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Friday, September 18, 2015

Fascinating Education ( A Schoolhouse Crew Review )




Some people enjoy English, some enjoy Math.  However, in our household, the subject that seems to spark everyone's attention tends to be the sciences. Whether it's astronomy, geology, anatomy, or biology, if it's science, we like it. We even have a cat named after Sir Issac Newton that we lovingly refer to as Newtonian Physics.
The One, the only - Newtonian Physics

So when we were given the opportunity to check out one of the classes offered by Fascinating Education, my husband literally begged me to see if we could have the opportunity to try their Fascinating Physics. It was one class he really regretted not taking while in high school.

Fascinating Education is an online, browser based curriculum offering science classes for middle and high school levels. Current science offerings include Fascinating Biology, Fascinating Chemistry and Fascinating Physics. Each class is taught using an audio-visual technique using clear and concise language and pictures that is effective for those learners who struggle with science understanding. The course assumes that the student has no prior knowledge in these subjects and starts with the basics for understanding as it works toward more complex material.

Since both Ash and Garrett are too young for the targeted age group for these classes and Alyssa is currently studying Physiology and Anatomy, my husband was the test subject for this particular review.  A high school graduate who's highest level of science in school was Chemistry, my husband currently works in the field of Aircraft Avionics, a field where many various principles of physics can be found.  He graduated high school over 12 years so outside of training by the military in his particular field of work, he has not been in a formal classroom setting since graduating high school.

Charlie's Review of Fascinating Physics:




Fascinating Physics is set up into 15 lessons. Lessons include instruction in physical science subjects such as movement and forces, energy/power and word, states of matter like fluids and gases, electromagnetic radiation and light, electricity, and atoms and subatomic physics.


Each lesson is divided into modules under the menu tab, each module covering an idea specific to the subject you are learning about. The last few modules are a review on what you have learned so far.
Next to the menu tab is a glossary tab. The glossary tab contains a scrolling list of terms that are relevant to the lesson. Clicking the term will display it's definition in a separate area below the list.

Each module is a video about a subject within the lesson. Videos are presented as a slideshow with very simplistic graphical illustrations accompanied by a voiceover by the instructor, giving an explanation of what the learner is seeing.

The complete script for each lesson is available for each lesson, and includes a text version of the instructor's voiceover and some of the slides presented in the video.

Each lesson also has a test. Each test is composed of several multiple choice question about the lesson, accessible from a scrolling sidebar. Also in the sidebar is an explanation section under the question section. Clicking an explanation corresponding to the question, a video about the context of the question will play.

A Need Help button above each question will also play it's matching explanation. After the test is complete, the screen will change to display a pass/fail, as well as a percentage of correct and incorrect questions. You are also given the option to review or retry the test.


What I liked:

The range of subjects in the physics course is very diverse. It covers everything from the fundamental building blocks of the universe (atoms and subatomic particles) to the basics of light waves and the behavior of electromagnetic waves, to classical physics ideas pertaining to the laws of motion and forces.

Each module in a lesson can be replayed at will, or you can use the progress bar under the presentation to go back or move forward through a lesson. This is helpful if you need to go over an idea that you might not have fully grasped.

Modules will start where you last left off. So if you need to take a break during a module, you can come back later and start right where you last left it, and not have to worry about starting the module over.

Sometimes it's hard to remember some of the terms used in the lessons. The provided glossary is great for going back and brushing up on the terms and their definitions.

The information in each module is well explained and put into terms that are understandable.


What I don't like:

Although the information is not difficult to understand in each module, the instructor can be a bit monotonous in it's delivery. This may not be an issue for those who are interested in physics, those who are not as interested in science may find the experience a bit drab and attention spans may falter.

The graphical representations on the information being covered are good, but they are very basic. Contrary to the title of this product, students may find the videos less than fascinating. There are lots of graphs, charts and formulas mixed in with static images. These modules could be improved by providing short films that show science in action. For example, instead of a drawn image of light being broken into it's constituent colors, why not show a video of an actual beam of light passing through a prism and emerging as a rainbow of colors?

There are a lot of formulas involved in physics, such as the formulas for calculating distance or acceleration. Strangely, these formulas are not listed anywhere in the lessons for convenient reference. I would like to see the formulas pertaining to each lesson listed in the
glossary.

At the top of each lesson, there is a clickable Resources button. Clicking the button is suppose to open a tab containing useful links and documents. Strangely, this tab was empty in every lession I went though. This makes the product seem a bit unfinished.

Although a script is available for each lesson in the physics course, I did not find an option for closed captions anywhere in the modules themselves. I could imagine that this could make it difficult for the hearing impared to follow along with the modules in real time.

Conclusion

All in all, I enjoyed my time using Fascinating Physics. For someone like myself interested in sciences and especially physics, I felt that I was able to learn some of the basics of the science that governs pretty much everything in the universe. I especially enjoyed the lessons about light an atoms. I felt that the information was well presented and understandable. I plan on using the year subscription to Fascinating Physics to explore all of the lessons included with this course to better understand physics. That being said, I also think this course could use a little tuning by spicing up the information so it is attractive to all potential users. By making some of the changes I explained in the things I didn't like, Fascinating Physics could go from being a good course curriculum to a great one.
Fascinating....


Members of the crew have been reviewing not only the Fascinating Physics program but also the Fascinating Biology and the Fascinating Chemistry curriculum.  Click on the banner below to read them now :)

Fascinating Education Review

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