Coglink is e-mail software designed for use by people with intellectual disabilities. This is a review of the training that accompanies it. The next blog post will be a review of the e-mail software itself.
CogLink arrived on one CD for the training software and one for the e-mail software. A nice touch is they were labeled with my first name.
Both the training- and the e-mail software are Java-based. The CogLink Web site says they require Windows XP, but I found they run just fine on Windows Vista. Installation of the training software took what most people would consider to be a long time. After a little while, an animation does appear, presumably to indicate activity is occurring, but there is no progress bar typical of software-installation programs.
The training had three sections: how to use a mouse, how to use a keyboard and how to use the e-mail software. Each was animated and narrated. Their screens had simple, written instructions at the tops. At the bottoms were two buttons, one for restarting the lesson and one for returning to the main menu. The interface was free of distracting and/or irrelevant elements.
Lessons required responses from the learner for each step. Sessions had multiple practice instances. Feedback occurred via voice- and written prompts. Most correct responses were followed by a visual- and an audio prompt that simply said, “Correct”. The consequences for incorrect responses were basically a brief prompt that said, “Not quite”, and a repeated instruction to elicit a correct response.
It was evident the lessons were designed to limit mistake frequency. Much of the time, the software did not react at all to mistakes, but only to correct responses. This is good practice.
In the mouse training, an intentional mistake by me was recognized by the software as a correct response. This is antithetical to the foundation of errorless learning, an instructional technique upon which the training is supposed to be based. As well, at least one lesson included an instruction on a mistake not to make. Within the field of applied behavior analysis, this is considered an inadvisable training technique.
The training software does not appear designed to be used with assistive technology, such as screen readers. However, I judge it accessible to its target population. In addition to the accessibility attributes mentioned above, it uses simple language, large fonts and contextually-relevant imagery.
The training provides instruction and practice for the most basic skills needed to use the e-mail software. It was a good choice to include lessons on using a mouse and a keyboard. Overall, I judge the training to be a fine attempt at helping people with intellectual disabilities to learn how to use the e-mail software, and one that is accessible to them.
Note: This is a follow-up to my previous post entitled “E-Mail Software for People with Cognitive Disabilities“. No endorsement is intended or implied for CogLink.