Home Schooling

Designing Educational Software, part 5

Product Scenarios, continued

Case #3: Credit recovery

This scenario envisioned the program being used by a student who had failed a class or was attending summer school or an alternative school program (for those who have discipline or other problems fitting in with mainstream students). In schools, these “credit recovery” plans are much less supervised than the normal curriculum.

The student takes a formative assessment test of the chapter and receives a failing grade, thus requiring further interaction with the chapter. S/he then reads the overview and glossary, opening one or two associated documents, art image, maps, or graphs as assigned by the supervising teacher. After answering the open-ended questions on the ancillary material, which is graded by the teacher using the answer key, s/he self-tests on the factual, conceptual, map/graph, and chronology questions. Confident that s/he now knows the material, s/he takes a summative assessment test that is  graded.

This scenario assumes that the product is not available to students outside of the computer lab and that the lab is monitored by a non-subject area expert. The student will be motivated by the desire to not get left back a grade. It is not expected that s/he will learn more than the bare minimum required to pass the assessment tests.

Case #4: the homeschooler

Homeschooling, or teaching one’s children at home, is becoming an educational option for many more people due to the resources available through the internet. According to the National Home Education Research Institute’s Homeschool Population Report 2010, there were 2.04 Million homeschool students in the United States, an increase from the 850,000 there were in 1999 according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In this scenario, we imagined a student being homeschooled by a parent who is not a subject-matter expert, and who has varying motivations for homeschooling their child.

The student takes a formative assessment test of the chapter and receives a failing grade, thus requiring further interaction with the chapter. S/he then scans the overview and glossary, opening one or two associated documents, the art gallery, maps, and graphs as the mood strikes. After noodling around in that chapter for a while (up to a certain parent-determined amount of time — for example, they have a week to get through the chapter), s/he self-tests on the factual, conceptual, map/graph, and chronology questions. Confident that s/he now knows the material, s/he takes the summative assessment test that is  graded.

This scenario assumes that the product is available to students outside of any supervision, but also that the content is useful to this student more as a research resource for parent-directed projects.

This list of case studies is by no means exhaustive. In particular, we did not flesh out the consideration of the use of our programs in online-only courses, whether massive online open courses (MOOCs) or institution-based courses. This actually became more of a consideration in the latter stage of product development, when we were designing the management system. There are issues of compatibility with schools’ pre-existing management systems, some of which are proprietary platforms such as Blackboard, while others are highly customized and based on open-source platforms, such as Moodle.


BulbgraphOnOffIn a flipped classroom, have students read the overview on their own, then go through the “Questions for Thought” in class as starting points for discussion.

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akamran2014

Dr. Annelies Kamran is V.P. for Content and Product Development at WorldView Software, Inc.

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