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The focus of this category is on software that has been developed for educational purposes.

This might include software designed to teach a subject, like mathematics or language, and it may also include classroom management applications and reference software, or anything designed to improve or enhance any area of education.

Among the earliest uses of computers was for education, dating back as far as the early 1940s, when flight simulators were installed in analog computers to simulate onboard instrument data. Up until the 1970s, educational software was directly tied to the hardware on which it ran, and these early terminals cost more than $10,000, placing them out of the reach of most schools.

Of course, the arrival of personal computers in the mid-1970s changed things. Before those times, computer use was restricted to the mainframe computers found in government agencies and large universities. Once computers could be purchased for a couple of thousand dollars, the market opened up and educational software was written for Altair, the Apple II, and the Commodore. Broderbund and The Learning Company were among the first software developers who focused on educational software, and others joined them. Most of the educational software developed in the late 1970s and early 1980s was for the Apple II.

Categories of educational software include courseware, classroom aids, assessment tools, reference software, corporate training, custom platforms, and software developed for specific educational purposes.

Courseware is a term that can be used to describe software distributed as kits for teachers or as tutorials for students, often packaged for use with a computer. It can also be used to describe the entire course and any additional material within an online classroom or computer lab. Courseware may be in the form of a computer program or integrated set of programs that may be available on a disc or downloaded to a computer, or it might be entirely online.

Classroom aids might come in a form that is intended to be projected onto a whiteboard at the front of the class or run simultaneously on a network of computers in a classroom. While a category of educational software is marketed specifically as classroom management software, teachers often choose individual pieces of software to illustrate various points in the curriculum.

Assessment software includes online testing which, more and more, is replacing paper tests. Computerized testing is often networked, and it allows for immediate feedback, outputting results for each student. In some testing environments, such as licensure or certification testing, the programs are often set to stop once a student has missed enough questions to fail the exam. Both proprietary and open-source assessment applications are available.

Reference software has largely replaced the libraries of dictionaries, encyclopedias, thesauruses, and other volumes in schools, and allow each student to have access to these informational sources from their home computer, tablet, or mobile device.

Most industries now use various forms of corporate training software, either installed on company computers, on networked servers, or in the cloud.

Some manufacturers combine hardware and educational software in a single product, such as a child laptop device or hand-held consoles.

While many companies produce software for educational and general usage, there are specific niches in educational software, as well. These include, but are not limited to, driving test software, language learning software, mind mapping software, spelling or typing tutors, reading instruction, and software developed for various medical industries.

Particularly in software intended for children and teenagers, a lot of the software that is developed is in the form of a game, allowing students to learn as they play the game. This is referred to as the gamification of educational software.

Software developed for classroom or school management can also be considered educational. These would include applications to facilitate the writing of tests, grading, and the recording of grades, as well as that designed specifically for school administration.

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