Educational software refers to software applications used to aid, assist, or accelerate learning.
Almost since the beginning of the software industry, there has been a consistent push to develop software tools for educational use.
Modern education and software developed side-by-side. Furthermore, both disciplines have come a long way since the advent of computers after World War II.
Today, computer software is a key component of every educational institution.
It’s used for:
Using pen and paper are still a standard part of education, although products like LiveScribe have brought us electronic pens and interactive paper.
Technology has changed the sector significantly
The internet truly became a sanctuary of knowledge for the resourceful, resulting in endless amounts of information being published.
New forms of computing are transforming the educational horizon. Virtual Reality is one of those technologies. In this video, you’ll get a glimpse of why and how VR engages in the classroom.
Ranging from online university courses offering legitimate degrees to short courses, anything can be found. Along with new-age qualifications online, educational software has also had a progressive impact on government-led school programs across the globe.
That being said, public schools in many countries are known to save costs by not updating software. While this is understandable, it’s also evidently de-constructive.
There are not only practical benefits but primarily social upsides of using software and applications in education. Some of the key notable advantages are as follows:
The overall ways, methods and considered ‘norm’ of interaction has been ever-changing since the earliest signs of intelligent human life. In the past 15 to 20 years, it’s changed more than ever.
By using pieces of software in education, we create new a new spectrum of interactive tools and resources to use.
Even traditional pen and paper have been transformed by education software.
Online learning resources are available 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week. While larger class sizes can present problems with the quality of education in many schools globally, online resource is a great supplementary source.
Hundreds of software are available for individual use for students of all magnitudes.
Often looked at as a ‘mickey-mouse’ issue, the lack of general knowledge is very real.
By utilizing educational software in the mainstream, the broader material can be distributed for use.
Furthermore, education on not so sought after topics such as environmental issues can be popularized further.
Opportunities for fast and instant communication have sharpened up the education system for sure. By encouraging student-to-student and teacher-student interaction, communication software has had a positive impact on education.
Especially at a higher level of education, students are often exposed to new environments. Times like this require a new avenue of meeting people — social media and other student software makes it possible for students to do this.
Increased social outreach is a brilliant advantage of software in education.
Like most early developments in computing, the earliest educational use of computer software developed in the military.
Flight simulators in World War II fed simulated, computerized data to onboard instruments.
The controller instructions for these flight simulators were, in some ways, more similar to the music reels in old circus organs and player pianos, and to the weaving pattern-cards in automated looms, than to what we would now call computer software.
They were primarily analog, and early on they were not directly responsive to any actions taken by the training pilot.
Crude as these early attempts was, they were a start, and they hinted at the possibilities of fully interactive learning software.
Computers and software became an increasingly important part of the military, industrial, and academic life.
Along with popularity, it became clear that people would need to learn how to write code, develop software, and build computers.
This led to the development, in the mid-1960s, of the BASIC programming language, which crossed the line between the educational field and the software development field.
It was a computer programming language designed to teach people how to use a computer programming language. LOGO, a language similarly intended for educational use followed a few years later.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the development of the personal computer brought computing to the desktop, away from the mainframe. Before long, computers became a regular fixture in schools, with a dedicated ‘computer labs.’
By the early 1990s, computers were a ubiquitous feature at all levels of education.
In colleges, they became centers of research, especially in engineering and math departments. In high schools, they became a place to learn computer literacy and basic skills.
In elementary schools, computers were used mainly for educational learning games — continuing in the spirit of the original flight simulators.
Most of the educational software field up to that point had been focused on student-oriented computer use.
Meanwhile, the expansion of computer use in offices and industries of all kinds led to the inevitable questions about the teacher-focused software. Software to help students learn is one thing, but software to help teachers teach is another.
In the late 1990s, most public school teachers were still recording their grades with pen and paper in an official guidebook. By the mid-2000s, this had completely changed.
Teachers were now expected to record grades, as well as other student data, in educational management systems.
The internet changed education quite drastically, beginning around this time at the turn of the millennium.
The first great wave of change — the one experts was more or less expecting — was a changed approach to research.
The internet made it possible to get information from almost anywhere, without having to sort through card catalogs or consult with librarians. That was the idea, anyway. It has certainly changed things, but the revolution is far from complete.
Plenty of resources remain available only in printed books, and copyright and licensing restrictions cut off much of the most valuable material that is online.
The experts who predicted this change were right, but they were perhaps too optimistic.
The change that very few people saw coming was the rise of the social internet.
First AOL and then MySpace, and now Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram — and new networks rising and dying off every day.
The social internet has changed the way we communicate, and students — especially high school and college students — are at the forefront.
Because of the changed communication habits caused by the social internet, the educational expectations of students have changed. Educational software is now used to connect students to each other, and to deliver lectures and other course content at the convenience of the students.
Asynchronous instruction and ‘flipped classrooms’ are becoming the new normal, made possible by web-based educational software.
It’s hard to predict the future, but here are a few trends to look for:
Microsoft’s HoloLens is not only bringing a new sense of adventure to education, but it’s making information accessible in new ways.
The first version of Moodle was initially released in 2002 and was developed by Martin Dougiamas.
It is a fully open-source e-learning management system.
This product video provides a quick Moodle overview.
Moodle is written in PHP, similarly to many popular content management systems.
Moodle is known to stay up to date, with approximately 2 releases per year on average.
According to Moodle’s statistics, it had a 23% market share in 2013 and was widely adopted in the United States. Moodle has over 1300 plugins, making it an ideal learning tool.
Chamilo essentially offers different teaching methods for teachers. Seeing as everyone learns differently, this is a brilliant first-world feature to have.
Furthermore, Chamilo has students ranging from the age of 6 to 80 all over the world.
First launched in 2010, Chamilo is now available in 55 languages. It is a free software licensed under GNU/GPL.
As opposed to Moodle, Chamilo acts more like a content management system of e-learning, although both serve the same purpose. Chamilo is also written in PHP.
While Moodle certainly has the lion’s share of the hosted Learning Management System (LMS) marketplace, it is not without competitors.
Chamilo is one of those competitors that is widely used (particularly in Europe and other parts of the Spanish-speaking world) and readily available as an alternative solution.
The two software are not that different in terms of four major ways educators evaluate LMS applications — administration features, collaboration, course development and instruction methods.
Both solutions operate on a ‘Freemium’ model — with some features available at no charge. Some features are available for a monthly subscription. Both software has ‘software as a service’ (SaaS) models as well as software versions that can be self-hosted.
Moodle is a much stronger service option in the following areas: accessibility and compliance, industries served, platform options, and languages supported.
Mobile-friendliness and availability in over four times as many languages and countries make Moodle a much better solution for companies and educational institutions that offer online courses across the world.
Major corporations also use Moodle for new employee training and continuing education services.
Chamilo is a much stronger service option in the following areas: collaboration features, assessment and instruction methods, and pre-installed course libraries. The added feature of online whiteboards gives Chamilo a valuable one-up on Moodle.
Its analytics platform includes goal setting and training metrics — another important set of features Moodle lacks.
Blended learning and self-paced instruction methods also allow Chamilo to be relevant in situations where collaboration isn’t necessary.
The amount of time required to deploy Chamilo can also be much lower for institutions in the IT, legal, and PC markets because the platform comes with built-in course libraries to aid these educators with compliance and skills training.
While Chamilo is a common alternative software to Moodle that has a self-hosted option, it is normally deployed through its SaaS version.
Browse the large selection of online courses at edx.org to see Open edX in action.
The education and learning management software market is not only limited to two options, however.
Below are two other common alternatives to Moodle — Open edX and JoomlaLMS — along with a description of each platform.
Open edX is the open source alternative to edX Platform — a commercial software for education.
It is a Python-based platform that uses a combination of Ruby on Rails and NodeJS programming languages for its development.
In addition to the LMS, Open edX also includes an authoring tool — Studio.
A number of other repositories are also included, that can be used off the platform to integrate machine learning and analytics.
While it is well-documented on our site that Joomla is not the preferred solution for developing a website and content management, Joomla’s LMS is a great add-on for Joomla sites looking to integrate an eLearning solution into their user experience.
With multi-language support, a wide list of features to customize courses, SCORM support, and advanced reporting capabilities, JoomlaLMS is a quality option for any web development teams already comfortable with the challenges of operating Joomla.
So we have learned about the benefits, advantages and different use cases of software in education.
Overall, the improvement in the flow of information through the internet opened up new avenues for software developers to create useful tools for the masses.
Software for learning is still yet to see further ‘revolutionary’ improvements, but it’s certainly on its way with services like Moodle and Chamilo.
The adaptation of interactive learning will play a huge part in educational software development — both with funding and support.