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Computer Based Learning, sometimes abbreviated CBL, refers to the use of computers as a key component of the educational environment. While this can refer to the use of computers in a classroom, the term more broadly refers to a structured environment in which computers are used for teaching purposes. The concept is generally seen as being distinct from the use of computers in ways where learning is at least a peripheral element of the experience (e.g. computer games and web browsing).
Since its inception, Computer Based Learning has been a subject of close scrutiny and debate, with myriad arguments being advanced both in support of and against CBL.
Among the arguments advanced by the proponents of CBL is its ability to provide quantifiable and instantaneous feedback for its users. It also often allows for educators to measure progress in an environment that is often more structured than the typical classroom, limiting stress and allowing for a focus on non-technical elements of pedagogy.
In particular, Computer Based Learning is often seen as the most efficient and effective manner in which to conduct distance education, as a lesson plan can be created that allows people to study at their own pace, either via the Internet or software installed on individual computers at various sites.
One strain of thought advanced by some advocates of Computer Based Learning suggests that the best use of CBL is alongside a more traditional curriculum, playing a supplementary role, facilitating interest in a topic while developing the technical and informational skills CBL promotes. Companies now providing CBL products, including Blackboard and iLearn, have often taken this approach in creating and promoting their services.
Those skeptical of the value of CBL have often argued that it can only teach to its programmatic limitations; that it is not as good as having a human teacher because it can only answer questions which have been programmed into it.
In addition, critics such as Neil Postman have argued that a curriculum with a computer at its core teaches a "technocratic" belief system, making all education into an uncritical type of vocational training. Rather than developing the more generalizable skills of reading, writing, and critical inquiry, the prominent use of computers in the classroom teaches how to manipulate the technology to elicit the desired response in a noncollaborative, nonrational manner.
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