variables of motivation. According to a report by Soe, et al. (2000), it is evident that a wide range of reviews fails to employ studies that conform to each other. Studies that are not a replica of others tend to exhibit questionable conclusions and results. Numerous authors who have conducted meta-analysis researches selected concerning this review tend to agree with the complex procedures, findings, and materials that were employed in their studies. There is need for more research concerning the effectiveness of technology in the field of education in order to arrive at accurate findings. Given that phonological awareness is identified in the study as the building block in students, more research on CAI effectiveness in enhancing skills of phonological awareness would be helpful to parents and educators.

While compared with urban schools, most rural schools are spending a fortune to improve CAI although there is much that needs to be done. Many systems in rural schools are spending finances on software programs to improve reading of instructions among students. Irrespective of the limitations exhibited in the research, it is evident that CAI is a very powerful system of offering reading instructions although CAI on its own is insufficient especially on reading acquisition. Although there are many researches on CAI, there are many unanswered questions. Which program focuses mainly on students' reading improvement in elementary schools? Does a teacher have a role on the effectiveness of CAI concerning reading instruction? Which method is effective in knowing whether students in rural schools have attained reading skills? Unless the conducted researches arrive at a conclusion, CAI remains an effective technological system to boost the traditional system of reading instruction among students in rural schools.