Beacon Learning Center Tutorial
Principles of Software Evaluation
 

Software evaluation skills are essential for the active instructor. Limited budgets and the overwhelming number of educational software titles demand a structured approach to assessing the value of these tools for communicating and reinforcing learning. With the advent of the multimedia CD-ROM and now with the blossoming of interactive Web sites, the possibilities for technology-enhanced learning have never been greater. But instructors must choose wisely among these tools. This presentation offers guidelines for instructors who seek to integrate educational software into the learning environment.

Content Evaluation

With educational software, "content is king." No act of multimedia glitz can overcome a lack of core content. Information must be communicated clearly, in age-appropriate language. Ideas must be divided into small, logical modules for easy comprehension and long-term retention.

Consider the following questions when evaluating the content of educational software:

  • Does the software support academic expectations?

  • Is the tool developmentally appropriate?

  • Does the product encourage performance-based learning?

  • Does the application use a developmentally appropriate vocabulary?

  • Does the software appeal to various learning styles?

  • Does the package adapt to various learning abilities?

  • Does the product provide accurate and current information?

  • Does the application successfully integrate technology and instruction?

  • Does the software increase student understanding of the topic?

  • Does the package show any bias (social, religious, ethnic, or gender) which might taint its presentation?

Presentation Format

"The medium is the message." The organization of information - both logically and visually - can determine learner success. Educational software requires an attractive and consistent interface. Such an intuitive environment allows for easy navigation through ideas and avoids the "cognitive overload" of too much information presented too quickly.

Consider these questions when evaluating the presentation format of educational software:

  • Does the software effectively organize its materials?

  • Does the tool present easy-to-follow on-screen instructions?

  • Does the application provide clear feedback to student responses?

  • Is the content presented in the appropriate format?

  • Is the text accurate and easy-to-read?

  • Are the graphics clear and relevant to the subject matter?

  • Are the sounds easy-to-hear and appropriate?

  • Is the software adaptable to individual needs?

Support Materials

Quality instructional software - if it successful bridges the gap between individual home use to effective group classroom use - should provide support materials for instructors. These helps range from simple suggestions for engaging learners to classroom handouts that prepare learners before using the software and reinforce learning afterward to physical manipulatives - "hands on" materials that enhance and extend technology-based learning.

Consider the following questions when evaluating support materials for educational software:

  • Are the support materials well organized and easy-to-use?

  • Do the materials provide ideas for implementation?

  • Do the materials provide extended learning in related areas?

  • Do the materials provide ideas for supplemental classroom activities?

Assessment

Training demands assessment. The best educational software tools provide learners with feedback about their performance. But care should be taken here. A clever game at the end of a training session might entertain students, but not provide instructors and parents with any meaningful evaluation of the student's learning.

Consider these questions when evaluating the assessment tools of educational software:

  • Does the software motivate the learner?

  • Does the application encourage open-ended responses?

  • Does the package provide feedback for both students and teachers?

  • Does the product encourage collaborative learning?

  • Does the software maintain a student's performance score?

  • Does the package encourage real-life application of skills?

Online Software Evaluation Form

Practice software evaluation with this easy-to-use Web form.

 

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