An MS-DOS-Based Software Portfolio Using Shareware

By Schrage, John F. | T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education), September 1996 | Go to article overview

An MS-DOS-Based Software Portfolio Using Shareware


Schrage, John F., T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)


Based on the availability of funds in the academic environment for automation (hardware and software), creativity has to be used in obtaining the tools to provide both the instructor and the student with realistic materials. As part of our information systems courses, students are introduced to a portfolio of public domain and shareware packages to supplement the commercial view of computer software.

A maximizing of software effectiveness for the dollars available plays an important part in developing a set of programs to use in the academic setting. Almost all commercial computer vendors have adopted a policy to aid the academic community in obtaining hardware and software. While this policy has helped, there is still a cost that might be too much in some environments. The focus of this paper will be on the software portion of providing shareware teaching tools for the classroom environment.

About ten years ago, the author received a faculty teaching grant to acquire software for use in the classroom.@ Part of the monies was spent on examining the realm of public domain and shareware software. Since that time, the author has evaluated over 10,000 packages that could be used by faculty and students. The majority of the evaluation has been for classes taught by the author in Information Systems, but with a continuing focus on end-user needs, as well as the normal computer professional.

The software portfolio has also been presented to both prospective and practicing teachers. Continuing support is provided to regional non-public schools on establishing lower-cost software alternatives. This portfolio has been used in classes starting as low as fourth grade and continuing as high as the graduate level, both in business and education.

Overview

The use of the computer as a tool in all environments is either a fact of life or at least fast becoming a normal tool of use. The two major facets examined are for the Macintosh or MS-DOS environments and those are becoming somewhat transparent. Software exists for each system such that the functional use of the software does not matter. Each month in the review of software more applications in every vein are available. Colleagues have consistently asked about different content areas to supplement their teaching resources and there are many available.

The classification of software generally falls into five categories:

* Public domain;

* Freeware;

* Shareware - old version, counter, limited, and full;

* Educational versions @ full and limited capacity; and

* Commercial - low- to high-end versions.

Both public domain and freeware can be given to anyone without any legal restrictions when provided as specified. Normally public domain is not copyrighted while freeware has been copyrighted. Vendors even supply freeware as a lead-in for commercial packages.

Shareware is the "try it and purchase if beneficial" software. It might be an older version of commercial software. A counter might be built into the program for a limited number of uses or there might be a time limit on use before locking. Most packages are full versions, but other amenities are added when the software is registered. Educational versions are normally a limited set of the full commercial package, but not always.

For the author's classroom use, all packages are MS-DOS-based but have been run under the DR-DOS 6.0 system (which is now Novell DOS) and an older version of the shareware 4DOS system. Windows packages were not evaluated based on the computer systems, that were available for students and faculty at the time. Packages evaluated and used were diskette-based and mainly portable.

Software Categories

The three major software categories are used as the base for the portfolio. The three areas are word processing, spreadsheet and database. Each of these categories has subgroups that enhance the major grouping. …

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