Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Fascinating Chemistry (A Homeschool Crew Review)

When I was in school, I found science fascinating.  I loaded up as much as I could, even taking science classes for electives.  However, there was one science class I really regretted not taking - Chemistry. I really wanted to take the class but was informed by my academic adviser that I shouldn't due to the fact that I struggled with my mathematics classes.  That stigma stayed with me past graduation and on to college as once again, I took plenty of life sciences but steered clear of Chemistry.  However, the class has always remained an interest of me.

A few weeks ago, I was given the chance to review Fascinating Chemistry, one of the online science courses offered by Fascinating Education. If you've followed this blog for a period of time, you might remember in 2015 when my husband reviewed the Fascinating Physics course, which he really enjoyed.

Fascinating Education is an online, browser based curriculum that offers higher level science courses for middle and high school students - or adults like myself who just want to further their knowledge.  Currently they offer Fascinating Biology, Fascinating Chemistry and Fascinating Physics which they recommend taking in that order. They also offer Fascinating Medicine which includes two separate courses - Fascinating Anatomy & Physiology and Fascinating Logic of Medicine.

Each class is taught using an audio-visual technique using clear and concise language and pictures that are effective for learners who struggle with science understanding and each course is designed to assume that the student has no previous instruction in the subject.  The course starts with the basics for understanding as it continues on a path towards more complex materials but breaks each topic down in language that is easy to understand and with graphics that helps demonstrate to the student.

Each class is taught by Fascinating Education founder Dr Sheldon Marguiles, a retired neurologist, author of three educational textbooks, as well as studied law.  Dr Marguiles has a very gentle voice that is easy to listen to and easy to understand, with no accent that would make him hard to understand by some.

For each lesson, students log in to their class through the website and click the lesson they are working on.  Each lesson is comprised of three components: the video lesson, a PDF version of the script that also includes photographs of the video slides, and a test.   I would like to point out the email link at the top left hand corner of the page.  If ever the student has questions or issues with the lessons, Fascinating Education encourages the student to email them for help.

Once a lesson is selected, the student is presented with a series of slide shows and animations as Dr Marguiles begins to explain the information.  To the left of the screen, students are given a list of the segments covered in the lesson.  As segments are watched, they are "greyed out" on the list, making it easy to go back to review or to go back to a portion of the lesson where they left off. Each lesson takes roughly 45 minutes to watch with individual segments lasting between 5 to 10 minutes in length on average.

Each portion of the slideshow runs in order on it's own, the student only has to sit back, watch, and take notes (or highlight information on the PDF script as they follow alone).  After a certain amount of information has been presented, Dr Marguiles then goes back and reviews information before moving on, giving the student a chance to make sure they understand what was just covered.   Here's a short video to show how each lesson is taught and how the slides transition.  In this video, Dr Marguiles is discussing the London Dispersion Forces of Butane vs Octane.

At the top of the screen above the lesson, there are suggested additional resources that the student can access, such as links and documents, although, for the first few lessons, there haven't been any resources recommended - probably because I'm still in the basics of the class.

Other lessons also have Lab experiments that the student can do in their home that demonstrate what has been learned.  For example, with lesson 2, a lab is provided that has the student grow Salt Crystals, which is to demonstrate how when ionic bonds are made.

After each lesson, students are able to take a test over the information they have learned.  These tests are a series of about 15-20 questions about the information covered and test your understanding of the material. They are presented as multiple choice questions, with four answers given. Students click the correct answer and then proceed to the next question.   The "Need Help?" button at the top is a hint button and will bring up information for the student to refresh their memory of the concept/information the question relates to.

After the last question, the test is graded immediately and students are given their grade.  It is recommended that a student score at least 80% on these tests before moving on to the next lesson and if lower than 80% is achieved, the student should go back and re-watch the lesson.

What I Thought:

Honestly, I'm kicking myself in the derriere for not having taken Chemistry in school, especially after starting this class. Granted, I'm only 4 lessons into the class, but had I had a teacher like Dr Marguiles, I have no doubt I would have done well with the class.  It's all a matter of the presentation and Dr Marguiles does a great job of explaining information in bite size pieces that isn't too far over my head.

The Chemistry course is made up of 19 individual lessons. Each lesson builds upon the previous lesson, so it is recommended to do the lessons in order.

I do admit, the first lesson, I zoned out a bit, trying to listen to the lesson while doing other things like dealing with the kids.  I quickly found out, when it came time for the first test, that I wasn't going to get very far without giving the class my full focus, as I failed the first test miserably.  After determining that I would have to do the class when there wasn't many distractions around me, I rewatched the lesson and passed the first test.  Since then, I haven't had a problem passing subsequent tests.

The lessons themselves are very easy to follow. I print out the PDF script before watching and then I sit with my highlighter and start the lesson up and watch it as I have the time to focus.  The graphics that accomodate the segments are very simplistic and to the point, accurately demonstrating the material without throwing too much at me too soon.

We noticed one small hickup with the website and that was when it comes to accessing the labs.  Clicking on the labs from the lesson (if you notice at the bottom of the above screenshot, it lists the lab) brings you to the lab website, but for whatever reason, this doesn't allow one to access the lab and instead brings you to a screen that says you are not authorized to access the lab and tells you to purchase the subscription. This is easy overrode by clicking on the "Members" menu at the top right of the screen where an option for the Chemistry labs is available.   Labs are presented as a printable PDF document with step by step directions as well as a great summary as to what the lab demonstrates.

First 6 Labs for the Chemistry Course - the "Memebers" area is highlighted in blue. 
While I haven't had to email Fascinating Education for any issues (as said above, I found a go around to access the labs), I will say that from the previous review that my husband did on the physics course, the staff at Fascinating Education are friendly, polite and are quick to discuss issues or even suggestions to help make their product even better.

I'm really enjoying learning about Chemistry and Fascinating Education has made the process fairly easy for me, someone who's been out of the educational classroom for many, many years now.

Learn about Chemistry with Fascinating Education #hsreviews  #Homeschool #chemistry #biology #physics #highschool

To learn more about Fascinating Education and their various science courses, please visit their website.

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