New Online Learning Sites Help Students With Homework And Test Prep

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Virtual Nerd, VocabSushi, ePrep and LangLearner use video and multimedia to make learning fun and practical for Generation Y across multiple subjects

Today’s teenagers live wired lives for sure, putting adults to shame when it comes to being tech savvy and connected. But as teenage students have flocked to sites like Facebook and Foursquare to keep up with friends, their options for using the Web and social media to study have lagged behind. That’s all changing thanks to some relatively new sites that are gaining momentum.

Leading a generation of new web sites are several companies that are offering new and compelling alternatives to traditional study aids such as flash cards, multiple choice quizzes, and rote memorization. These companies manage web sites that use video, multimedia and creative interactive features to engage busy high school students whenever they want, on their own time, and offer practical study aids at little-to-no cost.

A New Interactive “Curriculum” for Students

  • Math and Science – Plenty of families can’t afford a private tutor for help with algebra and other subjects. Virtual Nerd is a Web-based, self-guided video tutorial for math and science students in grades 7 to 12. The site combines video with a patent-pending e-Learning platform that anticipates questions and guides students step by step through any problem. Virtual Nerd is less expensive than private tutors but more interactive and customized than passive video tutorials. Additionally, some parents find the subscription-based service a convenient way to refresh lessons learned long ago so they can help their children with homework during the school year.
  • Vocabulary – Flash cards encourage rote memorization, which is a limited and less than ideal form of learning. The best way for a student to build vocabulary is to work through real-world, contextual examples. VocabSushi is a free service that scours the daily news from around the U.S. to find examples of vocabulary in real-world usage. Each sentence is tied to its source, date, and original headline, so students can read the article and stay up to date on current events. Students learn words by reading sentences, and answering sentence completion questions. VocabSushi also offers a 50-level adaptive learning model that tracks student progress over time, and continually challenges students with new vocabulary words.
  • Test Prep – Most online SAT and ACT prep courses offer only text-based answer explanations, which are easy for students to tune out. ePrep is the first video-based test prep site. It simulates real-world test-taking conditions, providing access to printable practice tests, so students can simulate the paper-pencil environment of test day. Once the ePrep student has completed a test section offline, he or she can launch into a full video review of questions skipped, answered incorrectly, or answered correctly with a guess or after a long struggle. Like VirtualNerd and VocabSushi, ePrep is available to students 24/7, letting them set their own study schedule.
  • Foreign Language – Language instruction has traditionally been based on teaching the complex concepts of sentence construction, singular and plural forms, gender agreements, verb conjugation, and tenses. However, recent linguistic research indicates that building an extensive vocabulary first is more effective in creating a strong foundation for a language. LangLearner offers over 3,500 words and phrases in multimedia flashcard form, allowing users to see an appropriate image, hear the word in both native and target languages, and see the word in both languages thus catering to all learning styles. They also offer games, dictation practice, chat, and reading tools. LangLearner offers a full web suite and also mobile apps for Android, iPhone and other platforms, currently supporting over 10 languages.

These websites represent a dramatic evolution in online learning by encouraging active participation in activities devised by experts. One of the biggest benefits: the minimal cost.


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Brian Posnanski
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