There is a wonderful multi-part series on Slate’s Schooled section called “The Big Shortcut” on the advantages and disadvantages of using software for credit recovery. The first story is here. In a nutshell, there are real pros and cons to consider if your district is going to use software:
- easy to implement for administrators
- easy for students to use
- flexible use of time and space is great for students with other obligations
- students can learn basic facts and skills
- allows focus on content rather than socializing
- boring and isolating
- easy for students to game and/or Google
- easy for students to “pretest” out quickly
- difficult for students who are not self-motivated or who need structure
- shallow content emphasizing breadth instead of depth
- shallow assessment (as in multiple choice assessments vs. essays, presentations, or products)
- linear presentation of material does not allow exploration
The most successful curricula heavily involve teachers and the class looks more like a blended class than computer lab. Students get the actual teaching that they need while proceeding in an environment that is an alternative to traditional classes.
Therefore, the questions to keep in mind about using software for credit recovery (and credit acceleration!) include the following:
- do you have subject-area teachers available to monitor, assess, and give assistance and feedback?
- in social studies, is the software consistently updated? (For example, WorldView programs were the social studies component of Edmentum’s Plato Courseware for many years, but their version is no longer updated by us.)
- is there a discussion component (either virtual or IRL)?
- does the software’s content comprehensively cover your state’s standards? Look for software that has made it through your state’s textbook adoption process, which is a higher standard.
- are there options for different types of assessment (not just multiple choice questions)? WorldView programs have different levels of multiple choice questions (factual, conceptual, chronological, and image), guided and un-guided essays, short answer questions, and projects.
- how much repetition/randomization do the multiple choice questions employ? How often can students retake the test? WorldView programs even have multiple testing options for multiple choice questions: Study Questions are Socratic, allowing students two tries and give a mini-lesson explanation for the answer. Practice Tests allow the student one try. And coming soon are Mastery Questions that contain different question stems, answers, and distractors.
- how secure is your IT system? how much of the internet can students access from within the program? do they have access to their own devices?
And so on! Are you a teacher, administrator, or home-schooler using software for credit recovery or acceleration? Let us know what issues you’ve discovered in the comments.
Preview WorldView Software’s programs for free at http://www.worldviewsoftware.com/preview/