Academic journal article Economic Inquiry

Grading Software Programs Accompanying Selected Principles Texts

Academic journal article Economic Inquiry

Grading Software Programs Accompanying Selected Principles Texts

Article excerpt


An increasing number of non-statistical software packages are being written as supplementary instructional material for economics Principles texts. This paper reviews the software programs currently available as ancillary material to eight major Principles texts. To avoid simply listing what the programs do, a detailed framework for economic software evaluation was created and applied to each program. This evaluation instrument gives the reviewer a total of 31 questions, in five different categories to guide the software review. A summary table is presented which allows direct comparison of each package across each of the five evaluation categories.


An increasing number of Principles textbooks include non-statistical computer-assisted instructional (CAI) software packages as part of the supplementary instructional material available to the student. The diskette (s) containing the program (s) and any written documentation are usually provided either free or for a small charge to students buying the textbook. The software combines one or both of the following two program types: Tutorials, in which the student is presented with a monolog, incorporating text and graphics, that reviews important concepts covered in the relevant textbook chapter, and Drills in which the student is presented with a series of questions designed to allow a self-test of their understanding of the material covered in the relavant chapter (1). This paper reviews the Tutorial and Drill software programs currently available as ancillary material to ten major Principles texts. The programs reviewed here range from packages containing Tutorials or Drills alone, to those offering some combination of the two. The

question that launched this review was, "Are the Tutorial and Drill programs supplied with Principles texts created following sound pedagogical principles?"


An Instructional Software Evaluation Form was developed in an effort to answer that question (2). The form list 31 questions a reviewer should ask when working through a program, its documentation, and the student/teacher manual. The questions are divided into five different sets.(3)

The first set of questions is on General Issues regarding the general design of the program. The second set of questions deals with the Economics Content of the tutorials and drills. The third set of questions is the most critical, covering the Instructional Quality of the program. The fourth set of questions covers the Technical Quality of the program itself, as well as any documentation provided. For those packages that contain drill questions designed to assess the student's understanding, the fifth set of questions covers the likely Effectiveness of the Assessment Measures on learning.

The reviewer answers each question in a category by assigning a whole number ranging from -3 to +3 (including zero). When all the questions in a single category are answered, the numerical rankings are summed, and that sum compared to the reviewer's subjective "grading scale" for each category For example, if a category has seven questions my grading scale is set up in the following way: a Sum less than or equal 0 receives a Grade of F;a Sum between 1 and 6 receives a Grade of D; a Sum between 7 and 13 receives a Grade of C; a Sum between 14 and 20 receives a Grade of B; a Sum = 21 receives a Grade of A. By assigning points to the letter grade received in each category a GPA can be calculated for each program. For example, a Grade of F is assigned 0 points; D, 1 point; C, 2 points; B, 3 points;and A, 4 points.

III. RESULTS Preliminary Comments

Space limitations do not allow a question-by-question comparison among all ten of the programs reviewed. Table I shows a summary of the Grades assigned in each of the five categories. …

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