Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Review: Fascinating Education Physics

Laura is finishing up her senior year of high school and it just so happens that Physics was her favorite of all the high school sciences. (She must take after her dad!) When we had the opportunity to review Fascinating Physics from Fascinating Education, we were pretty excited about it. Laura was excited because she would get to continue learning Physics (it was one course that she was actually disappointed when it ended last spring) and I was thrilled that she could expand her knowledge base.

The student's home page, showing each lesson for the course.

What is Fascinating Education? Fascinating Education is an online collection of science courses for middle and high school students. There are currently three science disciplines offered: Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. Physics is the only one that requires a more in-depth understanding of secondary math. These courses take an audio-visual approach to learning, immersing the student in lessons utilizing a power point type setup. The teacher speaks and explains the slides as they proceed through the lesson. Most of the slides are animated and graphs are drawn out on the slide as they are explained.

About the author: Fascinating Education Science courses were designed by Dr. Sheldon Margulies, a neurologist and author who was studied extensively how the brain works, and effective teaching methods. His love and passion for science is definitely exhibited in his science courses. His courses have been tested in various school districts, achieving amazing results in measurable means, such as increased testing scores.

About Fascinating Physics: Fascinating Physics studies the origin of matter, laws of motion, energy, electricity, sound, magnetism, gravity, and the atom. A course outline neatly describes what is included in each lesson. There are fifteen lessons in all, and it is suggested that each lesson would take about 45-60 minutes. At the end of each lesson is a test.

What is the test like? Tests can be taken online by clicking and submitting multiple choice answers, or tests can be printed out and taken in a traditional written method. Teachers are given a special access sign-in to the printable tests and answer keys. At the end of the online test, a score is given, and students may repeat the tests as many times as they wish, in order to master the content. A passing score of 80 is suggested.Test results and grades are not recorded anywhere on the Fascinating Physics website, so the student must print out his results if he wishes to keep a record of test scores. Also, each test has a help button which the student can utilize to have the concept explained again during the test, if he is having trouble with the question.

What are lessons like? When you log in to the lesson, the program does keep track of where you left off, and asks if you would like to start there. Students do have the option of going back and repeating previously watched slides if they need to review.

To illustrate a lesson, look at the screen shot below: The red "lesson" button will take you to the actual slides, and audio-visual lesson. The blue "script" button will take you to a printable transcript of the lesson, so the student may print it out and read/follow along as the teacher speaks. The yellow "test" button will take the student to the test at the end of the lesson. Students may repeat the test to demonstrate mastery.

There is an outline of the lesson on the left side of the screen, with each slide labeled, for the student to choose a slide to review if needed.

Here is a screen shot of a lesson: 

                                                                                                                                                              What else is included? Each lesson has a clickable glossary of terms that are relevant to the lesson, for a quick refresher when needed.

What about high school credit? The program states that this course would be equivalent to one high school credit when it is complete. I tend to disagree with that statement, and would give it a half-credit in my home school. I do not feel like it has enough information and student work to equal a whole credit. I would also like to see some labs added to it.

What about the math? This course is very math-heavy, in our opinion, which is a good thing when learning Physics. Students should have a good understanding of basic and advanced algebraic concepts, as well as simple geometry, graphing, and basic Trigonometry.

In case you were wondering: The course does present the Big Bang Theory in the first lesson, when discussing the origin of matter, but by the high school level, this is a good discussion point to have with your high school student.

How did we use this? As I said before, Laura really loved Physics last year. She was excited to broaden her studies and take on this Physics course. We used the course about three times per week. At first, Laura attempted to complete an entire lesson in one sitting, but found that to be more material and time than she was able to spend on it all at once. We found that by breaking up the lessons into smaller segments, and reviewing a bit before moving on, she was able to complete a lesson in about 3-4 sessions. I could easily see a student completing one lesson per week, and testing at the end of the week, if they worked on it daily.

What did Laura think? Even though Laura was already familiar with the concepts, she struggled a bit with this program. Her favorite aspect of the program was the practical applications that the teacher makes, showing how Physics concepts can be used in real life (such as in forensics to solve criminal cases). As for the math, Laura felt that the program was almost more about the math than the science. Again, this is a great help to someone who needs that mathematical focus, but Laura was seeking more of the scientific aspect, so she found the time spent on mathematical explanations kind of frustrating, only because she didn't really need the math help. This would be a great program for someone who really did need the extra math tutelage though, as math concepts are simplified and a great deal of time is spent explaining the ins and outs of the various formulas.

This slide explains a formula
What did Mom think? I don't have the same level of Physics training that Laura has, so I was able to watch the videos from a different perspective. For me, the explanations given were helpful, and I found the concepts to be explained easily in a way that made sense to me. Before watching, I knew what formula to use in a given problem, but after watching the video, I understood why. This was a huge help to me.

Improvements: Laura thought of one suggestion - next to the tab where the glossary is, to include a tab with formulas. She thinks it would make it easier to have all the formulas listed in one place, rather than having to click back through the slides to find the particular one she was looking for. My suggestion would be to include a way to track the student's progress and test scores. We closed out one of the tests before printing it, and then couldn't remember which question she got wrong.  I would also love to see some suggestions for hands-on projects that the student could complete at home to coincide with the lessons.

Overall: We think this program would be a great asset to someone who wanted or needed a strong mathematical approach to basic Physics. It would probably work well with students who struggle with some of the math needed to complete a high school level Physics course. It is a broad study to give a basic understanding of Physics and how it can be used and applied in daily life. It is not a science-heavy course.

How much does it cost? A one year online access membership to Fascinating Physics can be purchased for $79. There are discount packages available if more than one course is purchased.

Want to try it out? Register for a free sample lesson. 

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