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Searching for app evaluation tools to make decisions for students with extensive support needs: a systematic literature review.

PURPOSE: The rising number of apps requires careful consideration in how these apps are being selected for students with extensive support needs in school-based settings. Current practices suggest that educational apps are being purchased without utilizing an evaluation tool to determine the quality or effectiveness of the apps. A systematic literature review was conducted to identify educational app evaluation tools for students with extensive support needs.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: A three-phase search process (electronic database search, journal hand-search, and ancestral search) was conducted using 14 keywords to maximize the number of articles. A two-step coding procedure was conducted to ensure articles met the four inclusion criteria. A 15 criteria checklist was used to evaluate the methodological rigor of accepted articles.

RESULTS: Findings focused on the type of app evaluation tools and their specific evaluation dimensions. A total of 107 articles were identified with 13 articles meeting the inclusion criteria. Stage 1 evaluated the methodological rigor of the app evaluation tools ( M  = 6.15, range 0.5 - 14). Stage 2 categorized the articles based on the type of evaluation tools (rubric = 5, rating scale = 6, checklist = 2). Stage 3 identified five evaluation dimensions (background, design features, usability, individualization, and overall impression).

CONCLUSIONS: There is a lack of empirically tested evaluation tools for communication and educational apps, making it difficult to recommend a valid app evaluation tool. Thus, barriers are likely to persist in the effective identification of apps for students with extensive support needs.

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