Jan 12, 2011

Virtual Nerd

As readers of this blog know as a member of This Old Schoolhouse Magazine's Review Crew I occasionally devote space here to a review of homeschooling resources. This is one such review. I was given access to Virtual Nerd to review for free in exchange for my unbiased review. We accessed, we used...here is the review!

Virtual Nerd is an interactive online tutorial service. The subject that it offers are Pre-Algebra, Algebra I, Algebra II and Intro Physics. This is not an actual course in that it provides tests, worksheets, practice problems or other assessments of progress although they do expect to offer practice problems, quizzes and feedback sometime during the 2010-2011 school year. What Virtual Nerd is is access to hundreds of interactive step by step videos that teach concepts that may be challenging to your child in a manner that makes it more likely to actually penetrate with (as the website claims) an "innovative design makes it easy for students to stay focused".

The service is straightforward and easy to use. The student chooses which subject they want (say, Pre-Algebra). The student then searches for their problem issue either by a keyword search or by scrolling through a table of contents arranged by topic. Once the concept is found that needs to be reinforced, they click "GO" and the video starts. The video consists of a 'tutor' who discusses the concept, complete with examples. On the right side of the screen the steps and examples are written in phrases and are highlighted as the tutor discusses that particular step. I think this is excellent for those students who perhaps struggle to comprehend auditory instruction. Being able to read the statements as the examples are being written on the white board is the perfect way to reinforce the concept. The topics and concepts offered are in depth and clearly explained.

How did we like it here on Swede Farm? As I have mentioned on here before I have always been math challenged. I personally enjoyed spending time on Virtual Nerd. I had several AHA! moments in watching the videos, making me wish that this product had been available for me when I was struggling through math in highschool. I found myself just sitting down and actually scanning topic lists and choosing ones I had always struggled with in school just to see how the topic was handled and I was surprised to find myself actually enjoying the lessons. And understanding! My similarly math challenged children did not seem to 'catch' my enthusiasm, seeing it as yet one more math lesson. My math wizard daughter, who truly enjoys math truly enjoyed Virtual Nerd as well. She stated that she felt it would be a help in learning, especially if one is learning strictly from textbooks as opposed to using a video type math curriculum. She utilized it most appropriately, turning to Virtual Nerd to reinforce concepts as they were introduced in her actual math curriculum and felt it helped her to more smoothly progress through acquiring new skills.

I think for us, the best use of the service would be for teacher mom to watch the videos to solidify my understanding of the concept, then identifying in their textbooks when to turn to Virtual Nerd for additional explanations of the material.

I actually wish this was a complete curriculum, with worksheets and problems and tests--I might seriously consider switching to it, I so enjoyed the concept. Well..depending on the cost. Cost as it stands right now for the tutorial can be customized based on the degree to which your students will need to access the program. A student can access Virtual Nerd for one day (perfect for an otherwise math savvy student struggling with a particular concept) for $5. A week's worth of access costs $19, monthly is $49 and three months worth of access is $129. If a student is a fast learner, a day may be all that is needed to bridge the gap between their understanding and fluency in that area and $5 would prove to be a good value. The students that most need help would likely need monthly or even longer and for many families the cost may well prove prohibitive on top of a full math curriculum which would be compounded if the family has more than one student that needs assistance. The website states that they make no attempt to prevent the service being used for more than one student at a time under the subscription but that they do not recommend it due to customization that would be lost.

At any rate I can definitely recommend the product as worth $5 for a day's use to see if this is something that would be an asset in your homeschool. You may find it helpful enough to invest in it for a longer term.
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1 comment:

Virtual Nerd said...

We are pleased to inform you that because Virtual Nerd (www.VirtualNerd.com) has received such significant interest following your review of our online tutoring service, we are offering a special discount to homeschool parents. Homeschool parents can receive 50% off the 1 and 3 month subscription plans. Just enter the discount code: homeschooldeal when you sign up for service. That is a huge discount, and hurry - the offer is valid until March 31, 2011!