Educational Technologist, UniServe Science
Prior to joining UniServe Science Anne was consulting to schools on the integrated use of computers in the curriculum, whilst she completed her Master of Education (Computers in Education) at The University of Sydney.
Evaluation of Computer Based Learning Materials
With the ever increasing use of computers in education, the selection of quality software is becoming more important. However, the huge volume of software packages available makes choosing a suitable, cost-effective solution a daunting task. Prior to joining UniServe Science I spent several years advising schools, both primary and secondary, on the integration of computers into the curriculum. Evaluation of computer based learning materials was an integral component of the assistance given. Much of the knowledge gained from this experience is equally applicable in a tertiary environment.
What is effective educational software?
Ultimately the selection of software depends on the needs of the students in a particular situation and the preferences and style of the teacher. However, much current research into learning suggests that for a learning experience to be effective: the student needs to engage in higher order thinking to consolidate the knowledge; the exercise must integrate well with the curriculum; the environment should be non-threatening; student success should be reinforced; activities should be student-centred; material should be presented in a variety of ways to cater for differences in style and prior experience; and the learner must take an active role. In addition, software to be considered should: be appropriate for the target audience; be flexible in the ways in which it can be used; offer the possibility of customisation; and have the potential to be used with significant numbers of students.
What should you look for when evaluating software?
Broadly speaking there are four main areas to address in evaluation:
Some common problems of evaluation
Ideally an evaluator of educational software needs to be an expert in the teaching of the subject area covered by the package and have a good understanding of the computer as a teaching tool.
Suggested procedures for software evaluation
UniServe Science software reviews
UniServe Science now has over 3000 products listed in the science tertiary teaching resources database and is constantly on the look out for new product announcements. Some of the products have been reviewed. A major activity for the remainder of 1997 is to solicit reviews of all software being widely used (or considered) in tertiary science teaching in Australia. These reviews will then be made available to all interested teaching academics via our web site.
ReferenceN.S.W. Department of Education. (1985). An evaluator's guide to educational software and related material. Sydney: NSW Department of Education.
UniServe Science News Volume 7 July 1997
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