Computer-assisted learning has been used for some time by a number of organizations that offer license-preparation courses. Available courseware includes tutorials to aid in the acquisition of knowledge and to practice responding to questions in the multiple-choice format. There is a growing library of simulator software designed for marine applications. Desktop training simulations are commercially available for general navigation, radar navigation, piloting, shiphandling, maneuvering, automatic radar plotting aids, rules-of-the-road training, port entry, and the global maritime distress safety system. Some of these software packages are already being used to some extent for training and simulation of port entries in the classroom and aboard some ships; other packages are undergoing field evaluations. Because of computational requirements and presentation fidelity needs, the available software requires or works best with higher-level microprocessors and videographics array or super videographics array color monitors.
The technological capability also exists to emulate electronic navigation equipment, such as radars and automatic radar plotting aids, at modest cost using microcomputer hardware and software. Because such emulations are driven by software, there is flexibility for upgrades without changing hardware. In concept, the visual presentation on the monitor emulates that available from real equipment. Unless a functional mockup were to be used, however, the control configuration would not physically resemble the actual equipment or its controls. The absence of actual equipment and bridge configurations distinguishes desktop simulators from ship-bridge simulators.
Considerable advances have been made with respect to courseware (specially designed instructional software). Courseware design is either traditional show-and-tell for instructor-centered use, or interactive, with the student having a direct link to the software. Either form can include still graphics and the incorporation of embedded videos and simulations. Although application of these capabilities has been limited in marine transportation, there is a recent, rapid proliferation of microcomputer systems configured to support multimedia applications. The principal multimedia feature of such systems is the CD-ROM.
Hardware is quickly becoming a technological "nonissue." Interactive courseware capabilities in instructional systems can include branching subroutines that are keyed to student responses. Diagnostics can be embedded into the program to provide additional instruction, matched to the student's level of knowledge acquisition, to facilitate the learning process. These systems can be set up to accommodate the student's rate of learning. Interactive courseware has been developed for various applications within the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) and commercially for use in mariner training.
Interactive classrooms can be used to improve student retention through instruction using interactive courseware. Interactive classrooms may be in any of