Designing Educational Software, part 2

Advantages of Software

There are many advantages of using software in education, in particular web-based software: accessibility, cloud-based storage, and the ability to update; flexibility; standards-based writing; and assessment. Let’s look at each one in turn. First, the program is accessible from any computer with an Internet connection, and stores responses in the cloud, offering the best features of traditional textbooks in addition to the advantage that comes from full web integration. Second, software can be continually updated: each title can be refreshed to include current events such as national election results, major Supreme Court decisions, and other major developments. Third, software allows for flexibility in teaching — it can be used as enrichment, as well as differentiated instruction according to an individual student’s level. And it can be used in an interdisciplinary setting, requiring students to apply math and writing skills. Fourth, software content can be correlated with both state and national standards. Because it is almost infinitely expandable, it can cover the full spectrum of the curriculum. Finally, software allows teachers to conduct assessments of students’ retention and capabilities. The disadvantages are of course well-known to anyone who has ever experienced equipment failure, power failure, or user-expertise failure.

Our task was different from that of most educational publishers: we already had truly interactive software with award-winning content; our problem was that the interface had become old-fashioned: pull-down menus were no longer in style.  old product screen captureAs the internet became part of the educational arena, WorldView needed to bring its CD-ROM-based software into the 21st century — to make it web-based.  Our goal with this new product design was to utilize the vast wealth of content already available in our programs in a product with a modern look and feel, as well as the most recent improvements in usability and pedagogical techniques. After some consideration of the alternatives, we decided to develop a Web-based program. This was decided for two primary reasons: ease of installation and multi-platform functionality. With that decision in hand, we then turned toward the re-design of the user interface.


BulbgraphOnOffGuided essays lead students step-by-step through the essay writing process, from selecting the main idea to writing the conclusion.

Designing Educational Software, part 1

The design process for educational software is fairly lengthy. Not only does the program need to be functional and visually appealing for the end user, but there are other issues involved in the design of the management system and the account administrator “dashboard,” such as how to keep accounts secure, which reports will be run on the data generated by students, and how they should be interpreted.  This is the first in a series of blog posts that reports the process we followed in creating, developing, and producing these social studies programs for a new web-based delivery system.

A Little History

Our company, WorldView Software, Inc. is a publisher of educational software products for middle and high school social studies students. The goal of our programs is to offer an inexpensive way to provide for student instruction without a printed textbook. They are not a “teacher replacement.”

In November 1990, American History was released and WorldView Software was born. Over the next 21 years, WorldView released over two dozen programs, covering the entire curriculum in social studies for middle school and high school. In 1996, WorldView began an association with Plato Learning. This deepened in 2004 when, in conjunction with Plato Learning, WorldView Software released its first Web-based product. WorldView products constitute 18 of Plato’s course models, and have been used by tens of thousands of students nationwide.

For years, educational publishers continued to design and produce textbooks and student workbooks as usual, regardless of the flexibility that software could impart. The situation became even more extreme once internet use became truly ubiquitous. Stephanie Simon and Madeline Will note in a July 23, 2013 article on Reuters.com that in essence publishers contented themselves with slapping a .pdf file of their printed textbooks up on the web, slinging in a few links to web resources and calling it a day.

As an interactive electronic textbook, learners’ responses should be stored “in the cloud” and accessible at home or in school. WorldView’s intent was to combine the extensive award-winning content of a textbook and the versatility of a workbook with all the advantages of a computer. Designing a new user interface for our programs meant moving beyond the arena of content and delving into the worlds of html/css/javascript and pedagogical research.


 

BulbgraphOnOffUse the answers to the “Questions for Thought” in the overview as a note-taking guided exercise.

Welcome to WorldView Software’s Blog

Coming soon on this blog: posts on how to use our products in the classroom, educational technology in general, about our company, and stuff we just find interesting!  We hope you’ll join us.