Many developers and evaluators feel an external demand on them for summative evaluation of courseware. Problems soon emerge. One is that the CAL may not be used at all by students if it is not made compulsory. If one measures learning gains, how does one know that one is measuring the effect of the CAL or of the motivation in that situation? Such issues are the symptoms of the basic theoretical problem with summative evaluation, which is that CAL does not cause learning like turning on a tap, any more than a book does. Instead, it is one rather small factor in a complex situation. It is of course possible to do highly controlled experiments: for example to motivate the subjects in a standardized way. This should lead to measurements that are repeatable by other similar experiments. However they will be measurements that have little power to predict the outcome when the CAL is used in real courses. Hence the simple view of summative evaluation must be abandoned. Yet it is possible to gather useful information by studying how a piece of CAL is used in a real course and what the outcomes were. Although this does not guarantee the same outcomes for another purchaser, it is obviously useful to know that the CAL has been used successfully one or more times, and how it was used on those occasions. Such studies can also serve a different ‘integrative’ rather than summative function by pointing out failings of the CAL software and suggesting how to remedy them
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