Major developments in educational software in the early and mid-1990s were made possible by advances in computer hardware. Multimedia graphics and sound were increasingly used in educational programs. CD-ROMs became the preferred method for content delivery with several digital encyclopedias released as Multimedia application CD-ROMs. With the spread of the internet in the second half of the 1990s, new methods of educational software delivery appeared. In the history of virtual learning environments, the 1990s were a time of growth for educational software systems, primarily due to the advent of the affordable computer and of the Internet. Today Higher Education institutions use virtual learning environments like Blackboard Inc. to provide greater accessibility to learners.

Types

Courseware

Courseware is a term that combines the words ‘course’ with ‘software’. Its meaning originally was used to describe additional educational material intended as kits for teachers or trainers or as tutorials for students, usually packaged for use with a computer. The term’s meaning and usage has expanded and can refer to the entire course and any additional material when used in reference an online or ‘computer formatted’ classroom. Many companies are using the term to describe the entire “package” consisting of one ‘class’ or ‘course’ bundled together with the various lessons, tests, and other material needed. The courseware itself can be in different formats, some are only available online such as html pages, while others can be downloaded in pdf files or other types of document files. Many forms of educational technology are now being blended with the term courseware. Most leading educational companies solicit or include courseware with their training packages.

Classroom aids

See also: Interactive whiteboard

Some educational software is designed for use in school classrooms. Typically such software may be projected onto a large whiteboard at the front of the class and/or run simultaneously on a network of desktop computers in a classroom. This type of software is often called classroom management software. While teachers often choose to use educational software from other categories in their IT suites (e.g. reference works, children’s software), a whole category of educational software has grown up specifically intended to assist classroom teaching. Branding has been less strong in this category than in those oriented towards home users. Software titles are often very specialized and produced by various manufacturers, including many established educational book publishers.

Assessment software

With the impact of environmental damage and the need for institutions to become “paperless”, more educational institutions are seeking alternative ways of assessment and testing, which has always traditionally been known to use up vasts amount of paper. Assessment software refers to software with a primary purpose of assessing and testing students in a virtual environment. Assessment software allows students to complete tests and examinations using a computer, usually networked. The software then scores each test transcript and outputs results for each student. Assessment software is available in various delivery methods, the most popular being self-hosted software, online software and hand-held voting systems. Proprietary software and open-source software systems are available. While technically falling into the Courseware category (see above), Skill evaluation lab is an example for Computer-based assessment software with PPA-2 (Plan, Prove, Assess) methodology to create and conduct computer based online examination. Moodle is an example of open-source software with an assessment component that is gaining popularity. Other popular international assessment systems include Assessment Master, QuestionMark, EvaluNet XT and QuestBase.

Reference software

Main article: Reference software

Many publishers of print dictionaries and encyclopedias have been involved in the production of educational reference software since the mid-1990s. They were joined in the reference software market by both startup companies and established software publishers, most notably Microsoft.

The first commercial reference software products were reformulations of existing content into CD-ROM editions, often supplemented with new multimedia content, including compressed video and sound. More recent products made use of internet technologies, to supplement CD-ROM products, then, more recently, to replace them entirely.

Custom platforms

Some manufacturers regarded normal personal computers as an inappropriate platform for learning software for younger children and produced custom child-friendly pieces of hardware instead. The hardware and software is generally combined into a single product, such as a child laptop-lookalike. The laptop keyboard for younger children follows an alphabetic order and the qwerty order for the older ones. The most well-known example are Leapfrog products. These include imaginatively designed hand-held consoles with a variety of pluggable educational game cartridges and book-like electronic devices into which a variety of electronic books can be loaded. These products are more portable than gener laptop computers, but have a much more limited range of purposes, concentrating on literacy.

Corporate training and tertiary education

Earlier educational software for the important corporate and tertiary education markets was designed to run on a single desktop computer (or an equivalent user device). In the years immediately following 2000, planners decided to switch to server-based applications with a high degree of standardization. This means that educational software runs primarily on servers which may be hundreds or thousands of miles from the actual user. The user only receives tiny pieces of a learning module or test, fed over the internet one by one. The server software decides on what learning material to distribute, collects results and displays progress to teaching staff. Another way of expressing this change is to say that educational software morphed into an online educational service. US Governmental endorsements and approval systems ensured the rapid switch to the new way of managing and distributing learning material.

See also:

  • Educational technology
  • SCORM
  • Virtual learning environment, LMS (learning management system)
  • Training Management System
  • Web-based training

Specific educational purposes

There are highly specific niche markets for educational software, including:

  • teacher tools and classroom management software

(remote control and monitoring software, file transfer software, document camera and presenter, free tools,…)

  • Driving test software
  • Interactive geometry software
  • Language learning software
  • Mind Mapping Software which provides a focal point for discussion, helps make classes more interactive, and assists students with studying, essays and projects.
  • Notetaking (Comparison of notetaking software)
  • Software for enabling simulated dissection of human and animal bodies (used in medical and veterinary college courses)[4]
  • Spelling tutor software
  • Typing tutors
  • Reading Instruction
  • Medical and healthcare educational software