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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Visual Learning Systems - Review

We got a chance to use and review a science product by Visual Learning Systems.

It was for something called, Digital Science Online Elementary Edition, and Digital Science Online Secondary Edition.

We were able to use both editions in our house because I have such a wide variety of ages in my kids.

So, L-girl used the Secondary Edition (for grades 6-12) ,

and A-man, S-girl and even V-girl used the Elementary Edition (for grades K through 5) - which is actually divided again once you access the material to K-3 and grades 3-5.

A-girl and D-man could have also used the Secondary Edition, but their existing school schedules were a little too packed, so I decided not to have them take a look right now.  I didn't want to overwhelm them.

This is actually a pretty neat product, especially for the homeschool community.  The videos sort of reminded me of the Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom show that I used to watch on Saturdays back in the 70's!

But, that little trivia tidbit aside, it is much more than that.  It is an on-line annual subscription service to a collection of K-12 science videos, clips, animations, images, assessments, student activities and teacher's guides.

We used this as a supplement to our normal school most days of the week.  Which means that some weeks the kids did the Digital Science Online 5 days a week and sometimes we only got to it 3 days a week or so.  I will say that even though we used this as a supplement, there is enough content that this could totally have been used as our stand alone science curriculum too.

We did what was the simplest for us.  (I know.  Big surprise, right?)

I gave each of the kids the log-in information and asked them to log in and do their work.  Emoji

Sometimes I sat with them, while they watched the days lesson, but, most days they were on their own.  If you know me at all, you know I am a BIG fan of the kids being able to be independent and complete their school work without me having to constantly hover.  I like to do drop by visits with this type of curriculum and Digital Science Online was perfect for this approach.  They just put on their ear phones (so they didn't interrupt the rest of us doing school nearby) and watched/listened to the days video lesson, that included an  interactive fill in the blank question and answer type quiz built into the end of the lesson.

Easy peasy.  Science done.

The videos were well done and professional.  Not the grainy, low-budget, old fashioned stuff that we sometimes get in the homeschool community.

Each video segment lasted from about 10 minutes up to 20ish minutes.  The shorter times are for younger students and longer times are for older students.

There was also a plethora of student activities available via the teacher portion of the website. Worksheets.  Pre video assessments.  Post video assessment, aka, quizzes.  Vocabulary work and other various types of worksheets and hands on activities.  A-man is anxiously awaiting me getting my act together, so we can make a volcano!  

We liked this science add-on.  The kids liked that they could jump around between the different areas of science:  Physical, Earth, Life, Integrated, Health, and Biology.  I have a few kids that are a little quirky in the fact that sometimes they are easily bored with a subject and sometimes they want to devour everything they can about a subject.  I have stopped trying to figure out which time it will be which approach.  So, the ability for them to jump around within science was perfect for this, especially for A-man.  It was also especially awesome when he was able to answer a few questions on Jeopardy based on what he had learned from Digital Science Online!

I liked this for all ages of my students too.  They did a good job explaining things for the different age and knowledge levels.  Sometimes, I did think things were a little above the head of my Kindergartner....but, I actually sort of like challenging her to see what she can learn/retain.  And, I will admit, she surprised me with some of the information that she hung onto and remembered come quiz time!

I liked the fact that Digital Science Online seems to be a good fit for different types of learners, whether they do best with visual, auditory, or hands on type of learning.

I liked that my subscription gave me access to all the different levels of the program, so I wasn't pigeonholed into a specific "age" or "grade" level.....because, if I have learned anything as a homeschooling mom.....those two words....don't necessarily mean the same thing (or apply in the same way) to the kids that live under my roof.  When my two older kids schedules quiet down a bit, I am going to have them take a look and see if it will benefit them the way it has benefitted my younger set of learners......even if it is covering stuff that they already "know", I found the Digital Science Online had a slightly different information or examples to help solidify what they already "knew".

Overall, Digital Science Online was a winner in our book.  
If you are looking for an on-line science program that is high quality, you can get a subscription to Visual Learning Systems for $99.  This isn't just for homeschoolers though either, there is also an option for a subscription for your school too with pricing based on student population.  

Want to take a closer look before you commit to the subscription?  You can sign up for a free trial first to take a look.  This is one product where I cannot really imagine that it wouldn't be a  good fit for just about every family, no matter the predominant learning style.   

Take a look at how other TOS Reviewers used Digital Online Science and what they thought.