Saturday, October 18, 2014

{Crew Review} Standard Deviants Accelerate Supplemental Courses

For the past month or so we've had the opportunity to try out a product from Standard Deviants Accelerate, the makers of supplemental educational materials.  I've seen their DVDs in our public library for years, but have never given them a try.  With Standard Deviants Accelerate, you get the benefit of their quirky humor and online, educational and interactive content.

You will need an internet connection for using these courses.
Our one year membership included full access to all their courses from elementary to high school:
  • Arithmetic - Grades 3+
  • Fundamental Math - Grades 4+
  • Earth Science - Grades 6+
  • Nutrition - Grades 6+
  • Algebra - Grades 7+
  • Biology - Grades 7+
  • Chemistry - Grades 9+
  • English Comp. - Grades 9+
  • U.S. History - Grades 9+
Annual subscriptions for the courses above are $99, but you can also purchase monthly subscriptions for $24.95.  

They also offer AP courses:
  • AP Biology - Grades 11+ ($14.95/month)
  • AP Chemistry - Grades 11+ ($14.95/month)
  • AP U.S. Government & Politics - Grades 11+ ($14.95/month)
  • AP U.S. History - Grades 11+ ($14.95/month)
  • AP Eng. Composition - Grades 11+ ($14.95/month)
Make sure you click on homeschool pricing for these online supplemental courses.

The purpose behind these courses are to supplement and quiz students on the basic content of each course.  Each course is divided into chapter topics with sub-topics that walk through five similar steps.  At the end of each chapter is a quiz, which involves customized quiz question review + free response sections.  There is even an opportunity to use rubrics to grade these free responses.

Each of the five steps for each sub topic include:
  1. A quirky video which explains the content. These lasted us approximately 10-15 minutes.
  2. A review of vocabulary
  3. The diagram  section is an interactive component.  Students can drag terms and answers to match questions.  Some of the courses do not have this step (chemistry, for example), but all the courses we used (math, algebra and biology) Here are examples from Biology and Algebra:  
  4. Next is a quiz section.  This is five multiple choice questions.  Correct and incorrect answers are collected for review at the end of the chapters.
  5. The written answer section is a free response section in which students answer short answer questions (the sample below is from the US History course):  

How we used this: My younger boys and I watched various sections from the Fundamentals of Math and Arithmetic courses.  Both of these courses are advertised for students in upper elementary and above.  Although Levi sat in, I was mostly curious to see how they worked as review of concepts for Luke, who is a 6th grader.

To use the program to its fullest, each student is enrolled in a course via their email address.  Luke and Levi don't have email addresses, so I just signed on to my teacher account and we worked through the chapters and questions; this means some of the student features were not avaiilable to him, such as notetaking and recording of his quiz scores.  For my purposes with Luke, this was fine as I really just wanted to see how the video content served as a review/ alternate teacher for him.

For Ben, however, I was able to create a class, send him an enrollment link, and then he could access the content as a student.  Here's a great video which explains the student account:

You can few several other videos describing how to use this program for homeschool at How It Works for Homeschool. They even will set up a personal webinar with you to walk you through the program -- great customer service!

I advertised the videos as "funny" to the younger boys, but they quickly pointed out to me that they were not "funny ha-ha" videos.   I probably should have described it as "witty" or "eye-rollingly quirky" or "dry."  Definitely appropriately wry/ quirky for my 15-year-old's taste.

We found the videos to be pretty fast moving, switching between the students who are explaining content to graphic slides explaining concepts.  This could be a good technique -- or not, depending on your students' processing needs.  I think this style was a little much for my younger boys.  Sometimes I notice that Luke zoned out a bit, and it made me think that the content was presented too quickly.  It is possible to print out transcripts of the videos, so students can follow along, highlight, and basically take notes of the lectures.  This is something I will probably do with Luke towards the end of this school year, but for now, he needs to focus on either listening or reading, not both.  However, I'm glad the program has this option to cater to the learning needs of a wider audience.

The boys did really enjoy the diagram section, as any drag and drop interaction is almost game-like to them.  *grin*  I wish the vocabulary section was more than just a list of vocabulary words -- this is a great section to create a bit of interaction to help with retention.

For my high schooler, however, I found the Biology material to be perfect for his needs. (He's taking the PSAT this weekend so I think a year of Algebra review will be good, too.)   I do love having Ben work material from multiple viewpoints (we do that with his math courses through our co-op, which uses a different math program than the one we use at home), so having Standard Deviatnts Accelerate is a wonderful tool for a homeschooler. I also love that the quizzes are automatically graded (one less thing for me to forget) and that review of the material is built in.  The only part that I didn't think was particularly helpful for us (at this juncture) was the final tab -- the written answer.  I thought some of the questions were appropriate, but I prefer to use these as discussion materials and only if I've read the transcript or listened to the course myself.

I know that as the year goes on, we'll get plenty more use for this -- especially as we consider AP and CLEP testing to demonstrate mastery of material.  Second semester, Ben will be taking a US government course, and I'll appreciate the extra information from Standard Deviants Accelerate to flesh out his texts more.  I even plan to have him work through the Nutrition and US history course as well. Biology will definitely be something he'll continue to use throughout the year, however, and now that cross country season is over, we'll have much more time to coordinate it with his course instead of picking and choosing topics of interest.  However, I'm not planning to have Luke use the math courses for review or re-teaching of hard concepts, unless we've exhausted all our other resources.

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