Over the years, society has undergone a transformation in which the use of new technologies has spread throughout all areas, and as is evident, the field of teaching and pedagogy has also wanted to take advantage of the potential benefits of these.

This change in the teaching/learning dynamics is materialized in the creation of a series of educational software that serves as support for both educators and students . Throughout this article we will describe their main characteristics and types, as well as their potential uses or functions and their disadvantages.

What is educational software?

Also known as instructional software, educational software is software that uses digital platforms to support both teachers and students in the teaching/learning process. And although they may seem very novel, their beginnings date back to the 60s and 70s.

These programs are specifically designed to facilitate and enhance the acquisition of exclusively academic knowledge. That is to say, this must be their main purpose and must be explicitly stated. This means that, although it can also be found in some work environments, these are not considered educational software as such.

However, although these resources are mainly used in school contexts, there are also programmes where learning can take place from home, thus enhancing and supporting the knowledge acquired in the classroom.

Thanks to these programs or computer applications, the student can reinforce his or her knowledge in different curricular subjects of all types , including from the most practical ones such as mathematics or languages, to those of a more theoretical nature such as history, biology or geography.

Thanks to the immense amount of possibilities that educational software can offer, information or knowledge can be presented in a variety of ways; from diagrams or sketches of information, to quizzes or games. This great variability in format, facilitates the motivation and interest of students.

What are its characteristics?

In order for an educational software program to be considered as such, it must meet a number of characteristics. Among the main requirements are that it must be used specifically by educators and students. However, there are many other features among which they are:

  • Possibility of being used in any subject or field of education.
  • This is an interactive tool .
  • They have the capacity to adapt to the needs of the students and their characteristics. Including the age, school year or individual abilities of the students.
  • They’re easy to use. Both educators and students must be able to install, understand and run the program without any problems.
  • Depending on the purpose of the educational software, it can be of a more directive nature or, on the contrary, more constructivist, in which the student creates his own conclusions or knowledge.

How many different types are there?

Taking into account the specific objective of the educational software or the way in which the interaction between the educator and the learner takes place, we can distinguish between several different types or categories of software . These categories are:

1. Problem solving

The first category refers to programmes specially created to build problem-solving capacity. In order to do so, the student must follow a series of sequences or perform certain types of exercises that provide him/her with the necessary tools to solve a puzzle.

Throughout this process, the student will have to elaborate hypotheses, conjectures or assumptions that will have to be verified in order to solve the enigma or conflict posed.

2. Exercise and practice

In the educational exercise and practice software, the student is presented with a series of exercises or tasks in which, after their completion, feedback is provided on how the person has performed .

Through these exercises, which can take the form of tests or questionnaires, the student can put into practice the knowledge acquired previously.

3. Simulation

These programs offer the possibility of recreating environments or situations in which the student can interact and which are not possible to recreate in the academic context or doing so would be too costly.

4. Tutorial

In tutorial-type software, the objective is the transmission of knowledge between the program, which acts as an educator, and the student . Using a series of guidelines similar to those of a teacher in class, the program offers a series of explanations, practical exercises and feedback on the student’s performance.

5. Game

In instructional games, the goal is to increase student motivation through the implementation of rewarding tests. With them attention can be maintained and interest in the subject increased .

What functions or uses can it have?

Due to the great variability and the many possibilities offered by educational software, a large number of uses or potential functions are attributed to it:

1. Innovation

These programs have the capacity to be in constant evolution, which implies an innovation in the teaching/learning processes.

2. Informative

Computer software is the teaching practice that can hold and transmit the most information to the student.

3. Motivator

Thanks to the variety of possibilities offered by these programs, students are more motivated and attracted to discover them.

4. Instruction

The platform has the capacity to explain any type of content , either explicitly or by means of games or activities.

5. Expression

Educational software is an ideal platform to enhance the expressiveness of students, who can contribute their own point of view of knowledge and share it with others.

6. Research

Thanks to the less directive programs, students can develop their own research procedures. Especially those offering simulation activities .

7. Playful

Thanks to the educational software, learning is understood or interpreted as a fun and playful activity that reinforces the students’ desire to learn.