Lesson Content Hygiene Checklist 2.0


A Learners’ View (ALV) Is Of Choices On The Shortest And Fastest Path To Learning, The Oxygen Of Social Life.

Main Page: Checklists for Educators

EDUCATORS, including independent software developers, and their publishers and vendors, are generating an impressive array of programs and games that organize, and encourage learning with a Table PCs and other advancing electronic communication devices. They each have committed a huge investment of time and resources, even those who say “I just coded that in an hour.” Even a cursory review of this array results in a conclusion that entertainment dominates this market.

With due respect for these talented people, a learners’ view (ALV) of learning offers a content hygiene checklist for developing the educational content for developers to consider. (Maybe its name should be an education software beautification checklist.) By content, I mean the subject of the software, such as English sentence writing, solving addition-subtraction problems, or speaking Spanish.


Above all, consider this when formulating learning content: do so as a learner learns, for example as a four year old will likely look and sound while learning numerals, as an eighth grader learning algebra, as a freshman in high school learning physics.

Remove anything from your program that does not directly and promptly lead to the intended learning. Remove any colors, shapes, sizes, positions and objects that do not increase the learning rate. You can identify these distractions during field tests and in descriptions of a learners’ view (ALV) of learning.


1. The threshold question about education software seems apparent: What learning do you as the software designer intend from the use of your software? Specify, at least for yourself, an operational definition of what you mean by learning. For example, you might assert, “This software will increase a users correct responses from 4 out of every 10 tries to 9 out of 10 tries.”

If you decide to specify intended learning, then several questions flow across that threshold.

2. What will the user do to learn? You have two choices. One is that “learning just happens” as the user works through the program. The other choice is to describe the behavior (such as to read the problem and to write numerals) and number of problems the user must solve to meet your criterion for learning.

3. How do you know that learning occurs? Answers to this question flow from what the user does to learn. Specify what evidence you collect and analyze in order to assert that the user learns what you want learned. For example, count the number of problems tried and the number of problems solved correctly in sets of 10 problems to a trial block. You might say, for example, I know a user learns (the criterion for learning is) when the user solves at least 8 out of 10 problems correctly in 3 successive trial blocks.

4. What record do you offer to show that learning occurs? Describe what, if any, data collection, analysis, and reporting your program provides about correct and incorrect answers. There appears to be plenty of room here for creative responses to this question by developers.

5. So what? So someone learns what you offer through your software? What difference does it make? Where does your program fit into a curriculum or into the great narrative of human life? Answer these questions directly and specifically. Your answers can range from Why not learn? to Learn these tasks in order to … to Just because…

Someone will probably ask you which education standard your software fits. When asked, you can name the standard. Or you can also say that your program is generic and fundamental to more than one standard, meant for people learning to use skills you can then describe.

In any case, consider developing your lesson as a learner will likely learn to do it. This way you edit distractions and leave in only that which measurably increases a users learning rate.

Unless, this is, you intend your lesson as a form of entertainment that may lead to incidental learning.

Either way is good. Keep developing, so others can keep learning.

Related Reading

  1. ALV (a Learners’ View) in a Nutshell
  2. A Learners’ View (ALV) Path of Learning
  3. Checklists for Educators

Originally Published as Education Software Content Hygiene Checklist for ISVs: 03-22-05.

Last Edited: 01-24-15

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Robert Heiny
Robert W. Heiny, Ph.D. is a retired professor, social scientist, and business partner with previous academic appointments as a public school classroom teacher, senior faculty, or senior research member, and administrator. Appointments included at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Peabody College and the Kennedy Center now of Vanderbilt University; and Brandeis University. Dr. Heiny also served as Director of the Montana Center on Disabilities. His peer reviewed contributions to education include publication in The Encyclopedia of Education (1971), and in professional journals and conferences. He served s an expert reviewer of proposals to USOE, and on a team that wrote plans for 12 state-wide and multistate special education and preschools programs. He currently writes user guides for educators and learners as well as columns for TuxReports.com.