Development of high quality technical software in a university environment has been a persistent problem since the introduction of educational software to institutions of higher learning. Design software presents a number of special considerations. It differs significantly from other types of educational software in that it requires a free-form creative environment rather than a question-and-answer format or even a detailed analysis of a fixed set of specified problems. Ideally, the student should be able to explore a wide range of realistic problems and develop both optimal and non-optimal solutions using a variety of mechanisms. This paper outlines the differences between truly “commercial quality” software and that developed for use at the local campus and explores the difficulties involved in producing such a product.
Users drastically underestimate the amount of manpower and funding required to develop software packages on a par with widely available applications such as AutoCAD, WordPerfect, or Lotus 1-2-3. Similarly, design education software developed at universities for national distribution represent thousands of man-hours of development and may be the work of a single individual or a team of programmers led by a faculty member.