Speed reading has become an essential business and academic success tool in the knowledge economy. With the onset of PCs, and the internet, live classes have diminished as a result of "instant access." One of the seemingly easiest choices someone might take to learn the skills is to buy a software program. But does software training work?

Although I can't state that I have reviewed all software programs, I have reviewed the most popular ones on the market. The benefit of learning speed reading with software in general, is that the software does allow for interesting eye pattern simulation training. By that I mean, software addresses one of the components of speed reading somewhat well - the mechanics, or getting the eyes to move more efficiently.

When you read, the eyes must first "see" the words. The eyes stop for a very brief moment to "fixate" on the words. Untrained readers see only a single or a few words per fixation. This is inefficient. You can picture this by imagining a photograph taken with a zoom lens focused in. If you zoom out with the lens, you see more of the foreground and background of the picture. Your camera takes in "more."

Similarly speed reading software trains the eyes to see more for each fixation, or stopping (snapshot) of the eyes. Software can help with this. But it is only one piece of the speed reading puzzle, and some software training programs teach you to expand this visual focal area wider than what the eyes can naturally see during these fixations. This can cause terrible eye muscle strain.

With software training you can learn to "see" thousands and tens of thousands of words per minute. For that aspect of speed reading training, software can be beneficial as well as harmful. Different software programs teach different approaches to the fixation issue. But what good is it to merely see thousands of words per minute if you don't understand the material?

Understanding the meaning, or comprehension, is other component of the speed reading puzzle that none of the programs I have seen do not cover, or barely touch. Without addressing the cognitive aspect, or comprehension, the training is ineffective. Both aspects of learning to speed read must be covered.

Author's Bio: 

Ed Caldwell is the creator and publisher of the "Masters Online Program: Dynamic Reading, Memory, and Recall" and other live and web-based learning programs. As former National Director of Instruction and Certification for the world famous Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics program, Ed has 30 years experience teaching and testing new strategies to help people from all walks of life learn more efficiently. Trainer, speaker, and writer, he can be contacted at inquiry@productivelearn.com. He is the creator and president of Productive Learning Systems, Inc.. You can learn more at speedreadingtactics.com and download the free eBook, "The 10 Top Mistakes When Learning Speed Reading."