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Study software  
 

Studying in an educational context refers to the process of gaining mastery of a certain area of information. Study software then is any program which allows students to improve the time they spend thinking about, learning and studying that information.

More specifically study software's objective is to increase the effective application of efficacious study skills to that information, such that thinking and learning about that information is more productive per unit time.

Different subjects being studied may benefit from a different spread of study skills being applied. Mathematics requires a somewhat different set of study skills to the skill required to learn a language.

Some types of study software are subject specific teachers of material and may or may not contain the information/content that requires mastery.

Study software therefore is a blanket for a variety of overlapping software types.

Education has of course been a road to a better life and so the drive for improvement has been universal from students. Students in most US institutions are not taught how to study/learn specifically. Yet there is now hard evidence for some methods for study/learning being superior to others, and that there is benefit in teaching 'study skills' themselves.

Study software to a degree, seeks to circumvent this problem, by causing the student to follow good practices, through the use of the software, without necessarily having to know about the background science of memory and learning.

Historically the most successful types of study software include Mindmapping and Flashcard software programs. Both independently have been proven to improve learning. Mapping software's claimed strengths are more at the thinking end of the spectrum of study and are criticized for their lack of efficacy once the benefits of organizing information are finished. Flashcard software's strengths are more at the learning end of the spectrum of study and are criticized as being for rote learning only.

A more recently arrived group is typified by the offering by software giant Microsoft, of MS One-Note and are best summarized as being predominantly for information gathering.

There are also hybrids of the above broad types available, including ones that can actually test students on their notes.
Benefits that the various types of study software might confer include various mixtures of:

1. Offers variety of different information together (picture, sound, music, diagram, ...)
2. Improved access to variety of information - see databases
3. Makes making notes efficient (tablet friendly 'Microsoft ink functionality', speech recognition)
4. Notes are (made to be) easy to remember - colors, pictures, diagrams or mindmapping (popularized by Tony Buzan)
5. Use of hypertext to connect related information
6. Testing, reviews and tracking of knowledge - 'spacing effect'

Barriers to the use of study software include:

1. Requires a computer and / or Internet access, which might not be available.
2. Some level of skill in typing on keyboard might be needed. This might slow down learning. There are typing tutors; speech and gesture recognition
3. Learning and knowledge is undermined by schools, which use lot of cramming. This results in students not eager to learn how to learn efficiently.
4. Programs don't communicate together as they could (see Unix philosophy). Selfcontained programs either don't offer enough features (e.g. calculation of the spacing effect to learn faster) or offer more than they should (Software bloat).
5. Content might differ significantly in different countries.

 

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