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What are the characteristics of good educational software?

According to the doctoral thesis of a Swedish student, 90 % of online applications identified as educational are in fact simply exercises and assessments. So, what characteristics are we looking for to promote learning?

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According to the doctoral thesis of a Swedish student, 90 % of online applications identified as educational are in fact simply exercises and assessments. So, what characteristics are we looking for to promote learning?

As part of his doctoral thesis entitled " What are the characteristics of good educational software? », Björn Sjödénun, student in the cognitive science from Lund University, in Sweden, wanted to identify and analyze the characteristics that allow educational software to constitute effective learning tools. To do this, it relied, among other things, on current knowledge in cognitive science, in particular that relating to learning.

Thus, 100 applications identified as educational were analyzed by the researcher. According to its analysis and evaluation criteria, barely half of them could actually be considered as learning tools. Of these, only 17 provided some form of feedback to learners. Sjödénun believes that approximately 90 % online applications identified as educational are in fact simply exercises and assessments.

What, according to Sjödénun, are the essential characteristics of software that are likely to make it relevant educational software?

Feedback

First: effective and relevant feedback. An application intended to be educational should be able to make it possible to comment on learners' responses, guide them and propose, if necessary, alternatives to bring them to the learning aimed at. As mentioned earlier, Sjödénun is of the opinion that several apps are in fact just online reviews.

Determined learning

Then, aim for a well-defined learning. According to him, educational tools must not only aim to evaluate, but also to teach people. For the researcher, a relevant educational software is that which brings a plus compared to an existing support or teaching. He gives the example of an application that can simulate and visually represent an explosion, which a science book cannot.

Complex task, simple interface

We must, still according to Sjödénun, avoid confusing technical complexity and relevance of learning. In his view, software can be relevant from an educational point of view while remaining very simple from a technical point of view. Conversely, a state-of-the-art application or platform may have very low educational potential. He therefore recommends focusing on applications, software and platforms that allow significant and complex tasks to be carried out.

 

At the end of his work, Sjödénun believes that genuinely educational software has enormous educational potential, provided it meets certain characteristics. However, it calls for the thoughtful use and development of educational applications. Because while well-developed software that meets specific characteristics can improve learning, in other cases, such as when they ask learners to perform tasks that are too simple or do not give meaningful feedback, they may, depending on the situation. him, decrease it.

 

You can also consult the article " The characteristics to look for and those to avoid in order to find truly educational ICTs », Published last May, which related another study aimed at analyzing the characteristics that give an application a real educational impact.

 

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About the Author

Dominic Leblanc
Dominic leblanc
A graduate in sociology, Dominic Leblanc is an educational advisor in the Programs and Educational Development Department of the Cégep régional de Lanaudière in L'Assomption.

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