Does a software package add volume or value?

Thursday, May 21st, 2009 | software

Many excellent software packages in support of education are available commercially.  Some of these products are content-rich, very useful to teachers who lack resources.  Other products are content-free, used by innovative teachers to create exciting learning experiences for their learners.

A vast array of educational software products exist.  Each one of these products has a specific focus and could be a useful tool for teachers when used in the correct context.  It is no wonder that teachers become excited about some products when attending software demonstrations at trade shows or vendor presentations.

The principal has the difficult task to determine if the school should invest in a particular product.  There are so many of them.  Which one must you choose?  Should you go on the recommendation of an enthusiastic teacher?  You may have a persistent vendor knocking on your door.  Perhaps you already have many unused software products and may wonder if it is worth your while to buy yet another one.

You need to ask yourself, and your teaching staff, only one question:

Will this product add volume or value?

There is no merit in having a great volume of products if they are not used.  The only justification for purchasing the product would be if it has the promise of adding value.

Answer the following questions to help you determine if a particular product will add volume or value:

Does this product fill an educational need?  Can you name the need?

How do we intend using the product?

How many teachers are going to use it?

Do the teachers posses the necessary competencies to use the product?

How much training is required, and how will the teachers be trained?  Do they have time to be trained?  Are they willing to be trained?

Is it a product I am buying, or a service?

The last point is very important.  Software vendors can be valuable partners of the school.  You will be able to identify good potential partners by the training and support service offered to you as part of the deal.

When confronted with the decision to buy a software product, pause and ask:

Will it add volume or value?

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8 Comments to Does a software package add volume or value?

Abimbola Akanwo
Thursday, 21 May, 2009

Thank you, “Will it add volume or value? is a really good question to ask while debating purchasing a software package.

I would suggest that each school should have its own policy for buying a software package (as your blog pointed out, there are many software packages out there…)

To formulate a school policy on software purchase, a short and long term strategy for purchase (hardware and software) is implicit.

Albie
Thursday, 21 May, 2009

Value or Volume ? My notion is…

I am and will always be pro-(ICT)educational software material as long as it is used together with other educational “materials” (e.g. textbooks, libraries, internet, reference sources, educator knowledge, parent involvement etc) BUT… there are anti-components re some software packages. The list can be long, but the most important issue is the content / value (+ user-friendliness).

In same cases, tooooooooo many activities (volume) and exercises fill the software package to the brim. The value of a software package should be to address the curriculum needs of a specific Learning Area and cover just enough activities to be utlized in ONE year. Some software packages are “thin” around the body and skeleton that it is being “absorbed” by the learnes within a few weeks. So, you need then a number of these software packages (different volume packages).

My notion is – a software package per year per learning area with enough activities to cover the curriculum.

I would not like to mention the name of a specific software package (it will be unfair to other educational software programs), but presently at most of the Khanya schools there are two software packages that serves its purpose – it is getting learners and educators to identify their diagnostic areas, adjust it with perceptual activities and enhancing the skills that eventually ensures that leaners will be able to read and calculate and thereby ensures that value is added to a learner and his / her future knowledge and skills.

Lastly, user-friendliness is another important component. From installation to content accessibility is a very NB component. Most “ICT illiterate” educators must be able to use the software without being hampered with “complex” technical and layout issues. Simplicity is also a point to consider when schools explore software material.

Albie for good Value in enough Volume

Christelle
Friday, 22 May, 2009

This is a very good posting to refer to when approached by a school to help with choices. Thank you.

Mariam Ahmed
Wednesday, 3 June, 2009

It definitely adds value in Learning. It can however become expensive in value to schools who have big classes. 40:1
You require more than 1 license to run about 40 computers with this software. Licenses normaly only cover 30 computers. So it does become a problem

J Goslett
Wednesday, 3 June, 2009

4th line – exiting should be exciting (missing a c)

Mark C
Wednesday, 3 June, 2009

All packages can add some value, but only for a short while. The content becomes stale very quickly and after using it for long periods our learners become bored. I would suggest that software houses start to look at repositories where additional material can be downloaded at a nominal cost or no cost. In this case the school will only download what it needs.

Alternatively, an authoring tool should be included with the software so that additional material can be added. The package grows as the users expertise grows. The challenge here is the (lack of) expertise of the educator as well as the amount of time taken to develop materials. Sharing the additional material is another issue.

I personally don’t like the licencing system used by some software vendors since it can become a burden to schools. They will never own the software, only the right to use it for a fixed period. I am not against paying for an upgrade if it is a substantial one. Why can’t the schools get the “older” versions of software free? Won’t it encourage users to buy the updated versions if they see value in it?

kvanwyk
Sunday, 7 June, 2009

Thanks for pointing out the error, J Goslett … I will correct it immediately.

Zubeida Imamdin
Tuesday, 9 June, 2009

I think software in schools is exciting provided that they are used with discretion. What is important to note is that not everyone is computer literate or have computers to work with. How often can one really get to the computer room to have a good look at the programmes?

Interesting questions that come to mind are:
Will technology now create a divide among those schools that have and those that do not? What happens in those schols where there is only one computer laboratory and you are able to get there once a week only?

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