Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Virtual Nerd: Real Help in Math and Science

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I remember all too well the grueling days of math and physics in high school. Some concepts I understood and others just flew over my head. Which meant I'd be spending hours at home trying to fathom concepts that just didn't always register. Sometimes I was able to get help from my dad but even then, the concepts didn't always click.

Of course that was in the dark ages before personal computers and the internet. Students today have fewer excuses for not understanding math and science with so many online tools at their disposal. One such tool we had the privilege to try is an online website called, Virtual Nerd. Their byline says it all, "Real help in math and science." This website is the 9-1-1 for math and science emergencies.

Basically Virtual Nerd is a library of tutorial videos. Topics are broken down into very small and manageable segments with an instructor teaching and simultaneously demonstrating concepts on a whiteboard. Videos can be accessed 24/7 and the site is searchable by topic, so if you are trying to figure out how to factor polynomials, just enter those keywords in the search box and you'll be given a list of relevant videos. Didn't "get it" the first time viewing? Then rewatch the video as often as you like until it makes sense to you.

Here's a glimpse of what the video looks like:
Full Screen 3 Areas

You'll watch a real instructor teaching the material. Most of the teachers we viewed had legible handwriting; when we didn't quite catch what someone wrote, we utilized the written script on the side of the screen (shown in area #3 on the above screen shot). Having the written script makes this an ideal tool for anyone with a hearing impairment. What makes the teaching segments unique is that you can click on terms (area #2 above) and be directed to another video that explains that concept. Within the area #3, you can also click on a future or past step and immediately track to that portion of the video.

If you have a question about a particular video segment, you can link to a feedback button and ask your question right from there and you'll get a response from one of the Virtual Nerd staff. I can attest to their prompt, helpful assistance--when I contacted the company with some general questions about the program, I received a very helpful e-mail back that very same day.

Once you've completed a video, you might see a box that suggests other videos containing that topic for additional help:

Additional Link Recommendations

Subjects currently covered on Virtual Nerd:
  • Pre-Algebra
  • Algebra 1
  • Algebra 2
  • Introduction to Physics
Subjects in development:
  • Expansion of Physics
  • Chemistry (target date--Fall 2011)
  • Pre-Calculus (preliminary content later this semester)
  • Calculus
At the present time, the website content is just video demonstrations but the option of sample problems will soon be included. Other future improvements planned include quizzes and individualized tracking features.

Our Experience
My 12 year old son used Virtual Nerd for Pre-Algebra. He found it a very helpful supplement to his math curriculum. It offered additional explanation and examples worked out for the topic he was covering. Having an added resource to reinforce new math concepts and see problems solved step-by-step was extremely helpful.

My 15 year old son viewed the Algebra 2 videos on Virtual Nerd. After getting acclimated to the format, he did enjoy them (and he is NOT a math-loving kid). He too, found it a great way to reinforce the new topics covered in his math curriculum (especially when his math DVD was missing for several days...). With a library of videos online, there is no danger of misplacing material!

As a teacher, I loved the short, quick videos that covered one very specific topic. It was just the right length for the student and it was easy for me as a parent to refresh my knowledge of the specific math topic my kids were doing. I also liked being able to pause the video to allow my student an opportunity to try the next step in a problem and then resume the video to see if they were correct.

I really liked how instructors outlined specific steps for solving a problem and then systematically referred back to each step as they worked samples. The Pre-Algebra instructor was particularly enjoyable--she is a very enthusiastic teacher and makes math seem fun and understandable.

What does it cost?
Virtual Nerd subscriptions come in various installments. If you need immediate, short-term help, then you can subscribe for one day at $5 or for one week at $19. A monthly subscription runs $49, and a 3-month subscription for $129. The 3 month option is the best value and could be a valuable tool to use over the summer months to keep skills fresh or get a head start on next year's material. If you want to sample the website before subscribing, you can sign up for a 2-hour free trial.

All in all, were were very impressed with this product and liked the features and instruction. We will definitely consider a subscription in the future.

What do others think of Virtual Nerd?
Check out the reviews of other TOS crewmates who sampled Virtual Nerd by visiting the TOS Blog. You can also read other testimonials on the Virtual Nerd website.

Contact Information:
Phone: 877-677-NERD (6373)
E-mail: info@virtualnerd.com

Disclaimer: I was given a free trial subscription to Virtual Nerd for the purpose of reviewing and blogging about our experience. No other compensation was received. The opinions expressed are my own.

2 comments:

Virtual Nerd said...

We thought you would like to know that because Virtual Nerd (www.VirtualNerd.com) has received such significant interest following your review of our online tutoring service, we are offering a special discount to homeschool parents. Homeschool parents can receive 50% off the 1 and 3 month subscription plans. Just enter the discount code: homeschooldeal when you sign up for service. That is a huge discount, and hurry - the offer is valid until March 31, 2011!

Virtual Nerd said...

As a supporter of Virtual Nerd, we wanted you to know about our Math Boot Camp. To help students avoid the "summer slide", we are offering boot camps in: Pre-Algebra, Algebra I, and Algebra II. The five-week camps cost only $19! A pre-quiz will assess student's knowledge, and weekly playlists will be assigned to help them attain a better understanding of the subject and build upon concept knowledge. Finally we wrap up with a quiz that assesses how far they have come! We hope you will share the good news. Get started today!