CCE Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Computer Education


Center for Computer and Information Sciences


Thomas MacFarland

Committee Member

Ramachandran Bharath

Committee Member

John Kingsburry


The objective of this meta-analysis was to integrate the results of a collection of primary research studies on learner control of computer-based environments. The scope for the meta-analysis was limited to inquiry on different learner-control models and their effect on student achievement as represented by posttest scores. Three specific research questions were defined:

  1. What are the characteristics of the body of learner-control research which has examined the effect on achievement of learner control?
  2. Is there a difference in the achievement of students who are provided with learner control and students who are provided with other control models?
  3. Do specific moderator variables interact with learner control to produce different achievement effects?

Learner-control research was found to be characterized as using a posttest-only control group design in which students were exposed to one treatment session lasting a little less than an hour. Typically, the achievement of students who were provided with control over four instructional factors was compared with the achievement of students who were provided with control over two instructional factors. The Apple II was the most frequently used hardware platform and science was selected most frequently as the topic of instruction. College students were most frequently selected for the subject pool.

The average effect of providing more learner control to students using computer-based courseware was to decrease achievement by .04 standard deviation, an amount generally considered negligible within the educational domain. The negligible effect suggested that achievement under learner control was essentially the same as achievement under other control options. The topic of instruction and the researcher were found to be possible moderator variables. It was suggested that the moderating effects of these two variables might be associated with the quality of the courseware.

As a result of the analysis, learner control of computer-based learning environments was recommended as a viable pedagogy with the caveat that learner control is likely to produce student achievement which is similar to, but not better than student achievement under other control options.

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