One of my favorite things about homeschooling is exploring the continuously expanding horizon of resources and opportunities for learning. While we’ve used online resources before, we’ve not experienced the interactive format that Bridgeway Academy offers.
They have a huge variety of programs to offer, and we were blessed with reviewing Fun with Science – Marine Biology, which is one of their Learning Labs- Online Homeschool Co-ops.
This 9 week interactive learning course is geared for middle schoolers ( technically listed as grades 5-8) and costs $145.00.
The class meets using the Jigsaw meeting platform, where you will find diagnostic tests to make sure your computer meets all requirements, including the latest update of Java. Each week the student can log directly into the meeting site, or we were able to follow a link through the class reminder our instructor emailed us.
I had some issues with our computer speed, but after two weeks of my daughter not being able to interact with the class due to our computer, our family switched internet providers (which we were planning to do for quite a while before this) and it worked like a charm. Fortunately there were power points and other resources (recordings of the classes) for those who weren’t able to attend the classes live. I will stress, however, that the live interaction is really an amazing part of this experience!
Besides a fast enough internet, you will need a headset and microphone for full interaction with the class. The teacher interacts with the class on a large whiteboard, (her webcam image is on the screen as well) with power points, illustrations, and chat functions. She can ask the students questions, singling out individual answers, and the students can all chat together throughout the class as well.
Along with the classroom website, the course also includes a Moodle classroom where the syllabus is located, along with assignments, special instructions, times and dates, power points, and other notes. This is where the students complete their homework assignments and turn them in. For some reason, however, my daughter couldn’t get the questions to submit from the website and just emailed her work directly to the instructor. I had to call the instructor about some issues with the setup in the beginning and she was super-helpful and very nice. She was really engaging and encouraging to the students during class time, yet was challenging and super-knowledgeable of her material. My daughter felt the level of teaching was challenging and she was really impressed with the teacher.
The weekly classes last an hour and 15 minutes, and the outside assignments, though the course description says take 45 minutes to an hour, took Taylor 3-4 hours sometimes, with research and reading and putting required elements together. Of course she has been studying this subject for a few years and has many resources, and spends hours researching anyway, so that might have a bit to do with her excessive time spent on this course. Never a bad thing, in my mind, and I would certainly have to give much praise to this program for motivating my aspiring marine biologist above and beyond!
Thoughts from 13 year old Taylor:
On Mondays at 12:15pm my time, everyone logs in to the Jigsaw Meeting site for our virtual Marine Biology class, taught by Ms. Carla Berg. Ms. Berg is very knowledgeable about the subject of Marine Biology, and is a great teacher! Over 8 weeks we covered 8 different topics:
Week 1: What is Marine Biology?
Week 2: Osteicthyes (Bony fishes)
Week 3: Chondricthyes (Cartilaginous fishes)
Week 4: Marine Invertebrates
Week 5: Marine Mammals
Week 6: Sea Turtles
Week 7: Marine Ecosystems (Coral reefs)
Week 8: Marine Ecosystems (Polar Oceans)
If you log on to the Jigsaw Meeting page, you can join the class 10 minutes early, ( a feature most of us students took advantage of to use the text chat feature up until the class starts) then the class starts. Ms. Berg usually starts by showing us a power-point presentation packed with cool information and facts about the topic at hand, and also has the option to send out polls, link you-tube videos to our page, ask us questions in the text chat and let us answer vocally (if you have a headset and microphone) or write the answers, and sometimes quizzes us individually on certain things she has been teaching. She also has a whiteboard she can put pictures or diagrams on, and she can unlock it so we can draw and write on it. She mainly unlocks it so we can all have a fair opportunity to answer questions she asks. At the end of the class she will explain our homework assignment to us. Sometimes the homework assignments were questions, and some were written answers or paragraphs asking about a specific topic that was somehow related to the lecture she gave us. For example, on the marine ecosystems (coral reefs) lecture, one of the things we learned about was symbiotic relationships in marine creatures since that is a large part of coral reefs. Our homework assignment for that week was to research any type of symbiotic relationship between 2 coral reef residing creatures and write about the creatures, the habits, the type of relationship it was, and how the relationship functioned.
Something about the Bridgeway Course Academy (Bridgewaytests.com, where all our homework was turned in,) didn’t agree with my internet, computer, or something, as our instructor wasn’t able to open or really even receive any of my assignments via that program. However, that wasn’t a problem as I was easily able to contact the teacher and figure something out. From then on I used my mom’s e-mail and just emailed in whatever interesting homework was due that week. There were some problems during the live class with Ms. Berg not being able to hear some of the other students giving vocal answers over the microphone, and sometimes someone wouldn’t be able to hear Ms. Berg talking on the audio part of the live class. Most of the time this could be solved by logging out and back in, but sometimes not. Also there were some minor problems with the homework on the website for the other kids. On some of the questions for the invertebrates week we went over the various different phylum of invertebrates, and we were given pictures of animals and a dichotomous key to figure out what phyla the animal belonged to. To answer the question you simply had to type the answer, but if you didn’t spell it exactly right it wouldn’t count the answer as correct, (example cnidarEa instead of cnidarIa, but I didn’t really have problem with this as I know how to spell most of these anyways and I always check my answers. I really don’t think any of this affected us that much, and we all still had fun and learned a lot!
Other than that, I don’t believe there were any other problems with the program, the interface, the content or any of that. It was all very interesting to me as I have always aspired to be a marine biologist and studied the ocean. I have shelves packed with resources and paragraphs about various topics I have researched and written myself, so I think this really was a great opportunity for me to be able to take a real class taught by a real Marine Biologist, and actually learn with other students. I definitely recommend this program to anyone and everyone, though I feel it is a little too advanced for younger kids. Sure, there were some easy things but it did take a lot of strenuous time, effort, knowledge, focus, and vocabulary to be able to complete this course. Sometimes the effort and research I put forth was 3-4 hours worth to complete an assignment. It was completely worth it, I learned so much from this awesome course!
Final thoughts from Mom
I would love to check out more classes from Bridgeway in the future. I love the teacher/student interaction and it definitely helps teach my student scheduling for college prep.
The cost is a bit prohibitive for us, but for those who can afford it, the program is definitely worth it!
I love the variety of classes offered for all ages, and it looks like a wonderful way to get in some high school credits.
To read about my Crew Mates’ adventures with Bridgeway Academy, click the banner!
Enjoy your journey!