An Educator's Guide to


Selecting the right educational software package has become increasingly complex. There are many issues to consider in selecting educational software:

  • evidence of its effectiveness;
  • alignment with your school, state, or district's standards;
  • suitability for your students' needs and learning styles;
  • and the total cost of purchasing, maintaining, and upgrading needed hardware and software.

The purpose of this site is to help you address the first of these concerns, namely whether the software has been demonstrated to be effective with schools like yours. This site will help you to use research to guide the development of school level initiatives that use educational software to improve achievement. A checklist will take you through the key elements that professional researchers consider when evaluating research.

This site also alerts you to the important features to look for in a study and how these features can influence a study's results and the conclusions drawn about effectiveness (see Red Flags for an overview).

Finally, this site provides you with a printable Buyers' Worksheet as a quick reference guide. The worksheet will help you collect the key information you will need when evaluating a software package.

Helping You Evaluate Claims of Product Effectiveness

This site will help you evaluate the claims made by software publishers and developers by expanding your techniques for evaluating key research on the quality of educational software products. A more critical reading of this research will better inform you of the merits of educational software products and will help you determine if a product meets the needs of your school or schools.

In your search for a software package that is right for you, you may have come across claims made by the software companies about the effectiveness of their products in producing large gains in academic achievement. In most cases, companies back up their claims by providing evidence in the form of student performance data collected during a research study or a series of studies conducted on the use of their software package.

Like the software packages themselves, the qualities of research studies vary. In some cases, key features of a study may amplify or reduce the actual effectiveness of the use of a software package by students. It is important for potential buyers to know how to evaluate these claims so that they feel confident that they are purchasing the right product.


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This site was created by the Center for Technology in Learning at SRI International under a task order from the Planning and Evaluation Service, U.S. Department of Education (DHHS Contract # 282-00-008-Task 3).

Last updated on: 11/04/02