Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Review: Online Physics lessons



Recently the Homeschool Crew was offered the opportunity to review one of the three online science programs offered by Fascinating EducationAccording to their website, the material is designed to cover what you’d expect to find in a high school level course—which is a little above my Schnickelfritz’s head.  I did well in high school science, but won’t deny being worried that I’m a little rusty (because he’ll be ready for upper level science before I can blink) so for this review I was the student .  I chose the Fascinating Physics program, having studied physics in high school and two semesters in college as well as being the teacher’s aide my senior year. 





After registering I was given access to the 15 lessons that make up the physics course:

  1. Movement
  2. Vectors
  3. Forces
  4. Energy-Work-Power
  5. Circular Motion
  6. Fluids and Gases
  7. Waves
  8. Light-Part 1
  9. Light-Part 2
  10. Light-Part 3
  11. Electrical Charges
  12. Moving Electrical Charges
  13. Electrical Currents
  14. The Atom
  15. The Nucleus

Under each lesson picture are tabs to view the lesson (similar to a Power Point presentation), access & print the lesson script, and finally take the test associated with that lesson.

Fascinating Education is assumes the student has no previous knowledge or experience in the science field being studied. Rather than reading any text, you will view a screenshot and listen to the presenter explain the illustration (they claim this method of teaching will use the right hemisphere of the brain for learning). The lesson screen allows you to see all the slide titles.  At any point in the lesson you may also click on the glossary tab (behind the menu) to get definitions for terms you may not understand.  The entire lesson from start to end lasts 45-55 minutes.  If you leave the lesson at any point you’ll be asked if you want to continue from that point when you return. 

It seems to me that the lessons are focused more on being able to solve physics problems (the old “If two trains start traveling towards each other….” scenarios) rather that the theories of physics. As you can see in the example above, you need to have an understanding of trigonometry as well (yet another area where I am rusty).  Apparently my brain doesn’t learn well with this right hemisphere method—trying to listen to the speaker work through equations with all the m1’s and m2’s in the example above just became alphabet soup in my head.

I tried printing out the scripts to follow along, but didn’t always find them any more helpful. For example the solution to the above problem (regarding a light fixture hung off center) is:

Slide 11: Solve the problem.
Let's solve for F1 along the x axis. F1 equals 0.51 time F2.
Substituting the value of F1 into the equation for forces exerted in the Y direction, we get the values for F1 and F2.
The force exerted by the shorter section of the wire is 81.8 newtons, while the force exerted by the longer section is only 0.51 of this, or 41.7 newtons. The wire must be able to withstand 81.8 newtons of force.

Clear as a bell, right?

The tests take the form of multiple choice questions.  I guess they’re not too worried about someone cheating by having multiple windows open on the computer because each question has a “Need Help” button that will replay the lesson slide associated with the question.  You’ll receive your results as soon as the test is done and be given the option of reviewing each question (with your answer and the correct answer), printing the test results or retrying the quiz. I found it helpful to print out the answer key to the test as it includes screenshots of the problems and a paragraph or two explaining how the answer was obtained.

You can access the Fascinating Education Physics course for a full year for $79.00.  You’ll need internet access, but I didn’t have any issues with my less than stellar speed service.  Supposedly the course also works on mobile devices, but I think you’d be happier with the larger screens of a a regular computer to see all the details of the formulas.  You can try a sample lesson on their website to see if the program will work with your family.

Click to read Crew Reviews

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