Programming Learning For Profits - An Investor's Guide

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Investing in eucation is a popular topic, both now and historically. This article from the 1960s demonstrates how investors can prosper when the industry addresses a significant need. Timely information today as it was when it was first printed.

As our schools become more and more crowded, the teacher shortage becomes more and more acute. Today, for instance, the average child gets no more than five minutes of individual attention during the school day.

This dangerous shortage has brought about a brand new industry—the teaching machine, or programmed learning.

The teaching machine had its roots in studies undertaken by experimental psychologists more than 30 years ago, principally by Pavlov and Skinner.

The Skinner method is based on repetition and rote learning; the Crowder method relies on the reasoned answer, backed up by remedial explanation in areas where the student shows weakness. Both methods use machines that provide questions and answers, The student learns from the machine at the rate of his own capacity, and without the necessity of the physical presence of an instructor.

Grolier, Inc., was the first publishing company to exploit this new concept in teaching with the introduction late in 1960 of its MIN/MAXf teaching machine which is based on the Skinner, fragment-learning method. The machine and its self-tutoring courses are produced and marketed under an agreement between Grolier and Teaching Machines, Inc.

MIN/MAX is designed for home study as well as for school and business use. Courses in Russian, Hebrew, statistics, fundamentals of music, spelling, algebra are available for additional charges of $5 to $15 ($15 for 500-page program; $7.50 for 200-page program; and $5 for 100-page program). The machine itself is priced at $20. It looks like a small typewriter, with an extra viewing glass available for $1.49. Programmed textbooks are avail-able in 82 x 11 inch machine format in primary and secondary level courses, and later in college courses.

The practicability of programmed learning is based on the requirement that, in the words of the A. M. Kidder analysts, text material should be broken down into very small, easily absorbed segments, and that the method of presentation should allow immediate questioning and correction after each segment to ensure full mastery before allowing the learner to proceed to the next part of the program.

Since under all methods the program consists of a large number of clearly separated steps, it yields itself ideally to mechanical presentation.

Some of the most efficient ways of presenting a programmed course are offered by mechanical aids, ranging from the simplest, plastic masking devices (which, like a sheet of paper, can be used to cover the correct answer until the student has had a chance to make his choice) to the most complicated machines.

"For economic reasons," say A. M. Kidder analysts. "The numerically largest school market will probably be best for mass-marketed texts and relatively simple, low cost devices, whereas industrial and government needs may be served better by more complicated, often tailor-designed books and machines, not only for personnel training, but also for extensive functional services."

The advantages of automated teaching are obvious. In addition to eliminating the need for teachers, it creates motivation to learn, resulting from the continued understanding built into the program. A student can progress to his own particular absorbing rate without fear of being either held back or prematurely pushed ahead. He can have his learning so self-paced that he can proceed as slowly or as rapidly as ability permits. In actual comparative experiments, programmed teaching with machines enabled students to complete a course in much shorter time and absorb and retain material more effectively.

While this industry of programmed teaching is only in its formative stage, significant sales and profits should not be too long in coming. Growing profits will come from sales of teaching machines, and, perhaps more important, from program copyrights and royalties.

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