Computer-Assisted Learning (CAL): The Pros and Cons in Enhanced Teaching & Learning

Computer-Assisted Learning (CAL): The Pros and Cons in Enhanced Teaching & Learning

Education is evolving. Innovations in technology have impacted teaching and learning process in ways that were foreign only a decade ago.

For context, the global education technology (EdTech) market is expected to reach 181.3 billion USD by 2025, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.1%:

EdTech Market Growth


Much of this growth is driven by increased access to the internet and electronic devices, the impact of COVID-19 restrictions, and innovations in Computer-Assisted Learning (CAL).

In this article, we’ll go over what CAL is, its advantages and disadvantages, and a final consensus for investors. We will also be discussing custom software development options for online learning companies.

What is Computer-Assisted Learning (CAL)?

Computer-Assisted Learning (CAL) refers to any use of computers to aid or support traditional education techniques or training programs.

Also known as computer-aided or computer assisted instruction (CAI), computer-based learning (CBA), and computer-managed instruction (CMI), CAL is a modernized form of learning that falls within the EdTech industry.

Some form of CAL has existed since the 1960s when record players were used as a pedagogical tool. Since then, CAL has included the use of CD, DVD, and MP3 technology, among others.

Computer-Assisted Learning (CAL)


Own CAL packages can be implemented in any type of classroom, from Kindergarten to medical school classes. Its versatility has made it popular in several industries beyond education itself. Any type of business or corporate training benefits from CAL technology.

Here are a few different types of CAL to consider:

  • Tutorials replace the traditional instructor to do the actual teaching. Tutorials come in the form of videos, slideshows, or other multimedia.
  • Gamified Learning adopts a game structure to incentivize students to learn. They involve interactive games that advance students to new levels as they grasp new concepts.
  • Demonstrations illustrate concepts by appealing to the senses. They incorporate visual or auditory input to create an immersive learning environment. Often, demonstrations involve virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology.
  • Practice CAL involves repeating exercises to encourage mastery and language learning. It uses tasks and quizzes to help students learn the way they do with traditional flashcards.

Whatever the type, all CAL aims to enhance the learning experience. Of course, this is easier said than done. CAL comes with its advantages and disadvantages. Navigating both is crucial to making the most out of CAL programs.

Next, we’ll go over the benefits of CAL, followed by its disadvantages:

Benefits of CAL

Benefits of Computer-Assisted Learning (CAL)

CAL breaks down complex topics into smaller chunks to make them easier to digest before moving on. It presents information in a highly structured form with small milestones to encourage a sense of progress in students. Such incremental learning is sometimes referred to as microlearning because it involves small learning units and short activities. Microlearning has taken the app industry by storm with apps like Duo Lingo or Khan Academy. Taken together, CAL facilitates learning for those with limited time or attention spans.

CAL provides immediate feedback. Because student engagement is always recorded, CAL programs can give instant feedback. It also maintains clear progress records and reporting systems for easy reference and research articles. This way, students can understand and learn from their mistakes on the spot, allowing them to advance through a class at an accelerated pace.

CAL is more interactive and engaging. By implementing a vast variety of multimedia, CAL can encourage student participation and learning in ways that books and lectures simply don’t. Visual and audio interfaces can be more interesting and exciting than the traditional classroom. For students who have a hard time focusing, CAL offers a solution at keeping their attention.

CAL is more personalized. It can differentiate between students with particular learning needs and aptitudes. Such individualized learning allows each student to work at their own pace, unaffected by the progress of other classmates. Students can complete assignments slowly or fast depending on their needs. In particular, for adult learners and students with special needs, or for those who are learning English as a second language, this is extremely beneficial. It’s tough for conventional teachers to handle differentiation, but it’s part of CAL programs. Reviewing articles and lesson plans can also be a huge help.

Along with increased personalization, CAL offers endless opportunities for practice. Because digital exercises and questions are easily produced and varied, CAL resources allows students to practice as much as they need. Every student can learn at their own pace, with self-directed access. This means, those finding a topic tricky won’t feel rushed. At the same time, faster learners won’t be held back. This approach, often found in commercial software, helps improve knowledge retention.

Disadvantages of CAL

CAL programs can be expensive, especially when custom-built. Putting together and executing a strong computer-assisted learning (CAL) initiative can hit the wallet hard. Selecting off-the-shelf CAL schemes might be a cost-saving move, but they may not align with your precise educational wish list. Just as an open access article offers possibilities, a human instructor has beneficial aspects that software can’t match. It’s critical to have an educator skilled in using CAL to get the most out of it. A wealth of possibilities exist to achieve this goal.

With any CAL program comes new administrative challenges. Installing and maintaining CAL hardware and software takes time and effort. Though much is automated, you still need to know how to operate the program. Otherwise, it’s useless.

That said, CAL technology can quickly become outdated. As technology advances, CAL programs become obsolete. Just think how far cell phones have come in the last twenty years. The same rapid development and innovation happens in the CAL industry. As a result, many CAL technologies are but a short-term investment.

CAL technology has a learning curve. Traditional teachers may not have the time or desire to learn it. In the worst cases, they may feel their job security is threatened and fear that CAL will replace them. But in most cases, teachers just don’t understand how to implement CAL or think it doesn’t meet their objectives.

CAL can turn into a distraction, especially when used in a classroom setting. All its bells and whistles can distract from paying attention to the main instructor. Students may treat CAL as more of a novelty than an actual learning aid. They may guess through problems instead of actually absorbing the information. Plus, the long-term impact on students’ attention spans can be concerning in the long run.

There is always the risk that students and instructors depend on CAL too much. Ideally, CAL should supplement and enhance, not replace, traditional teaching methods. Overdependence on CAL could lead to learning deficiencies in other areas, like hands-on experience. You cannot develop manual skills in machinery or workshop skills through CAL, for example. Furthermore, overdependence on CAL leads to less socializing and increased isolation among students. So students and instructors need to be careful not to rely too heavily on CAL for learning and strike a fine balance.


So what’s the verdict?

Despite its costs, CAL can be a powerful tool for learning in the modern age. When implemented in a balanced and targeted way, CAL can be a boon to learners. After all, EdTech is here to stay. So why not learn how to work with instead of against it?

Here at, we offer custom software development solutions that can make your CAL software vision a reality. We’ll walk you through the entire process from understanding to delivering on your goals. Contact us today to get started.

Ryan is the VP of Operations for He brings over a decade of experience in managing custom website and software development projects for clients small and large, managing internal and external teams on meeting and exceeding client expectations--delivering projects on-time and within budget requirements. Ryan is based in El Paso, Texas.
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Ryan Nead