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An Insider’s Perspective on Educational Software

Merit Software has created this guide to help you make informed decisions before buying educational software. It is based on conversations with educators who use Merit, as well as products from other publishers.

Merit has been making educational software since 1983. Its products improve students' basic skills in core subject areas. The programs are self-paced, skill-building tutorials that improve student achievement while providing measurable results in a short period of time.

10 Secrets the Educational Software Industry Does Not Want You to Know:

1. The teacher is the critical factor in a student’s success.
Despite many publishers’ claims, it is the teacher and how he or she delivers the curriculum, that is the most important element in students’ ability to learn in school.

Merit products are curriculum supplements. They complement and build upon a teacher’s strengths.

2. No single product helps all students.
Oftentimes, publishers convince school administrators to buy a product by saying that it covers all elements of a curriculum. Yet, most educational software products are only helpful for a particular type of student at a certain competency level.

Merit covers the key concepts students need to know in core subject areas. It is a very flexible tool, which can be used for assessment, skill building, solidifying understanding, and review.

3. Educational software works best when it is a supplement.
Many publishers’ products require teachers to learn complicated data-management and reporting features.

Merit is simple for teachers to learn to use. It easily fits into most teachers’ pre-existing teaching styles.

4. Software does not need to be used for long periods of time.
Many publishers have designed their software products so teachers may assign students to use them for several hours. They use passive activities such as videos, simulations, and drills to display a lot of content.

Merit is designed to give students a different perspective on the content they are learning. Built-in learning scaffolds help pupils understand concepts they might not have grasped otherwise. Advances are made in a relatively short period of time.

5. Implementation problems are not your problem.
Many publishers are quick to cite poor implementation as the reason their product did not work for a school. However, poor implementation happens because a product is too complicated and/or poorly designed.

Merit is easy to use and maintain. Most user questions can be answered with a quick email or phone call. Formal professional development is available when needed.

6. Researched-based products do not necessarily work.
All curriculum products that publishers sell to schools are “research based.” However, very few of these products have been the subject of rigorous evaluations.

The difficult task is to incorporate proven learning strategies in ways that are usable in a school environment. Merit has accomplished this goal. The software has been the subject of several rigorous research studies showing that gains can be achieved while using it with students in a typical school setting.

7. Students do not have to be entertained to be engaged.
Most students use computers recreationally. Although offering some graphics and animation is a sound strategy, educational software should engage students in a way clearly intended to develop skills and not to entertain.

Merit programs use animations to highlight student achievement and provide age-appropriate rewards. Students are engaged by applying skills as they learn them, seeing immediate gains, and choosing from several forms of assistance when needed.

8. Reluctance to try something new is rational.

Maybe you have had a certain degree of success with an educational product but were not completely satisfied. You are reluctant to spend more time and money because you don’t think there is anything better. Or perhaps, your experience has been that educational software is difficult to use and impractical for teaching purposes.

Merit software is flexible and affordable. You can begin with just one set of lessons and a few students. You can expand your use as needed.

9. No one wants to admit mistakes.
Even if you have made a significant commitment, in time and money, to another publisher and product, you should not feel that you are obligated to stay with them.

If your school district has made a mistake and is committed to using a complicated and ineffective software product, let us know. Merit is reasonably priced and we will work within your budget constraints.

10. The cost of passing by the opportunity to use effective educational materials is enormous.
Researchers have measured the huge cost of illiteracy. It impacts everything from school funding, to students' future earnings and health. Well-designed software can help students learn crucial skills.

Merit software is effective, easy to use, and affordable. Research shows that it works. Other schools, competing against yours, are already using Merit.

Educational publishers know their technologies will help students learn if it:

Merit Software products are designed with these concepts in mind.