7.0279 Evaluating Humanities Software (1/121)

Tue, 2 Nov 1993 15:40:11 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 7, No. 0279. Tuesday, 2 Nov 1993.

Date: Mon, 1 Nov 1993 16:12:02 -0500
From: wall@cc.swarthmore.edu (Matthew Wall)
Subject: Q: Quality and Evaluation Process, Humanities Software

This query is directed to anyone who has selected and used software for use
in humanities courses, or anyone who had had a stab at developing your own
-- whether a simple Hypercard stack or a complicated multimedia project.

For a term project in one of my grad school classes, I'm trying to develop
a set of testing and evaluation criteria appropriate to software for
humanities disciplines in higher ed. If this seems a little broad, it's
because the field is not well-covered by the computing "industry"
literature on the subject. The types of thing humanists are interested in
tend to get lumped into "subjective" evaluation criteria according to the
conventional wisdom, from which few good generalizations are made.

What I'm looking to develop for this project is a reasonable set of
guidelines that will be *useful* in planning, developing, testing, and
evaluating software that's specifically intended for use in undergraduate
humanities courses. Part of this is adapting general principles, but the
more important part is getting "expert" advice on what's important and what
isn't. Consequently, I'm asking for *your* help in developing these
guidelines. (I will be combining these responses with other research.)

Ha ha! Sounds hard! you say. Not really. I have a fairly simple, open-ended
questionnaire (following), which I am NOT going to scientifically analyze
(this is not anything like a thesis) but which I feel is essential for
getting a broad set of responses about things which you do (or do not) care
about in your software. I'm just asking for your personal experience;
anything you want to add above and beyond the questions, great! Unique
answers will be as valued as ones which are common.

Please answer any or all of the questions below, by sending me email
(wall@cc.swarthmore.edu). If you'd like a copy of the final paper, please
let me know, and I can email it back to you. This won't be a magnum opus, I
can assure you, but I appreciate any help you have to offer and will try to
make the final project useful in some way.

Again, I'm just interested in your personal reactions.

(the funny delimiters will be useful to me in analyzing your responses, but
if you can't include them in a reply, no problem. Thanks.)

- Matt Wall


0. Definition (feel free to skip this one if you have nothing to say). Is
there any characteristic or set of characteristics you feel could be used
to "define" humanities software?


1. Quality; what are the hallmarks of quality in humanities software?
What's "good" software in this area? How do you know what good software is?

(Possible areas of interest to you might be: user interface elements,
appropriateness of content in software, content issues vs. general task
performance, ease of adaptation of the software to your curriculum,
replacement of the "old" way of doing things vs. addition of new
capabilities you never had before, use of software as supplementary to, a
replacement for, or an enhancement to the curriculum)


2. Evaluation. Do you employ some sort of evaluation technique for software
you use in courses? How is it unique to the humanities, do you think? What
criteria do you use to evaluate humanities software? What would you like
built-in to the software if it were available?

(Possible areas of interest or comment: quantitative measures, "games" or
built-in tests, how students benefit from it, how much time you save, how
you measure student achievement, what non-quantifiable benefits you
perceive, how you decided whether to keep using a piece of software after
you've been using it for a while, and so on)


3. Permanence of benefit. When you use or design a piece of software or an
on-line exercise, how important is it that the item be re-usable? For how
long should different types of programs be useful?

(Some things to consider: repeatibility of use of a particular program, use
between classes, use outside of class, use from year to year, use as
curriculum changes, use as faculty come and go, availability of software to
students, and so on)


4. Curricular issues. What do you think are the important curricular
issues, in your experience, in using software in humanities courses?


5. Examples. What are some of your favorite examples of good, bad, or ugly
software intended for undergraduate humanities courses?

(To consider: what has been good or bad and what effects you look at to
judge that, particular features you like, things you worked on yourself vs.
products, content which has been applicable to more than one course,
techniques of analysis or presentation you liked or disliked, and so on.)


6. Ideals. What are some characteristics of an ideal piece of software for
the humanities?

(what would be included in your ideal piece of software, the best most
useful thing you could imagine at this point to help your teaching?)


Would you like a copy of the final guidelines for this paper? (Yes/No)

Matthew Wall * wall@cc.swarthmore.edu * Swarthmore College
"We're number 2! We're number 2!" - Larry Andersen