Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Review: Standard Deviants Accelerate

We recently have had the privilege to renew our membership with Standard Deviants Accelerate for another fun year of their Homeschool Courses. You may recall that we reviewed some of the high school programs of Standard Deviants Accelerate last year, so this year I decided to focus more on middle school content for my review.

What is Standard Deviants Accelerate? It is an online, video-based program that covers all core subjects from about third grade on through high school. Each course has about 40 hours of material, lessons, and assignments, and is completely student led, so that the student can work through the material at their own pace. It is meant to be a supplement, not necessarily a stand alone curriculum.

What courses are offered? There are only a few courses appropriate for younger elementary students. Most of the material is meant for 7th-12th grade. Here is a list of the courses and related grade levels that are available.
  • Arithmetic (grades 3+)
  • Fundamental Math (grades 4+)
  • Earth Science (grades 6+)
  • Nutrition (grades 6+)
  • Biology (grades 7+)
  • Algebra (grades 7+)
  • Chemistry (grades 9+)
  • English Comp (grades 9+)
  • U. S. History (grades 9+)
  • AP Biology (grades 11+)
  • AP Chemistry (grades 11+)
  • AP U. S. Gov. & Politics (grades 11+)
  • AP Eng. Composition (grades 11+)
How does the program work? Once the parent has purchased and set up their account, they are able to set up a student account for each student who will be using the program. Parents select the courses they would like to complete, and can assign classes to their students. The program can be purchased for a single subject, for only one month, or multiple subjects can be purchased for a longer time frame. If your family is using the program strictly for review or test prep, one month may be enough time to complete the subject. There are so many interesting subjects though, that for some families it may be a better option to purchase access to all subjects, giving all their students an opportunity to work through the classes.

Current pricing:

Teacher's Perks: There is a simple grade book and progress report for the teacher that shows how much work the student has completed, and how they have scored. There are extensive rubrics to assist the parent/teacher to grade written assignments. Parents can look at each student's grade book separately and also see the work they have submitted. 

Measuring Success for Students: Students also have their own progress reports on their personal accounts, where they can check on how their overall grade is. There is a 'compass' that shows the grades, and helps the student measure their own progress. As the student earns better grades, the arrow on the compass grows longer, and the color bar at the bottom of the screen lengthens. It is just another tangible way, besides number/letter grades, for the student to quickly realize how they are faring. (Although number grade averages are given as well)

Two progress report compasses show a shorter arrow when just beginning, and a longer arrow as the grades improve. Also notice the color bar across the bottom!

What is in a lesson? Each lesson has five distinct parts: Video, Vocabulary, Diagram, Quiz, and Written Answer. The video is what the student watches first. (shown below on the right) There is also a written transcript (on the left of the screen) for them to follow along with what is being said. A word about the videos: they are silly, funny, and cheesy, but definitely get the point across and a lot of information is packed into each one. 

Sample of the video lesson

The next part that the student engages in is the vocabulary list. Difficult words have the option of being dictated to help the student to learn them. 

Following the vocabulary list is an activity where the student clicks and drags words into a diagram to answer questions about the lesson and the vocabulary words. (This is my girls' favorite part of the lesson).

After completing the diagram, students take a quiz, typically multiple choice, about the lesson they have just completed. The quizzes are short, but again, packed with a lot of information.

Sample Quiz Questions

When completing the quiz, the student is referred back to the video for all incorrect answers, giving immediate feedback and correction which is extremely helpful.

Following the quiz is a written assignment that the student must complete regarding the lesson and answering the writing prompt. Once submitted, the teacher/parent is able to compare the written assignment to the rubric and give the student an appropriate grade.

A Few Random Notes:  When the student logs on, they are greeted with a colorful dashboard of classes that their parent has assigned to them. Melissa's dashboard consisted of four classes, and looked like this:

Once the student clicks on one of these graphics and enters a class, they are greeted with a table of contents listing all the lessons. A small check mark is placed next to each completed lesson, helping the student keep track of where they left off. 

I absolutely must mention:  My older daughter, Laura, who graduated this past summer, used the AP test prep courses for all her AP and CLEP exams, and did extremely well, earning a whole semester's worth of college credit prior to commencing her college journey! She went through the test prep courses several times, and gave them high marks for being relevant and thorough. She said that the silliness of some of the videos and the way the material was presented really helped it to stick in her brain, and she remember so much of the material as she was taking those tests. We highly recommend and endorse the Test Prep courses for high school students who might have an interest in taking those tests.

How We Used SDA this time around: We have used the program for review and to supplement subjects already being taught in our home school, and we have also been using the Nutrition course as a stand alone course for the whole family. Both girls have been using Math, English, History, and Biology courses through SDA. While Kelly is a little young for some of the courses, (she is in 5th grade) she has been enjoying them and carrying about an 80% average on the quizzes! It is pretty clear that the material is easily recalled by students, and I credit the fast paced and funny videos for that. Also, the quick review of the material through several different types of activities is an important part of helping the students to remember the material. Melissa has been using the program to reinforce her current studies, and has found it very helpful, and a change of pace from straight book learning. Both girls have enjoyed the fact that we sit together and watch the Nutrition lessons, and giggle at some of the antics of the cast featured on the videos. 

My Opinion: While I wouldn't use this as a core curriculum by itself, I think it GREATLY enhances and complements the study of the listed subjects. The videos and activities reinforce learning. The kids enjoy them greatly, which is always a catalyst for learning and retaining more information. The kids repeatedly mention that the silly streak of the videos is what makes those facts stay in their brains. The lessons are not too long, so it is just enough to add to the day for some review. I am SO GLAD we have the opportunity to review SDA again this year, and I am very grateful for the generosity of the company allowing our family to have full access to all the subjects of the program for this year. The girls have enjoyed dabbling in subjects that they are not currently doing, just to 'see what they are about' and I am always greatly encouraged by any program that inspires my children to study and learn, especially on their own!

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Standard Deviants Accelerate Review

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